Choosing an elearning production process: ADDIE vs AGILE

The best elearning production process isn’t necessarily the one that gets learning content in front of an audience most quickly. The best is the one that will reliably get quality learning content that’s fit for purpose to an audience within an appropriate timeframe. So, should you be using ADDIE, AGILE or something different?

Comparing Production Process

Discover the modern alternative to ADDIE: Introducing the 5C Framework (Posted June 2017)

According to the Project Management Institute, ineffective communications is the primary contributor to project failure one-third of the time, and 55% of project managers agree that effective communication to all stakeholders is the most critical success factor in project management.

So it makes sense to have a production process that involves all stakeholders and provides a transparent system to follow. Here are two proven production models that you should consider for your elearning production.

1. What is the ADDIE model?


The ADDIE model has been around since the 1950s, and has been the basis of many variations. ADDIE is an acronym of the five phases it contains: analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation.

In its purest form, each of the phases is completed and feeds into the next.


This initial fact-finding phase allows you to define your project, with buy-in and collaboration from all stakeholders. The sorts of things you would typically determine during analysis are:

  • Who is the target audience? What are their characteristics? What are their behaviors?
  • Do we want to simply inform or do we want to change behavior?
  • Are there constraints, e.g., financial or political?
  • What deployment options do we have? Learning Management System (LMS)? Mobile?
  • What are the pedagogical considerations, e.g., audience ability level or prior knowledge?
  • What are the project timeframes?


The information learned during analysis informs the design phase. During design, you can determine your learning objectives, determine and source the content needed to address the learner needs, and chunk content into appropriately sized lessons.


During the development phase, the outlines determined during design are storyboarded, media assets are developed, and elearning is built. Clever use of resources can leverage efficiencies during this phase. For example, modern elearning authoring tools such as Elucidat enable all members of your team — not just the tech-savvy ones — to rapidly develop quality elearning content.

Debugging and testing is also conducted during development, to ensure that the developed assets are correct and working as expected.


The implementation phase takes the items created during development and makes them available to the audience. This may include releasing the learning into a live LMS or app store, and promoting the learning materials to generate interest in them.


This summative evaluation phase considers how well the delivered program has been received by the audience and how well it meets the objectives established during the analysis and design phases. The information gathered from sources like evaluations and quiz scores can be fed back into an analysis phase, and the cycle can start again, to refine the product.

Pros of ADDIE

  • Completion times are easier to gauge, as larger pieces of the project are planned in advance.
  • The development of larger units can be easier to evaluate.
  • Project management can be easier, based on a comprehensive master plan.

Cons of ADDIE

  • Things missed during early analysis and design phases may not be picked up early, or may be difficult to retrofit.
  • If resource dependencies are unexpectedly unavailable, the master plan can be significantly affected.
  • Changes in scope can be difficult/costly to implement, or can severely impact the large, rigid master plan.

2. What is AGILE elearning development


AGILE-like design methodologies emerged in the mid-1970s, but started to take their current form and gain wider acceptance in the mid-1990s. In contrast to a typical ADDIE process, an AGILE project tends to jump in; produce small pieces of content quickly; then evaluate, refine, and expand them over several tight iterations. A stream of working deliverables, rather than detailed plans or meetings, is the principal measure of progress.

In some ways, AGILE is like many tiny, less formal ADDIE projects linked together.

The typical AGILE process runs like this.

  • All stakeholders, including instructional designers (IDs), developers, subject matter experts, content authors, and clients, meet to brainstorm ways of moving the project forward.
  • All members agree on one or more small segments of the course to be created, and discuss in detail what these will look like and how they will function.
  • The piece(s) of course that were discussed are then created (usually quickly, due to their relatively small size). These creation phases are called Sprints. Because the emphasis is on rapid development, the choice of elearning authoring tool is important. For example, a tool that is easy to use, which leverages templates and enables quick updates, will work well with your overall process.
  • Teams will usually come together regularly during Sprints, to share progress and report problems. These meetings are called Scrums. This high level of regular collaboration is one of the major benefits of an AGILE approach.
  • Once a Sprint is finished, a wider team meeting is called to determine the success of the Sprint activity and decide which new piece(s) of the project to move on to.

Pros of AGILE

  • Brings all stakeholders together early and often.
  • Produces elements that people can see and comment on early in the process.
  • Is nimble: Projects can change direction more easily.
  • Highly collaborative; encourages communication.

Cons of AGILE

  • You don’t always see the whole picture early on.
  • Some stakeholders can be resistant, due to a perceived lack of planning.
  • It often involves multiple small teams developing in parallel, which could require high/cross-skilling.


Each of these approaches has its pros and cons.

The ADDIE process or AGILE development might suit your needs, or a hybrid approach could work better for you. You might even adjust your approach depending on the project that you’re about to embark upon.

When deciding which approach to use, consider how effective it will be relative to:

  • The size of the project: A very large project might benefit from an ADDIE-style scoping phase to get general agreement on broad aspects, followed by an AGILE approach that produces deliverables that evolve from proof-of-concept models to working prototypes.
  • Project timelines: Tight project timelines might be better served by rapid, AGILE-style development, especially if the team and SMEs are confident of the content.
  • The maturity of the content: If policy makers are still writing content but you’re being asked to begin development, a soft, partial launch with AGILE deliverables that can evolve as content becomes available might be a good way forward.
  • Senior stakeholder drivers: Management may want to see results quickly to satisfy a hostile Board. In this case, a protracted ADDIE scoping phase on a large project may not be in the project’s best interests.

For more detail on the steps for successful elearning development, see our elearning process page.

A modern alternative: The 5C Framework

The five Cs will help you to plan, design, create, optimize and commercialize digital learning that delivers real-life impact. Developed by Simon Greany and his team of learning consultants, the 5C Framework has become the blueprint for elearning teams that want to create and deliver outstanding elearning.

The 5Cs:

  • Capture – start with a clear plan
  • Conceptualize – lead with a prototype
  • Create – build with confidence
  • Cultivate – improve and refine
  • Commercialize – deliver better ROI

Learn more about the 5C Framework and download free resources to help you at each stage.