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No more ADDIE?

ADDIE has been the queen of development methods for some time now. My first introduction to the ADDIE model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) was during my studies. It is now a number of years later, and I still regularly apply ADDIE in the development of e-learning modules. Lately, I’ve been seeing the term ‘Agile’ being used more and more for developing digital learning solutions. Will Agile take ADDIE’s place as a development approach?

ADDIE vs. Agile

ADDIE is a so-called waterfall method. You have to complete a phase before moving on to the next. This means there is a relatively long lead time before you get results. The learning solution is often tested with the target group at the end of the development process. With this approach you develop what was thought of in the design phase, which causes for less flexibility to process new insights. For many e-learning modules, this is a great approach. Customers often like to determine the content in advance: this way you know what you are buying.

But what if there are more uncertainties? For example, a changing organization or an audience outside the organization that you didn’t think of. In situations like that, Agile offers a good alternative to ADDIE. Agile was originally devised to develop software in an adaptive way, but it can also be used to develop learning solutions such as apps and games.

The development process starts with an idea, based on assumptions. You investigate whether the assumptions are correct, by developing a prototype and evaluating it with the target group. You’ll have a first product/solution very quickly. You use the information from the evaluation to further shape and develop the idea. Further shaping the client’s learning question and developing the learning solution go hand in hand. Developing a learning tool based on co-creation: does it get any better?

Easier said than done…

It is often a challenge to apply the Agile methodology if you are used to working according to the ADDIE methodology.

  • Let it go! The adaptive way of developing requires a high degree of flexibility. Just when you’ve defined the context and created the content, the focus changes because of new input or feedback. It’s great if you can see the fun in this and if you like to discover. However, some developers are less comfortable with this.
  • Have faith in the end result. Customers often want to pursue a predetermined result. With the Agile approach, it is less easy to say what the learning solution (and the investment) will yield. This requires a great deal of trust.
  • Ensure a clear division of roles. The persons involved all have clearly defined roles. So does the customer: it steers the process by making their wishes known and prioritizing development activities. Strong commitment and active participation during meeting of the Agile approach are required. Not every client can or wants to make time for this.

The award goes to…

I think ADDIE and Agile can coexist perfectly. If you have clear goals and content: choose ADDIE! If many uncertain circumstances can affect the development process, then it is probably more effective to work according to the Agile methodology.

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