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ADDIE Model limitations: why it's outdated for your L&D strategy

In this article, we revisit the ADDIE model through a critical lens. Keep reading to understand ADDIE’s limitations and why it no longer caters to fast-paced learning environments.

4 min. read • Sera Özkıvanç

The ADDIE model has been a trusted guide in Learning & Development (L&D) for quite a while. It was developed in the 1970s, mainly used by the military, and has since spread to other fields. The model walks instructional designers through five key steps: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. But as times change, so do the ways we need to teach and learn. 

What is the ADDIE Model?

Think of the ADDIE model as a roadmap for creating training materials. It’s all about planning your route from start to finish before hitting the road. You start with “analyze,” where you figure out what learners need to know. Then, you move on to “design,” sketching out how the course will look and what it’ll cover. Next is “develop,” where you actually create the course materials. “implement” is all about rolling out the course to your audience. Finally, “evaluate” involves looking back to see what worked and what didn’t.

In practice, this means spending a good chunk of time upfront to make sure you understand the learning goals inside and out. Then, you carefully craft a course structure, develop the content, put it into action, and check its effectiveness. 

For example, if you’re creating a course on cybersecurity, you’d start by identifying the specific skills your learners need. From there, you’d design interactive lessons and activities that teach those skills, develop the course materials, launch the course, and later, gather feedback to see if learners are truly grasping the concepts. 

This process is very rigid. Once you’ve set your course, you can’t really make changes along the way. (Which is a bit of a headache when you need to adapt quickly.)

ADDIE’s disadvantages 

In 2012, software developer and educator Michael Allen challenged the ADDIE method in his book Leaving ADDIE for SAM. “The ADDIE process is past its prime,” reads the back cover. Here at Easygenerator, we agree completely. 

Despite its broad adoption, ADDIE shows its age in a few key areas. Let’s dive in.

Slow creation process

ADDIE likes to take its time. The inherent sequentiality of the ADDIE model, where each phase must be fully completed before moving to the next, significantly slows the development process. This extended timeline is particularly harmful in industries where change happens quickly. Market changes and technological advancements can render content outdated even before it’s published. 

High production costs

The slow pace of the ADDIE model doesn’t just impact time to market; it also inflates the costs associated with developing training programs. The extensive hours spent in each phase—from thorough analysis and meticulous design to comprehensive development and detailed evaluation—demand substantial investment in terms of both time and resources. Industry research supports this point: creating one hour of e-learning content can take between 90 to 240 hours, and translating costs can range from $10,000 to $30,000. Overall, this level of financial burden may be prohibitive for many companies — especially when faster, more cost-efficient alternatives exist.

Lack of flexibility

The ADDIE model is like a train on a set track — changing direction isn’t easy. If new ideas or feedback come up mid-journey, incorporating them can be a real challenge. This inflexibility can be particularly detrimental in a fast-evolving business context, where the ability to quickly adapt and update training materials in response to new information or changing needs is crucial. 

As a result, organizations may find themselves locked into a predefined path, unable to leverage new opportunities or address recent challenges efficiently.

Disconnect between designers and stakeholders

One of ADDIE’s big misses is that it often keeps those creating the training (instructional designers) and those who will use it (stakeholders and learners) apart. In other words, the instructional designers are working in a bubble without regular input from those on the front lines. This absence of a feedback loop within the development process means that critical insights from stakeholders or changes in organizational priorities will not be reflected in the training content. Naturally, this lessens the relevance and impact of the training. 

Why ADDIE falls short in today’s world

In a nutshell, ADDIE struggles to keep up. We’re in an era where things move quickly, and learning needs to evolve even faster. The shift towards more dynamic, cost-effective, and learner-centered approaches is not just beneficial but necessary.

The key to truly effective (and cost-effective) learning material lies in using the expertise of those within the business itself. It’s the people on the ground, the ones engaged in the daily operations and processes, who hold the most current and practical knowledge of industry practices, challenges, and needs.

By involving subject matter experts more directly in the content creation process, organizations can develop training programs that are not only more aligned with actual workplace scenarios but also more adaptable to rapid changes. We call this approach Employee-generated Learning.

Discover all about Employee-generated Learning in our comprehensive guide
Read now
About the author

Sera Özkıvanç is the content manager at Easygenerator. Over the last four years, she’s written marketing content for various SaaS brands around the world. These days, she’s doing her best to embrace the rainy weather in Rotterdam.

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