Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Adapting 20th Century Training Models for the Future

By Jay Lambert

The Technology Association of Georgia's (TAG) Workplace Learning Society tried an interesting experiment recently by holding a discussion-only meeting on the topic of "Adapting 20th Century Training Models for the Future: Technology's Impact?" Obviously this is a hot topic as probably close to 70 people attended to form a standing room only crowd.

The questions posed were:
  1. What is your learning philosophy? For example, does your organization have a preferred model such as ADDIE, Kirkpatrick...? Are you learner-centric or value-centric?
  2. How has technology either assisted or become a barrier to executing that philosophy?
But while the conversation was supposed to discuss adapting training models to our industry's current environment, instead it strayed off into utilizing new eLearning delivery tools, getting a seat at the C-level table, and philosophies on learning effectiveness. Looking back on it, I was one of the drivers of that detour.

So here are a few things I wish I had said about Adapting 20th Century Training Models for the Future.

We still use the ADDIE model.

For proof, see the 2010 recap of this blog organized around ADDIE.

Actually, we did modify it a bit and follow the DADDIE model. DADDIE stands for Define, Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. Define was taken from the DMAIC model and is basically all the important pre-project information that you need to understand before you can begin a learning project (things like goals, stakeholders, resources, where to begin, etc.).

The genius of the ADDIE model, in my opinion, is its adaptability. You can make it as complex or as simple as you need for a specific project. But in essence, how can you create eLearning, or any learning program, unless you have:
  1. Considered what content is necessary and gathered it (Analyze)
  2. Written the content to be effective and instruct what is necessary (Design)
  3. Actually built it (Develop)
  4. Put it somewhere where your intended audience can view it (Implement)
  5. Asked yourself whether what you did worked or not (Evaluate)
Perhaps what has changed with the new century is the speed in which we must perform these steps. Projects lasting 12+ months are mostly a thing of the past except in rare circumstances. We live in a "I need this tomorrow" type of world.

So we still use ADDIE; we just move through the phases on a compressed schedule.

Technology enables us to be both learner-centric and value-centric.

A corporate eLearning director and I discussed this recently. One of his internal clients has a preference of publishing PowerPoint-driven lectures online with audio. They're very templated and look good, but you couldn't really call them eLearning by most standards. Still, he's created a rather large library that interested associates can refer to as needed. It's specialized topics, so people that want the information are finding it. The director suggested that perhaps that guy is the true visionary; he's not creating anything extraordinary, but rather simply addressing the basic business need as efficiently as possible.

We write a lot of posts on this blog talking about using tried and true models and techniques to create better eLearning for the learner. It's vital that the learner be considered every step of the way. For example, what does he or she really need to know and apply to do their job successfully? Another example might be, what are their technology restraints for receiving training in the workplace? The list can go on and on.

Once we have the questions answered, technology enables us to quickly react and, as necessary, mass produce. To what level we mass produce should be part of the decision-making conducted in the Analyze phase. Some projects will demand that we fight for the learner and create true deep-dive learning experiences. For other projects, being value-centric might be sufficient and actually a good idea.

Think about this. Never before have we been able to so quickly respond to business learning needs and create training programs. If we can create process-driven solutions that address both the organization's and the learner's needs, then it's a win all around.

Value-centric advantages that are also learner-centric include:
  • Shorter and specific training has been proven more effective
  • A templated approach often makes it easier for the learner to focus on the content
  • Reusable learning objects can be pulled into a learner's stream on an as-needed, just-in-time basis

Technology both assists and hinders our learning philosophies.
Learning strategist Erick Allen moderated the TAG Workplace Learning event. His opinion has long been that the emergence of rapid authoring tools is ruining our profession. Things are too fast; anyone can click Publish and now call it eLearning. It says so on the software box.

I think that there is definitely some truth to that. We must be careful and stay true to our core models. We must use technology to enable, not replace.

But if we do stay true to our models, such as ADDIE or DADDIE or whatever you follow, then technology can help us create some amazing things. We stand on the cusp of almost being able to develop whatever type of eLearning you can design -- immersive, augmented reality, mobile, just-in-time, etc., etc.

Technology can make our training come to life. And we should embrace that throughout this century and beyond.


  1. Excellent post, Jay.

    I like DADDIE better than ADDIE; I think you're on to something there.

    And I think you are right about compressing the ADDIE phases. When I've thought and written about ADDIE being dead, I was thinking about ADDIE as a formal methodology with formalized steps, requirements and documentation at the end of each phase. I've never seen THAT actually done completely in the real world.

    So yes, we need to do all those steps, but "just in time and just enough" to best suit the business situation.

  2. Thanks, Jack.

    I think that is how ADDIE commonly gets a bad rap; most associate it with a very formalized structure. But I prefer to use it as an adaptable framework.

    We use the ADDIE phases as guidelines to make sure that each step is being accounted for. The model must be formal enough to cover necessities, yet flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Of course, that's easier said than done and we're always tweaking.

    I really like your phrase "just in time and just enough to best suit the business situation." That's the mindset we need to operate with to be more closely aligned with the pulse and needs of an organization.


Thank you for your comments.