Course Design Foundations

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The ADDIE Design Model

At the foundation of course design are several models, processes, resources, and tools to help you design or revise course curriculum.

Among all the course design models, each have strengths and drawbacks depending on the context. A good start to learning the principles of course design is to focus on the ADDIE model, as it is one of the most well-known course design models.

The ADDIE model: analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation

ADDIE is an acronym where every letter corresponds to one of the model鈥檚 main phases: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Despite being nearly forty years old, the methodology has not fallen out of use; indeed, it has remained the leading learning design methodology to this day.

This popularity is owed to the fact that ADDIE is simple to use, flexible, and versatile. It is easy to learn, whether you are a master, or have just recently entered the industry. Another benefit of ADDIE is that it is cyclical; that is, it enables you to continuously improve your learning design.

The content of this page is organized according to the stages in the ADDIE model: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.聽聽

Stage 1: Analysis

The first ADDIE phase we will examine is Analysis. Unsurprisingly, the better you study the requirements prior to the course creation, the more effective the resulting course will be.

Analysis helps you gain a clear understanding of the following:

    • Who is the primary target audience?聽
      • Who will be using the learning materials you produce for studying?聽
      • Are the learners experts looking to broaden their knowledge, or newcomers just making their first steps?聽
        • Certain common traits shared by the members of the target audience (e.g., knowledge from an adjacent domain, or the overall computer literacy level) can greatly impact the way the finished course looks. Age, gender, socioeconomic status, experience, education; all of those inform the way the learning materials must be presented to achieve maximum learning efficiency.
    • What are the learning goals you aim to achieve?聽
      • Before starting to work on teaching materials, it is vital to determine the main learning goals and clearly communicate them to everyone involved in the creation of the course. The goals must be described in detail from the outset, and they must be measurable.聽
      • What does your course aim to teach?聽
      • What knowledge and skills it will impart to the learners who complete it?聽
    • What are the physical and organizational constraints?聽
      • It is important to understand in what environment the course will be consumed. Ask yourself the following questions:
        • Are there any limitations imposed by the organization that need to be considered?
        • Is the overall length of the course or the time allotted to the study of individual modules limited in any way?
        • In what setting the education will take place? In a physical classroom/auditorium, or remotely?
        • Do the physical rooms meet all the requirements of the course, or can those requirements be met should the need arise?
        • Will the setting impact the effectiveness of education?
        • What are the technical requirements of the course?
    • What is the best structure for this course?
      • Information gathered during the preceding steps of analysis will help you establish the structure of the course. Have answers to the following questions ready before you begin:
        • Do you need to split the course into individual modules and include step-by-step instructions?
        • At what key points do you need to test the acquisition and retention of knowledge?
        • What weight is to be assigned to each test?
        • Will the modules differ in size and importance?
        • How will the learners use the course material in the future?
        • How accessible are the requisite knowledge sources?
    • Where will the subject matter content come from?聽
      • During the analysis phase it is important to assess the accessibility of materials you will use during the creation of the course. Answer the following questions:
        • Who or what will serve as the main source of information?
        • Are the necessary information sources available in-house, or will they have to be found elsewhere?
        • Is information about the course鈥檚 topic available on the Internet? Is it easily accessible?
        • Are there any materials on the topic that have already been written/created? Perhaps a different course that was used in the organization before?
        • Are there Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) within the organization that can help you work on the course by sharing their knowledge and expertise?
        • Will the said Subject Matter Experts be available to assist you with preparing the course?
    • What criteria will be used for assessment?
      • You need to determine the way to assess the knowledge acquired by the learners. Having answers to the following questions will be helpful:
        • How exactly the students will be graded? Will you use small tests that will be graded, or will the effectiveness of the course be measured by the practical skills the learners acquire after completing it?
        • If you plan to assign grades to learners, what will be the passing grade, and will a learner be able to pass a failed test again to improve their result?

