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Why the ADDIE training model can help anyone create engaging online courses

Creating engaging online courses is both a desire and a necessity for knowledge entrepreneurs. However, you can meet many obstacles along the way, starting from the fact that maybe you’re new to the game or haven’t attempted something as ambitious as a complex online course before.

Luckily, instructional design theories such as the ADDIE training model provide a great blueprint for creating engaging online courses. It’s a tried and tested method that many online creators already use. So let’s find out more about it and how it can help you design your courses. 

What is the ADDIE training model?

Apart from the easy-to-remember acronym that stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation, ADDIE is known as a basic framework for instructional design.

The five phases are a guideline for building effective and engaging e-learning modules. This structure is so successful because it results in good quality design with specific learning objectives, well-organized content, relevant activities, supporting materials and assessments that are closely connected to the course goals. All of these are general principles for good learning design, but the iterative aspect of ADDIE ensures that it’s effective even for complex projects. The assessment component means that future courses will benefit from the valuable takeaways of past ones.  

What are the five steps of the ADDIE training model?

This learning design model has a logical, sequential quality. The order of steps is as follows:


Identify the instructional objectives and gather basic information about learners (demographics, level of knowledge, preferred learning method, etc.);


This step is highly specific and systematic. The content, resources, instructional methods, and media need to support the objectives established in the Analysis phase. 


This is the part where the course is created and it can be reviewed by beta users at this stage.  


This is where learners are enrolled and go through the content.


This phase has two parts: formative (at every stage of the process) and summative (assessments aimed at an overall evaluation of the course and gathering feedback from learners).

How to implement the ADDIE training model in an LMS

Learning management systems (LMSs) allow you to use many instructional design models. Learn how to make the best of ADDIE using your LMS.

1. The Analysis phase

As an instructional designer, you need all the relevant data to choose the best learning objectives. This is when you use the LMS functions that can deliver you the information you need. Here are some of the items to figure out:

  • Who is the target audience? Find out more about demographics, preferred learning methods and interests. This can be easily done by seeing which online courses or modules are popular, either your own or your competitor’s; 
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve through your course? Look at the most frequently asked questions that don’t have a clear answer. There are several ways to do this: Google Trends, Reddit and Quora are some of the most popular but you can pursue several other avenues for validating your course idea;
  • What are the outcomes of the course in terms of skills, knowledge, or behavior? Knowing their personal and professional goals will help you tailor courses to fit their needs;
  • What are your delivery and evaluation options? This means knowing how to make full use of your learning platform and choosing the best options for delivering the course. Get a good sense of how the authoring tool works, if you can embed media files (audio and video) as well as Google Docs and Office documents. For the evaluation part, see how many assessment options you have and if you can award personalized certificates of completion. 

If you already have a platform, it’s a good idea to use site-wide surveys to gather feedback from current learners. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out, conducting learner persona interviews is a great way to find new ideas. 

2. The Design phase

With all the information under your belt, you can decide on your course structure and the knowledge and skills you will focus on. Keep in mind that most of the success of the ADDIE training model is that it applies to both macro and micro levels. This means that you can use the model for the course as a whole and for each module.  Your LMS has already-made templates and capabilities that will help you decide: 

  • How to formulate the learning objectives. A good objective is a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, and timely) one;
  • What specific elements will make up your course: the title, the number of units, the learner support options, and assessments; 
  • What elements will make up each unit: such as the  content page and assessment, but you also need to consider the activities and resources (internal and external to the LMS); 
  •  The best way to structure your course: linear self-paced course, drip content in which learners need to unlock modules or as a scenario-based learning experience.

Read more: How to create scenario-based learning directly in your LMS

3. The Development phase 

This is where you take your carefully drafted blueprint and start building on it. The LMS's authoring tool is your trusted partner in this, as it provides you with everything you need to bring your ideas to life. You can:

  •  Use LMS templates to structure the content however you want; 
  •  Add automation and gamification to help make the course more interactive and engaging; 
  •  Create groups or add forums to facilitate user interaction and social learning;
  •  Choose the color scheme, visuals, and fonts so you can create a course that's consistent with your brand image
  • Test your product by building an email course, which is a short version of the course you can offer for free to a group of beta-testers. For example, they can be people who have already subscribed to your email list. This is an essential part of the ADDIE model as it allows you to collect feedback and adapt your course before launching. 

Read more: How to create an email course to grow your contacts list

4. The Implementation phase 

This is where learners buy and enroll in your course. Your LMS will help you with:

  • Enrollment - visitors go to the catalog, find the course they are interested in and buy it. Then, they are automatically enrolled; 
  • Automated reminders such as inactivity ones are great for boosting learner engagement when it dwindles. All you have to do is decide the number of days a user can be inactive before getting an automatic reminder. You can opt for a general message of encouragement or offer positive reinforcement such as a badge, a coupon code, or some points to move up on the leaderboard; 
  • Monitoring interactions between the learner and the content so it can notify you when there’s a potential problem. Your platform has reporting capabilities to help with this: look at completion status, active and inactive enrollments as well as assessment submissions. 

The ADDIE training model doesn’t require you to be as hands-on as a trainer in a corporation, but it helps to check the course regularly and make sure that you have the information you need to change things or solve issues if they arise. 

5. The Evaluation phase

This is the final one, where the analytics provided by your LMS come in handy. With the ADDIE model, formative assessment is present at each step of the process. Summative assessment is only possible after the implementation phase when there is enough data to draw informed conclusions. Here are some of the useful analytics to look at:

  • Course enrollment – it’s a good indicator of whether you are addressing your target audience or not. High numbers mean that your content is of interest and existing learners are happy with your courses;
  • Course and module completion – see how many learners have finished the course in a  given period of time. Additionally, you can also see module completion; 
  • Course activity - see how much time learners have spent in the overall course and in each module; 
  • Assessment scores show how well the learners have retained the information and their ability to apply it in a test environment. Breaking these scores by units will also indicate if parts of the content are more challenging than others.

Apart from all this valuable data, there is also the possibility of running end-of-course surveys or the option for learners to leave online course reviews. In this way, learners can give direct feedback about the content and offer suggestions for future improvements or other topics of interest.

The ADDIE training model for course creators

The ADDIE training model was not explicitly created for online course creators or the LMS, but its timeless principles make it suitable for it. Combining the detailed structure of the model with the LMS’s capabilities for course design, implementation and evaluation results in a quality, highly engaging online course tailored to the needs of the learners. 

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