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Instructional Design Models for eLearning

Instructional Design Models for eLearning

How to ensure that your online course material is organized, processed as well as available to the right and targeted audience? You need a process and set of rules to follow to avoid decrease of your content’s engagement capabilities. Such processes known as Instructional Design Models. We are going to discuss them in this blog post

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

Instructional Design Models for eLearning

An effective learning experience comes when there is no odd complexity. To avoid complexity, information must be organized in the intuitive manner that would help learners orient in the course material, allowing their brains to learn in the way they do it best.

What is an Instructional Design Model?

When we speak of the instructional design model, it refers to a framework or process that helps to develop the instructional material for training. An eLearning course needs great efforts and time for its development, so the mistake can cost a lot. Thus, implementation of a strong and effective plan of action is needed. 

A thoughtful Instruction design model:

  • Assists instructional designers in providing a strong structure as well as the meaning of the course material.
  • Enables instruction designers to visualize the needs of training and easily break down the training material designing process into steps.
  • Provides set guidelines to make sure training or course material addresses the set learning objectives while meeting the intended expectations.

Different Instructional Design Models

There are various approaches that can be adapted for training course development. These design models will help you grasp how our mind assimilate, absorb and retains information. Hence, you can create an eLearning course that will create meaningful experience while offering real-world value. Let’s have a look at the top five Instructional Design Models used for developing eLearning courses.

#1 – ADDIE

ADDIE is an acronym for 5-course design principles i.e. Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Here is the brief description of the steps involved in ADDIE methodology.

Step 1 – Analysis:
In this step, the developer ascertains the need for training. This is determined by the exhaustive accumulation of information while profiling target students and understanding the expectations and needs of the organization.  

Step 2 – Design:
In this step, developers choose the instruction strategy, write objective(s) and select right medium and delivery methods. 

Step 3 – Development:
The course material is developed according to the expectations formulated in the previous design phase

Step 4 – Implementation:
The course is rolled out/released, delivered to the students and the impact/results are monitored

Step 5 – Evaluation:
Developers collaborate with relevant clients and based on learner feedback, analytic and surveys; evaluate the overall impact.

#2 – SAM

Mostly this instructional design model is used as an alternative to ADDIE. The term SAM is an acronym for Successive Approximation Model. The approach reflects the idea that an eLearning project can be completed with fewer errors and in less time (iterative chunks). For instance, if you have ever experienced designing an eLearning project and found a planning flaw in the end, then SAM is the right model for you. 
The approach helps in dividing or completing the project in different small steps, letting you retool things if needed. SAM is an agile development model that was created by Michael Allen, a leader, and pioneer in the design of highly interactive multimedia applications and learning tools. The approach offers 3 phases: Preparation, Iterative Design, and Iterative Development.


This phase offers two steps i.e. information collection and savvy start. In this step, you gather the background information before entering into the actual design aspect. The information lets you understand the clients’ requirements in a better way along with organization’s goals, needs, and expected outcome.  It is more like a solution brainstorming step to come with basic design ideas.

Iterative design:

This involves project planning or assessing the budget and timeline that can be affected by project development details. It involves consideration of risk, communication, scope, resource implication, and schedule.

Iterative development:

This step involves design proof. The functional and visual demonstration of recommended solution, with a sample of various components to be proved and tested viability, but are more usable and functional than prototypes.

In each step, it is recommended to collaborate with the client to continue the process by being closest to the client’s expectations.

#3 – Rapid Instructional Designs

The rapid instructional design is considered as a replacement for various conventional instructional design models. In the viewpoint of various proponents, this particular model is implementable due to rapid and dynamic shifts in learning technology and educational priorities. This design model makes use of accelerated design strategies and boosts course prototypes which are not lengthy to develop and can easily be modified and adapted on the fly. The design approach is for fast-paced eLearning environments.

The four pillars to consider while taking RID include:


It is a chance to make the first impression on learners by emphasizing goals and benefits. In this phase, you develop an interest in learners to keep them engaged with the content while overcoming the distractions.


Provide learners required information to apply the new knowledge in the practical world. This is done through eLearning activities and information delivery methods.


eLearning scenarios, simulations, and video demos enable the learner to put their learned knowledge into practice. The most important part of eLearning project planning and management is about finding the right online training tool for the task. Thus learners must get the opportunity to fully reinforce the major concepts and link them to the current mental schema.


This requires the evaluation and assessment to test the proficiency and learning comprehension. For instance; evaluation of employee's performance to know if he/she possesses the required skills.

#4 – Dick, Carey & Carey System Design Model

This is more of a systematic instructional design model.  This is similar to ADDIE model, being sequential in nature. The model revolves around the idea that the learner actively participates in the learning process.

The model integrates learner skills, needs, and learning context into the instructional design. Dick, Carey & Carey is a researched model which heavily relies on theoretical learning principles. That is exactly why it is one of the most widely implemented and respected model in higher education.

The key components of this instructional design model include:

  • Ascertain learning objectives and goals.
  • Carry out a thorough analysis.
  • Research your target audience to figure out traits and behaviors.
  • Develop some performance objectives based on specific criteria and tasks.
  • Develop eLearning assessments based on needs and preferences of learners.
  • Make your instructional design plan.
  • Select only appropriate eLearning resources and activities.
  • Evaluate the course to pinpoint improvement areas, known as formative evaluation.
  • Validate that the eLearning content properly aligns with intended outcomes, known as summative evaluation.

All of these foundational principles are as applicable to learner-centered online courses as to the classroom centered courses. It helps to shape the course that yield highly effective learning outcomes.

#5 – Rapid Prototyping

The concept of rapid prototyping in terms of instructional design is to create learning experience through a continual design assessment cycle that may continue throughout the project life. Before being recognized in the eLearning industry, rapid prototyping was first popular in the field of software. Considering the cyclical structure of this instructional design model, it is usually classified as the spiral model.

The steps that are involved in Rapid prototyping include:

  • Define the basic concept.
  • Establish a major skeletal system or framework.
  • Assess the basic refined concept by performing user evaluations.
  • Implement the required changes on the basis of user evaluations to further refine the content of the learning project.

The process is generally repeated as many times as it deems necessary to provide only the quality eLearning deliverable.

Which instructional design model is the best to go with?

Each of these discussed instructional design models suggests a different approach to developing an eLearning course but all of them are there to fulfill the same purpose i.e. Development of a systematic training course that successfully addresses the fundamental learning objectives.

However, not all of them address the shifting dynamics in the education along with the variety of delivery methods implemented now. Regardless which instructional learning design model you select, don’t forget that eLearning project planning and management takes time. You must go through each step of the overall process thoroughly. These instructional design models are there to make the eLearning planning process less time to consume and easier.

There are some eLearning course developers or eLearning project managers who prefer creating a melding of different instructional design models to fulfill their intended outcomes.

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