Analyze: Target Audience, Learning Goals, Constraints, Course Structure, Subject Matter Content, Assessment Criteria

Stage 2: Design

The goal of this stage is to create the structure of the course. Whatever form it takes, the layout of a course usually includes the descriptions of the main topics the course will cover and goals it sets out to achieve, as well as short descriptions of content. The more effort and care you put into this stage, the less time you will need to alter aspects of the course during development.聽

The Design phase aims to accomplish two main goals:

    • Deciding on the format of the course.聽
      • At this stage, the developer must decide how to best impart the knowledge to the target audience. Should they use a synchronous teaching method, prepare a manual so learners will be able to study at their own pace asynchronously, create an electronic course on a computer, or use blended learning? This decision should be made based on the preliminary analysis of the target audience and its characteristics, preferences, and habits. If the target audience is comprised of people with little technical skill who do not routinely deal with computers, the elements of the course should be as simple as possible.聽
        • Fleming College has determined the following delivery types to consider:
          • Face-to-Face 鈥 All course hours are delivered in-person at the delivery location specified on the Academic Timetable.
          • Hybrid Synchronous 鈥 Some course hours are delivered online synchronously with specified meeting times and some hours will be delivered in person.聽 Delivery locations and times are specified on the Academic Timetable.
          • Hybrid Asynchronous 鈥 Some course hours are delivered online asynchronously without specified meeting times and some hours will be delivered in person.聽 In-person delivery locations and times are specified on the Academic Timetable.聽 Asynchronous course hours may be completed at any time.
          • Online Synchronous 鈥 All course hours delivered are online synchronously with specified meeting times.聽 Delivery times are specified on the Academic Timetable.
          • Online Asynchronous 鈥 All course hours are delivered online asynchronously without specified meeting times.聽 Delivery locations and times are not specified on the Academic Timetable.聽 Asynchronous course hours may be completed at any time.
          • Online Blended 鈥 Course hours are delivered both synchronously – with specified meeting times and delivery times are specified on the Academic Timetable – AND asynchronously – without specified meeting times.聽 Asynchronous course hours may be completed at any time.聽 Faculty please provide more detail for students, eg. Lectures are asynchronous and Labs are synchronous, Weeks 1 鈥 4 are synchronous, Weeks 5 鈥 15 are asynchronous, etc.
    • Developing the education strategy.
      • The education strategy is comprised of lectures, discussions, tasks, tests, projects, and supplementary materials meant to help the learners better understand the course material.聽

These fulfill the four main goals of the education strategy:

      • Preliminary activity.聽
        • The main goal of preliminary activity is to let the learners know what topics will be covered in a particular section of the course and motivate them by explaining the advantages of possessing the knowledge and skills that will be imparted to them during the education process. Motivating the learners will support more engagement in completing their education. At this stage it is beneficial to tell the learners about the goals of the course, as it will help them understand how they would be able to apply the obtained knowledge after completing the course.
      • Presentation of material.聽
        • Try to keep your course concise and avoid unnecessary details. Leave everything unrelated to the skills the course aims to teach out.聽
      • Practice.聽
        • It is vital to enable the learners to practice what they are being taught. The amount of practice a learner gets while taking the course and after completing it directly corresponds to how quickly and how well they obtain the requisite skills. Providing timely feedback on the completed tasks is equally important – it helps the learners better understand the material.
      • Post-activity.聽
        • After the learners have completed the course, it is beneficial to summarize the main idea of the course and its goals, which will help the learners to better retain and remember the knowledge obtained while taking the course and start applying it. This is also a chance for the learners to ask questions about some specific topics covered in the course they did not understand very well.


Stage 3: Development

During the Design stage, while creating the education strategy, you should have settled on what types of material you will use. It is now time to start developing the course.

Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind during development:

    • No one is thrilled by having to read pages upon pages of dry text.
    • Spice your course up with media content. Anything from illustrations to videos to graphs and tables will make your course look better and help the learners to acquire information on the visual level. Interactive tasks will make the course more engaging and give the learners some hands-on practice related to the topics being learned.
    • Try to present the information in a logical order.
    • Introduce new topics only after the learners have had a chance to grasp the basics and understand all underlying concepts.
    • Regardless of how far you proceed into the development stage, always keep in mind the main educational goals the course aims to achieve.
    • Do not disregard the data collected during the Analysis stage; it is there to help you achieve those goals.
    • Universal Design for Learning.
      • Design with the needs of every learner up front. For example, design materials knowing that you may have students with hearing and sight challenges in your class, rather than waiting for those students to ask for customized materials. This might mean ensuring you already have transcripts for videos provided in your course, or double check with Accessible learning that your course is setup correctly for those with hearing challenges. Go to Designing Accessibility to learn more about incorporating UDL into your course.
    • Quality assurance.
      • You will do well to make a habit of constantly testing the course as it is being developed.聽 A fresh look is always beneficial, and it helps to reveal issues that may not be apparent to the course designer. You might consider engaging a Teaching & Learning Specialist or Digital Learning Design Specialist to give their input and perspective.


