Problems with ADDIE

At some of our recent conference presentations, Harriet and I have been discussing our problems with ADDIE. We usually get a large show of support when we say ADDIE doesn’t work well.  But we also get some passionate objectors.  Our presentation is not meant to criticize ADDIE, so I decided to save that for a blog post. So here we go – hold on tight.

If you take your time and follow the ADDIE process, you will end up with great course content.

For many people, this is a great statement. For an active learning constructivist like myself, this is a bad statement. Sound crazy? Here is why.

First of all, most of us aren’t afforded the time that it takes to go through the entire ADDIE process.  That is just life. People want their class now. “Well then,” you might say, “you are still going through ADDIE whether you realize it or not.” Is that really a good thing? Do I really want to walk into a restaurant someday and have the waiter tell me “sir, you already ate a nice steak. You didn’t realize it, but you really enjoyed it. I have charged your credit card, and thanks for the generous tip.”  You may not agree with me, but personally I want to be aware of what I am doing in life.

Second problem is the major focus on the production of content. Look… I know ADDIE. I teach ADDIE in an online class. People need to know what ADDIE is to see if it works in their corner of the work world.  I have seen hundreds of people go through the ADDIE process, and they always produce a mountain of passive learning-based content. I know ADDIE well enough to know that if you focus enough, you can come out with an active-learning based class.  But there is just something about ADDIE that steers so many people into writing a book. We need a process that just naturally steers people in to creating active, hands-on, higher-order thinking focused lessons, not sit-and-soak passive online lecture reading.

What is my beef with content? Some people today even talk a lot about how quality online classes MUST have quality content. Well, I’m about to say something that may rattle a few cages out there. Ready?

Content production is becoming irrelevant more and more every day.

Do you really think that you are the first and only person to ever write about the subject you are writing about? Let me introduce you to a site you need to use more.  Every piece of content you could possibly write is already online somewhere. Probably half of the opinions you want to write are already somewhere. In education, we need to get over the notion that we are producing so much original content. It is already out there – in probably a hundred places.

Just reading content is becoming less important today. Knowing what to do with content is what people need to know in more and more jobs. They need to evaluate, reflect, connect, and expand ideas. Your students do not need to know how witty you can be in re-stating what is already in the textbook. They need to take content and do something with it.

That is the world we are coming to today. Can you use ADDIE to create a course that prepares students for this? It is possible.  In my experience, it is not likely. That is why we need a new instructional design process.

3 thoughts on “Problems with ADDIE

  1. There is backward design, the most popular ID model in K-12 and higher education. It usually works best in domains which have figured out the skills and concepts people need to understand (standards).
    I’ve heard of it being applied in nursing education and the insurance industry, for example.

  2. @Doug – In my corner of Higher Ed, ADDIE is king, and we are branded heretics for questioning it :) I do like backward design, though. Anything that turns things upside down or inside out is great with me.

    For everyone reading this, I want to add a footnote: I know that there are different needs for different subject matters. I know there is value in writing content (to a certain degree). I’m just a little tired of the sacred cow of “content is king.” If the content you are writing for your course really helps the students, keep using it. As long as you realize that you are not the only source or voice that students can get your content from.

  3. I am very in sync with my colleague Matt’s thinking on this. I wholeheartedly agree that content production is becoming extinct.

    We recently had a colleague who stated … “the emphasis should be on creating the “learning experience” and the content will take care of itself.”

    What a beautiful concept! Maybe this is an issue of educators and instructional designers who do not want to think creatively outside of ADDIE. It’s easier to use a template type of course design concept rather than to design a course in the abstract.

    I know this kind of thinking is not for everybody. It’s hard for some to accept and that’s o.k. If we were more accepting of other ideas, and allow for trial and error before we reject ideas straight out of hand … what a rich learning environment practitioners would have to learn from each other!!!

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