ADDIE and ARCS in instructional design

The two most popular models of instructional design (ID) are known by the acronyms ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) and ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction).

Written by Mind Tools
Published 18 June 2015
ADDIE and ARCS in instructional design

The ARCS model, developed by Dr John M. Keller of Florida State University, is a problem-solving approach to designing learning environments that stimulate and sustain students' motivation to learn. It has two parts: a set of categories representing the components of motivation, followed by a systematic design process to create appropriate motivational enhancements for a set of learners.

It states that an effective piece of learning gets the learner's attention quickly; is relevant to him or her; challenges him to learn something, and builds his confidence - or satisfaction - by having learned something. Jan Seabrook, one of the U.K.'s leading instructional designers, says, "ADDIE and ARCS aren't mutually exclusive - and I've yet to find a successful project that hasn't got the ADDIE phases present.

I find ADDIE useful as a high-level architecture to hang various activities on - and I've never had a problem with all the phases being carried out at the same time after an initial project analysis." New York-based ID consultant and trainer Frank Troha has written about and commented on ADDIE, challenging its very status as an ID model.

He agrees with Jan, "ADDIE's a high-level framework that helps provide context for what an instructional designer does. But it doesn't indicate how to design a course. Moreover, the 'E'  Evaluation- is strategized during Design, implemented as a formative evaluation in the Development phase, and later -implemented as a summative evaluation - at the end of Implementation."

Jan comments, "Evaluation needs to be at the end if it's looking at the benefits and outcomes of the learning. Evaluation tends to get forgotten anyway as most people seem concerned to have something in place rather than find out what effect it has on the business and users. That may be cynical but, unfortunately, it's realistic!"


With ADDIE, Analysis underpins the entire project - identifying key information on which the other phases are built. As Frank says, "Asking the right questions up-front means the designer can move forward with the rest of the work designers typically do."

But he adds, "If ADDIE's an ID model, why is Design merely a step within it?" And the "right questions" include:

  • What's the real need underlying this project? (Identifying the business needs.)

  • Who's going to use the product? Where are they? Who're the stakeholders? Who's financing the project? (Identifying the audience.)

  • Are recognized competencies to be covered, and when and how will the outcome of the event be used? (Specifying the high-level objectives.)

  • What does the task involve? (Task analysis.)

  • To what standard does the task have to be performed? (Performance analysis.)

  • What do people find difficult to do? (Specifying the content.)

  • What delivery methods and media are possible- and available?

  • What are the time limits for the project? What resources and budget are available? (Project management.)

Analysis should also consider:

1.  Organizational factors:

  • What does learning mean to the organization?

  • What's the attitude to learning of managers and key stakeholders?

  • Is there a willingness and desire to use online learning?

  • How will learning be aligned to the needs of the business?

  • Will there be tutors, mentors, facilitators, and communities of practice for learner support?

2.  Overall goals:

  • What are the benefits to the business of this learning?

  • What internal help is required?

  • Who's the key sponsor?

  • How will success be measured?

3.  Vendor/supplier relationship:

  • Can they support the client state-wide, nationally or globally if needed?

  • What reputation do they have in the industry?

4.  Environment:

  • Are there technical and network issues?

  • How will the learning environment be managed to gauge users' performance, satisfaction and motivation?

5.  Adoption and drivers for acceptance:

  • Is the project aligned to key change initiatives?

  • Is there a practical awards system to encourage its use?

  • Does it have support and commitment from within the organization?

6.  Pilot implementation:

  • What level of support is needed for the learners?

  • What knowledge, skills, processes, systems, and so on need to be built?

  • What obstacles might arise?

  • What do the stakeholders expect from the project - and how will the project be judged?

  • Are there clear criteria for measuring the project's results?

7.  Marketing:

  • Whose support needs to be gained? And who else needs to be involved?

"In the 1980s, all these things would be described in the design specification document - at the next stage of the project," says Jan. "Then clients got one company to carry out the analysis and gave the design specification to another company to develop using cheaper technology and staff.

This coincided with the rise of rapid-authoring tools. Today, design specifications contain little detail but tighter written contracts. "So less time is spent on up-front analysis and more time is spent correcting mistakes after development has taken place. Good ID would consider all these things and closely monitor them to spot things likely to adversely affect the delivery date and effectiveness of the learning."


This step involves communicating to the customer what the program is going to be. It starts when you know what the requirement is. It ends when the customer knows and approves your vision for the end product.

You communicate your vision through writing specific learning objectives (used to develop the program's content), producing an assessment strategy; developing content treatments (to deliver the material so that its objectives are met); designing a user interface (where the learner meets the learning materials), and organizing and sequencing the learning objects.

Ideally, as Jan mentioned, this is encapsulated in a design specification document. It includes storyboarding ideas, scripting words, graphics, and a user interface relating to sample content. Jan comments, "This document should contain the design for the whole project.

Some designers divide it into a project blueprint and another document itemizing contractual stuff, such as who pays who if things aren't approved or delivered on time." Although this document touches on aspects of Develop rather than Design, the customer needs to see a "cut-down" version of the end product at this stage so he can develop confidence in it. Next comes the prototype. Then the Design phase is over.

Develop and beyond

When it comes to the Develop phase, a key factor in what's produced is the client's budget - but so are the time available to produce the program and the program's audience. Implementation is followed by Evaluation - which raises its own key issues!

What do you think is a design specification document a luxury these days? And how much time do you spend on the Analysis phase of ID? Share your advice and questions in our comments section below.

About the author

Mind Tools

Mind Tools

Mind Tools was started in 1996 to offer practical online learning to people in the workplace.

By the time they joined Emerald in March 2019, they had grown into the one of the world’s most comprehensive learning resources, with millions of individual learners in 50 countries worldwide.

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