Digital learning projects need to be project managed almost like film and other media production.   Photo by Adobe Stock (Licensed 08/07/20)

Engaging the old to lead the new: Using ADDIE to project manage digitally driven learning

Marcus Garrett  |  Follow posts on LinkedIn

The ADDIE methodology for Instructional and Learning Design is a good fifty or so years old now, but the process nevertheless provides an excellent PM framework for developing thoughtful and responsive digital learning projects that are tailored to the needs of the learner.

The constant evolution of e-Learning ‘teachnologies’ such as VR, collaborative experiential learning platforms and other edutech solutions means that designing, developing and delivering learning is becoming increasingly akin to producing and directing a complex film media project. The need for a sound, systematic project management framework will allow learning developers and their clients to maintain oversight of the many turning wheels and moving parts that go into effective and responsive learning programs.

ADDIE is an acronym that outlines five stages within an instructional design process cycle: Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate.

Analyse – The key focus of this first stage in the cycle of instructional or training design is to ask the question ‘what outcomes can we improve through training and development, and how?’ This involves examining and investigating the business, organisational and individual needs for improvement, scanning the business, technological, social and cultural environments within which the training is to take place and auditing the end user’s needs, goals, available training resources and digital capacities.

Approaches such as Design Thinking are increasingly common ways of tackling the Analyse and Design processes. ‘Deep design’ analysis approaches such as Design Thinking will help learning managers and instructional designers to choose – or build – digital solutions that best meet the need, rather than blowing big chunks of budget on one-size-fits-all digital platforms that are either overkill or don’t really suit the learning context.

Design – this stage of instructional design requires the composition of a strategy for the delivery methods (online, face to face and ‘blended’), structure, duration, methods for assessment and feedback for the training or learning program. All of these elements should be drawn directly from the results of the Analysis phase. Training Design is essentially the composition of a blueprint and structure for the eventual execution (Implementation) of the training.

The key output of the Design stage is a learning project overview or completed ‘Training Plan’, with which to present to the client or key stakeholder/s of the training and to seek further feedback. In the context of digital learning solutions, this means the production of both a Proof of Concept (POC) which demonstrates the way in which the learning project will function and interface with the learner, as well as a prototype that illustrates the look and feel of the digital learning interface.

Learning Design is an organic process and indeed changes may need to be made to the design even once Development and Implementation has commenced, in response to changing needs or new information.

Develop – This is often the most time consuming stage of the instructional design process and involves the physical content development of the learning: the writing, creating, filming, programming, recording, staging of the training course components.

For example, if the course requires extensive content-based course participant notes, these must be authored and edited by content experts and presented in a user-friendly format. If the course requires some Virtual Reality segments within which participants interact and experience scenarios, these must be filmed, coded and produced ready for delivery.

A systematic testing of the course should also be undertaken, to ensure all components are in place and work for the learner as intended. The key outputs for the training Development stage is the full set of course resources, ready to schedule and for delivery to the training participants or clientele.

Implement – This stage of the instructional design process involves the actual delivery of the training to the learner group, as per the Training or Learning Plan. Delivery may involve face-to-face or distance delivered classes, or ‘rolling out’ blended and online training materials via a Learning Management System (LMS).

At all points during the implementation stage of the training the course facilitator and / or designer should be keeping an eye out for delivery issues, learner engagement and feedback. Again, in the context of increasing online and digitally driven learning projects, testing and addressing bugs is an integral and ongoing part of the Implementation process and so learning project managers need to cultivate and maintain close working relationships with IT professionals in the organisation.

Evaluate – This is one of the most commonly neglected aspects of  Instructional Design. Reflection on, and evaluation of any training program and its implementation is essential for several reasons. Firstly, because learning developers and trainers (including the departments of L&D firms they work for) need to ensure a business case for their efforts, by demonstrating the effectiveness with which the training improved target goals or business outcomes.

Secondly, because clear and objective evaluation enables course developers to improve on future iterations of the training (including improvements to digital interfacing), or to develop further training and development to build on the skills and needs of the target audience and / or clients.

Evaluation completes each single ‘turn’ of the Instructional Design sequence, however, it also launches the new cycle by generating ideas and identifying strengths and weaknesses to be addressed in future learning.

For learning organisations seeking to reach new and existing learners with good quality, intuitive digital solutions, the edutech marketplace can be overwhelming.

However, at the end of the day sound project management and fundamental instructional design principles must lead choices around technology and digital platform, rather than vice-versa.

Using ADDIE to manage the learning project from the outset will help learning managers to avoid the pitfalls and budget blowouts that will inevitably come from diving headlong into the newest and shiniest piece of edutech on the market.


  1. Mocnik, C. (2020), Training the Trainer: Attaining the TAE40116 Certificate in Training and Assessment (2nd Edn). Page 81. Skills Assessment Australia Pty Ltd : Sydney, Australia.
  2. Quigley, E. (2019), ADDIE: 5 Steps To Effective Training. Blog article on LearnUpon. Retrieved from https://www.learnupon.com/blog/addie-5-steps/ on 7th July, 2020.
  3. Training Industry (2013), ADDIE Model. Article in Training Industry online. Retrieved from https://trainingindustry.com/wiki/content-development/addie-model/ on 6th July 2020.