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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Yes, We Should Keep ADDIE, HPT and ISD Models

Here is my response to the Big Question at the Learning Circuit's Blog.

We need these models! In fact, we need these models now more than ever. The problem is that, as a profession, we are too eager to throw away the fundamental models on which our profession is based. We do this when:

  • technology out strips our ability to adapt.
  • we receive pushback from management or others.
  • the models become inconvenient.

Technology Out Strips Our Ability to Adapt

Blogs are a wonderful way to convey the “stream of conscious” thoughts of an expert in an informal format but are horrible from a learner perspective. They typically have no organization, limited navigational tools and no instructions for our informal learners. We just assume that they will “get it.” Even a basic term like "trackback," used in many blogs is not defined for a new learner.

Applying the instructional design principles of organization and information chunking would make many of our blogs easier to read and more efficient for our learners. These elements don’t have to take a lot of time (I don’t buy the best vs. quick argument..see below), establishing some templates, creating a few properly placed links and thinking about the overall organization of our blogs would solve the problem at the beginning. (See Tony Karrer’s post and subsequent comments on the subject.) Yet, we as instructional designers have generally failed to apply our models to the informal learning we keep cranking out every day, week or month.

How many of us has done any type of audience analysis of our blogs, written any type of goal or objective for our blog, designed an interface that is easy to navigate, has consciously built in any instructional strategies such as analogies, mnemonics, examples and non-examples? It is for these reasons that we need to stick to the proven models now more than ever…especially for informal learning tools like blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc.

Do we fault accountants who take weeks to do an audit, can’t that be speeded up? Can’t we speed up a surveyor? Or a road crew or a sales person. Yes, technology has helped to speed up all of these processes but the fundamentals are not thrown out. A surveyor does the same type of process. Only now he or she is aided with technology, the road crew builds the road with basically the same method, just the tools and materials are different. In the learning profession we seem to want to use technology to supplant our models.

That strategy doesn’t work, I’ve seen too many classes built without following the instructional design process and the result is almost always failed learning.

We Receive Pushback from Management or Others

This insecurity with our own models is dangerous. It shows when we talk to executives. At critical moments we fail to “stick to our guns” and because the technology allows us to “throw up” stuff on a screen and declare it “e-Learning”...we do it. We throw away good design in favor of fast design and then have the guts to declare that we get no respect from executives and that they don’t understand training. Hey, these people have taken the PowerPoint on steroids e-learning that you’ve created in one day and they know its crap…we fool no one with our shortcuts. (Except maybe short-sighted managers.)

Our customers (internal mostly) think to themselves, hey, I know PowerPoint, I could do that...what makes a designer of instruction so special? and since designers are not special, why do we need them? The answer? What makes a good designer special is the application of ISD, ADDIE and HPT. Without those models, my 9 and 12 year old sons could design the stuff that passes for e-learning and classroom instruction in many organizations.

It always amazes me when a client or a student is “forced” to follow the ADDIE model and then declare “hey, this stuff actually works.” Yes, these models work! We’ve only decided to abandon them because they are inconvenient and are perceived as slow. Would you ask a builder to skip the design step for a building? No need for the architect, just build the building. We've been building buildings for hundreds of years, its easy. We got it.

Sure, the building might last forever or, more likely, it might fall down tomorrow, you don’t know. You are working on faith. Employees might learn from your rapid PowerPoint lesson or they might’ll never know. (In fact, it’s even worse for the learning profession because we don’t have time to evaluate the learning least we can see when a building falls down.)

Also, the process of bulding a house is relatively linear...the process for filing a motion in court is realitively linear...I don't buy the arguement that the model is too linear...many models are linear...we don't throw them away...we apply them in a non-linear fashion when needed.

The Models Become Inconvenient

In the quality world, everyone thought ISO 9000 and the quality procedures would slow down production and cost organizations millions of extra dollars. It was inconvenient to put a quality process in place...too much work, too much effort and not enough perceived payback. Instead, the opposite occurred. Quality processes have helped increase production, decrease throughput times and created a better product. (See Toyota.)

If we instituted quality processes using the ISD, ADDIE and HPT models, we would get the same results. The process to move to ISO 9000 and other overarching quality methods was daunting but once done...far outweighed the level of effort. We need to redouble our efforts to enforce these models and not abandon them.

A Word About Time

Often one of the most compelling reasons given to abandon our models is because “we don’t have time.” Or “It takes too long to follow the model.” I think that is baloney.

First, you need to push back. Products typically aren’t designed, built and marketed in a day. Why should training for that product be designed, built and marketed in one day? Same with software systems that take years to develop and then they want training created and delivered in a week...?What are they thinking and what are we thinking when we AGREE to the unreasonable demands?

Second, if the model is established as a framework, then it becomes a natural part of the process and doesn’t require more time.

Third, you can do the model in an abbreviated format. For example, for the analysis phase of ADDIE, hold a one hour focus group. Yes, one hour for analysis. Now, will you get the best analysis in the world? No, but you will get some insightful information. Instead this step gets skipped, even just doing a one hour analysis can save learners hours of time in terms of focusing the instruction.

Often learning professionals don’t even do simple things like putting a Level One evaluation at the end of an e-learning module. We need to apply all elements of the model even if they are abbreviated.

As another example, if you take time up front to apply one or two instructional strategies to the content, overall learning time will be reduced. Instead we just put words on a screen because we don't have time to design the instruction. We need to use all the elements of the model in one fashion or another.

Fourth, where are we saving time? If we design rapid but ineffective learning (which we eagerly do) then when does the learning occur? The learner presumably needs that information and will get it somewhere? So they learn on the job...on someone else’s time. We really don’t save time when we skip our models, we just displace time. Rather than taking the time to develop efficient learning, we develop inefficient learning and let the learner find the information on his or her own. We don’t benefit the organization, we suboptimize. Yes, our times are shorter but at the expense of other groups in our organization who now are not as productive because they are learning what they should have learned from the training or learning event. Hey, if I have to learn what I was supposed to learn on my own, then why go through the formal learning process?

We have to stop SHAZAMING e-learning…we know it doesn’t work. We have to stop giving in to unreasonable demands. Lawyers don’t abandon the fundamentals of law when it takes to long to look up a precedent; they take the time because they view it as critical.

We need to stick to our models or loose relevance as a profession.


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Dave Lee said...
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Dave Lee said...

Bravo! Karl. I couldn't agree more. I've been saying for some time now that learning professionals need to step up to the plate or call it quits. If we don't use what we know and what we can learn to build our futures helping people learn, someone will.

As I pointed out in my initial post on eelearning to this The Big Question, I believe the challenges every single one of us will face in the next 5-15 years will be mountainous.

but I see only two choices. Hire the sherpas and start climbing. Or turn back, maybe take a nice picture, and satisfy ourselves with our new found belief that we never wanted to climb hat mountain in the first place.

Karl Kapp said...


We do have large challenges and, as you pointed out on your posting at eelearning we need to adapt our models to the change of the times. Just like training in general needs to adapt to new technologies (think of the classroom and how it has remained relatively the same).

If the unexamined life is not worth living, then is the unexamined profession not worth practicing? So, we must constantly examine and challenge our professon but we must also stand on some fundamentals which, I think many times we throw away.

So I agree, we need to climb the mountain and we need to do it with careful thought and consideration so we can raise up the field and our own practice or, as you indicated, take a picture, go home and brag that we made it part-way up the mountain.