Ashanti Morgan

ADDIE vs. AGILE Model: An Instructional Designer’s Perspective

As an instructional designer over the last decade, I’ve come across a number of methods that have been introduced to enhance the design process. From understanding by design (UBD) to rapid prototyping, each approach brings about a fresh perspective that designers are charged with considering as techniques to utilize as he or she hits the “refresh” button.

I, like most designers that have been doing this work for a while, have a foundation in the ADDIE model – a methodology that was first developed in the 1970s for the U.S. Army by Florida State University.  Its focus is based upon a 5-phase approach to design: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. For more information on the ADDIE model, check out an ADDIE infographic detailing the nuances of each phase.

A methodology that’s gaining traction with instructional designers across industries – and for good reason – is the AGILE instructional design process. The AGILE method is a project-oriented approach introduced by Conrad Gottfredson, a performance-support practitioner. It encompasses the five stages involved when designing eLearning experiences: Align, Get set, Iterate and implement, Leverage and Evaluate (Pappas, C. “The Power Of AGILE Instructional Design Approach…”).

In the table below, note the similarities and distinctions of the ADDIE and AGILE approaches to design.

How do the models compare?

Acronym breakdown Analysis
Get set
Iterate & implement
Comparison of models Content-centered: Focus is on creating measurable objectives with outcomes and activities that are in alignment.
Linear: moving from one step to next without evaluating as you go along creates longer production times.While it’s an iterative process, it occurs once the project is done which can be more costly.
Learner-centered: Focus is on the learner and how they engage and interact with the content.
Non-linear: an adaptable approach allowing for collaboration, flexibility, and revising throughout. Equates to more cost savings since the revisions are embedded in the 3rd phase (iterate & implement).

Collective approach to design

As a designer, I don’t look at one methodology as the answer to creating solutions. Instead, I combine a mix of ADDIE, AGILE, UBD, and other strategies to develop customized learning experiences that align with the needs of the learner and stated outcomes. My rationale is simple – perspective changes how you engage. Your perspective is contingent upon the industry that you’re working in, the organization’s culture, and client expectations that have been defined (whether explicitly or implicitly).

Working in varying industries with relation to instructional design is one of the key factors in terms of your approach to design methodology. For example, in higher education, it’s not uncommon to develop an online course as a “build as you go” – meaning all content is not delivered at the outset of development. In a scenario such as this one, the AGILE design process – centered around collaboration throughout – is tricky when you’re working with a narrow window to receive, build, and deliver content on a consistent (every module/week) basis.  While ideal, collaboration throughout is not always realistic thus the ADDIE model of an end of course debrief is more suitable.

Another implication of the AGILE model, such as having a learner-centered approach to design is feasible and highly encouraged. In addition to thinking about the objectives, outcomes, assessment, and activities, creating purposeful interactions for learner engagement can be incorporated in the design strategy.

In short, the collective approach of extracting the best practices, theories and methodologies that have been introduced by researchers and practitioners has worked well. This holistic strategy looks at each aspect of designing effective solutions – learner, content, and instructor – without narrowing the focus to one component.


  • Pappas, Christopher. “The Power Of AGILE Instructional Design Approach – ELearning Industry.” ELearning Industry RSS. N.p., 19 Apr. 2015. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <>.
Ashanti Morgan

About Ashanti Morgan

Ashanti Morgan is a Senior Instructional Technology Consultant and Program Manager for the Global Learning Experience (GLE) initiative at DePaul University. She also teaches computer productivity courses online as an adjunct professor in DePaul's School for New Learning. Ashanti has been working in the instructional design industry for over a decade in a variety of sectors including higher education, K-12, and non-profit. In her current role at DePaul, she manages faculty training, strategic planning, and global course development for the GLE program, an initiative that exposes students to intercultural exchanges while collaborating virtually with students abroad. She also provides instructional design expertise to faculty in a variety of disciplines across the university. Ashanti earned her master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University. She also obtained her bachelor’s degree in Organizational & Corporate Communication from Northern Illinois University.

One thought on “ADDIE vs. AGILE Model: An Instructional Designer’s Perspective

  1. I found your blog post very informative. I am taking a course at Walden University in instructional design. I am very familiar with ADDIE and use that method most often when developing a new course. I really appreciated how you broke down the two methods of ADDIE and AGILE to compare the two. I do see AGILE in want ads for instructional designers so I realize I need to be familiar with other methods besides ADDIE.

    So I went to the blog post about the power of AGILE instructional design approach and I found another site about even more methods for designing instruction. Apparently, according to this site Methodology Wars: ADDIE vs SAM vs AGILE, there are more ways to get to the same result. SAM (successive approximation model) emerged as the alternative to ADDIE. From this site, I found that AGILE can be difficult to implement in a corporate setting. Lou Russell states, “In my opinion, true Agile is difficult to implement in typical corporate organizations and cultures without creating a new and independent organization.”

    Russell claims AGILE flies in the face of multitasking project work. Every time I have been on a team of designers, we did create modules and each person had their own module to work on. I wonder if that is what Russell is referring to when she complains about AGILE. Her complaint is as follows: “The primary difference in this approach is that smaller chunks are completely finished through locked-down teams in a fixed period of time (sprints). This is not prototyping—the deliverables are complete, useable components.” I would have liked to see SAM in the mix but I really gained a lot of knowledge about ADDIE and AGILE from your post.

    I believe whatever method you use, you should design learner centered materials that a team of designers can contribute content in individual modules. This way, if an instructional designer is absent from the team or quits, the whole project doesn’t suffer. The method should have repeatable steps that any instructional designer could follow. However, speed shouldn’t override quality when developing the instruction. So I wonder if AGILE would deliver quality materials quickly or would SAM be a better alternative to the tried and true ADDIE. But as Russell states, “Learning methodologies are cheat sheets.” The method used probably doesn’t matter as much as the resulting project.

    Russell, Lou “Methodology Wars: ADDIE vs SAM vs AGILE,” Association for Talent Development, 08 April 2015, Retrieved from

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