Stage 4: Implementation

Once the Development stage is finished, it is time to proceed to Implementation. During this stage, the materials created during development are introduced to the target audience and the learning process starts.

The application of materials can take different forms:

    • Knowledge transfer is facilitated by an instructor or a group of instructors using the developed materials as a basis for teaching. They deliver the information to learners and make sure that the main concepts of the course are well understood.
    • Learners study a part of the course autonomously, while the rest is explained by an instructor, who also controls the acquisition and retention of knowledge from the parts of the course the learners studied with no assistance.

Depending on the chosen format, the Implementation stage will likely include the following main steps to a greater or lesser degree:

    • Preparing the learners.
    • Preparing the environment.

Let us take a more in-depth look:

    • Preparing the learners聽
      • The next step of the implementation process is to prepare the learners for the upcoming education process. That means making sure that they are familiar with the tools and have the knowledge required for completing the course. Are the learners proficient in the use of programs they will use during the course? Are they aware of course鈥檚 goals and schedule?
    • Preparing the environment聽
      • During this step it is necessary to ensure that the technical and organizational requirements of the course, formulated during the Development stage, are met, and to prepare the environment where the teaching will be conducted.聽
      • Depending on the chosen format, the preparation may include the following:
        • In-class:
          • Setting up a projector and a screen of adequate size.
          • Setting up the audio in the room/auditorium where the learning will take place.
          • Making sure that the computers that will be used for teaching have sound cards installed, connecting and testing the speakers/headphones.
          • Supplying a whiteboard and marker pens.
          • Preparing the necessary printouts that will be distributed to the learners.
        • Alternate Delivery:
            • Downloading and installing the necessary software.
            • Setting up a course shell in D2L with all materials.
            • An adequately prepared environment helps both the learners and the instructors to concentrate on the learning process with a minimum of distractions.


Stage 5: Evaluation

Graphical list image showing Evaluation can be Formative, done 1 on 1 or in small groups, or Summative

Formative Evaluation

Formative evaluation runs parallel to the learning process and is meant to evaluate the quality of the learning materials and their reception by the students. Formative evaluation can be separated into the following categories:

    • One-to-One Evaluation.聽聽
      • Imagine that you are training nursing students to use an X-ray machine. You play a video explaining the basics of operating the device. One-to-one evaluation involves you gauging the effectiveness of the video, considering the age and skillset of the target audience.聽
      • It is necessary to evaluate the following aspects of the video:
        • Clarity.
          • Was the main idea of the video well understood?
        • Usefulness.
          • Did the video help in achieving the goals that were set?
        • Relevancy.
          • Can the video be used to good practical effect where it takes place in the curriculum, with the material being studied?
          • It is important to keep evaluation questions clear, concise, and to the point.
    • Small Group Evaluation.聽
      • This type of evaluation is meant to understand how well the activities work in a small group setting. Form a small group, preferably consisting of representatives of the various subgroups that make up the student body that is the course鈥檚 target audience.
        • When doing the small group evaluation, you should ask the following questions:
          • Was learning fun and engaging?
          • Do you understand the goal of the course?
          • Do you feel that the teaching materials were relevant to the course鈥檚 goals?
          • Were there enough practical exercises?
          • Do you feel that the tests checked the knowledge that is relevant to the course鈥檚 goals?
          • Did you receive enough feedback?

Summative Evaluation

The main goal of summative evaluation is to prove, once the course is finished, that the performed training had a positive effect. For that, we use the Donald Kirkpatrick training evaluation model, which has long ago become the standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training.

Summative evaluation helps us find answers to the following questions:

    • Is continuing the learning program worthwhile?
    • How can the learning program be improved?
    • How can the effectiveness of training be improved?
    • How to make sure that the training corresponds to the learning strategy?
    • How can the value of the training be demonstrated?


Resources and Training