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ADDIE vs. SAM - Which Learning Methodology is Better?

Langevin Learning Services Inc.

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The battle of ADDIE vs. SAM began when Micheal W. Allen outlined the SAM model in his book Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences in 2012.

SAM is not the first learning design methodology to challenge ADDIE, but it is one of the most popular. The biggest difference is that SAM is an agile method - meaning that multiple steps are often taking place at once with room for a lot of collaboration with the customer while ADDIE is linear and often requires one step to be finished and reviewed before the project moves forward.

Keep reading to learn about the positives and negatives of ADDIE and SAM so that you can make a more educated decision when it comes to creating - or sourcing - new learning materials.

The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE model for Instructional Systems Design (ISD) was created in the 1975 by Florida State University to provide a framework for creating training for the US Army. ADDIE is an acronym whose letters stand for the five phases in its approach to design. These are:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

The ADDIE methodology was built on a linear model, meaning that one phase should be finished and perfected before moving on to the next.

ADDIE has been simplified and refined several times between the time of its creation and the present. It has stood the test of time to remain one of the most used and known ISDs by instructional designers.

There is a reason that ADDIE has been around since the 1970’s. It works. Instructional designers know that when they use the ADDIE methodology to create learning and training materials they will finish with a usable product.

However, since the ADDIE model is linear and requires that each step reviewed before moving forward, it can be a bit slow and cumbersome. Another problem is that it can be difficult, or even impossible, to backtrack. If something goes wrong, it can mean that a complete restart is necessary.

The Successive Approximation Model (SAM)

The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) is an agile development model. The meaning of “agile” in this case is that multiple steps are happening at the same time. The SAM process is iterative. Each development stage is cycled through at least three times, and each cycle should be closer to ideal than the last one.

SAM’s iterations during the development process make room for evaluations and changes to the project as needed. SAM also strongly encourages collaboration between the instructional designers and the customers at every step.

While all this collaboration can slow things down, it ensures that the customer knows exactly what is happening throughout the process. If the designers come up with something that isn’t quite right, the instant feedback means that they can quickly change course.

Which Should Instructional Designers Use?

There are instructional designers who reject the idea of ADDIE vs. SAM. The form of ADDIE that they are using is not actually different than the SAM model apart from the name of the steps.

No one is using the 1975 version of ADDIE anymore, and many designers have adapted the ADDIE model into something more flexible and even iterative.

So should instructional designers be leaving ADDIE for SAM? Ultimately, that is a decision that every company must make for themselves.  As long as the finished content is good, the method that was used to reach it is, ultimately, not that important.

ADDIE vs. SAM doesn’t have to be a battle. Learn how to use them both and then adapt them to suit your content and process.

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Last updated: 21 Jan 2021

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