ADDIE & SAM: Which ID Model is Right for Your Learning Solution?

ADDIE & SAM: Which ID Model is Right for Your Learning Solution?

To succeed in instructional design and eLearning, an understanding of industry best practices is crucial. Theories and resources abound, but a critical first step is developing knowledge around popular instructional design models.

ID models guide the development and strategy of each learning solution project. Each model has advantages and disadvantages. The challenge comes in determining which model works best for you, your team, and your learners.

ADDIE and SAM are among the most popular iterative ID models used in the industry, but they are not the only models or frameworks utilized by professionals.*

ADDIE is the traditional framework of choice in designing and developing learning solutions.

ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) was developed in 1975 for the U.S. Army by the Centre for Educational Technology at Florida State University, though earlier concepts exist from the 1950s. The ADDIE approach offers clearly defined stages to facilitate the creation of useful training tools. Ideally, the process incorporates a succession of iterative steps in which ideas and concepts are weighed and discussed.

With ADDIE or any model, if the project scope and goals change mid-project, design, development, and iteration are delayed, it can jeopardize the learning solution's implementation and production.

Illustration Credit:

SAM (Successive Approximation Model) is an agile, iterative development process that starts with preparation. The "Savvy Start" is described as a straightforward process of gathering information and background. This is followed by rapid prototype design and further analysis. ("Approximation" refers to a prototype, an estimate of the final product, course, or learning solution). Creator Michael Allen explains SAM further in his 2012 book, Leaving ADDIE for SAM.

Though the SAM process is often touted as faster and more efficient, SAM risks include missed steps or unrealized challenges, sending IDs and the project team back to the beginning for a learning solution overhaul.

Though there is often debate about a superior ID model, most frameworks include the ADDIE steps (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) in some form, order, or fashion. No matter the model name or design, conducting an analysis/savvy start and completing an evaluation (in addition to design and development) results in a more impactful, successful, engaging solution for learners!

Choosing whether ADDIE, SAM, or another ID model is best suited for your learning solution ultimately depends on your organization, resources, and timeline.

Stay Postitive!

Dr. McNeill

Visit to sign up for ID Career Academy news, courses, and your copy of How to Build a Professional ID Portfolio (in Just 7 Days).

Stay connected! Join our private ID Career Academy Facebook group!

*Dozens of other useful instructional design models exist in the industry, including Backwards design, Dick and Carey, Rapid Prototyping, Kemp, and ASSURE. Read more here:


Kurt, S. "ADDIE Model: Instructional Design," in Educational Technology, August 29, 2017. Retrieved from