Instructional Systems Design models to set up your elearning program

Instructional Design is the process of defining content, methods and timeline for the training program (either traditional face-to-face or elearning) and it’s usually based on an Instructional Systems Design (ISD). Talking about elearning, this phase and the chosen ISD acquire particular value, since modifying the final product involves the need of additional costs and time.
How are these models build and how are they different from each other? Keep on reading to learn how to pick the best one for you.


ADDIE is by far the most famous and used Instructional Systems Design in elearning. It derives its name from the acronym Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation and it’s composed of five consecutive steps, each one with an outcome which feeds into the next.

1. Analysis: This first and fundamental step has the aim to analyse the training gap to fill, starting from the observation of the target audience to define the the learning objective in terms of knowledge and skills. For this purpose, it can useful to use models like Bloom’s Taxonomy and its re-worked version.

2. Design: This step includes the planning of learning content on a training level (lessons, exercises, tests) and, when elearning is involved, on a graphic level. All this leads to create a training plan and a storyboard which acts as a model for the course.

3. Development: Training plans built in the design phase come to life: content, multimedia elements, technologies are developed to create a beta version of the final product. This is tested and the reviewed to solve any issue, basing on feedbacks received and quality checks.

4. Implementation: Once the course is validated and finalized, it can be presented to all the actors involved in the training process: trainers and students. Elearning content is uploaded to the LMS platform and every element – software and hardware, online and offline – is checked to see if it works correctly.

5. Evaluation: The last step includes an evaluation of the course in relation to the learning objectives set in the analysis phase. Results can lead to review the course to improve its effectiveness, if necessary.



The Dick-Carey Model, which was named after the two professors from Florida who invented it, includes ten consecutive steps:

1. Assess needs to define the learning goals.

2. Conduct instructional analysis, namely identify skills, knowledge and attitudes that learners need to acquire.

3. Analyze learners and their background contexts, to build a training path standing on existing knowledge.

4. Write performance objectives basing on the instructional analysis.

5. Develop assessment instruments to measure learners’ ability to perform the set performance objectives.

6. Develop instructional strategy which includes pre-instructional activities, instruction, practice and feedback, testing and follow-up activities.

7. Develop and select instructional materials, typically including a learner’s manual, instructor’s guides, multimedia and assessments.

8. Design and conduct a formative assessment one-to-one, in small groups or on the field, in order to to determine how to improve instruction.

9. Design and conduct a summative assessment of the whole training program and of each lesson and activity involved.

10. Revise instruction based on the assessment results.

Compared to ADDIE, largely spread in the business environment, the Dick-Carey Model is much more appreciated in schools.



The Kemp Model, conceived by Morrison, Ross and Kemp in 2010, takes into account different disciplines and approaches to instructional design, which is considered a non-linear process depending on the single designer uniqueness.

It includes nine elements, organized in a circle without a set order or hierarchy:

• Instructional problems: identify problems and learning objectives.

• Learners characteristics: identify all the characteristics that will influence the design process.

• Task analysis: identify knowledge and procedures to include in the training process in order to enable learners to achieve the objectives.

• Instructional objectives: identify knowledge and know-how learners need to achieve at the end of the training process.

• Content sequencing: organize content in a logical order to maximize effectiveness.

• Instructional strategies: conceive innovative strategies to deliver information and help learners to reach the goals.

• Designing the message: design and create learning content (text-video) that will be shown to learners.

• Instructional delivery: create or select supporting materials for all the activities.

• Evaluation instruments: conceive instruments to evaluate if the learning objectives have been met be learners.

This model is more suitable for designing long and complex training programs, while it is too cumbersome for single lessons and short programs.



SAM is an acronym for Successive Approximation Model and consists of “repeated small steps, or iterations, that are intended to address some of the most common instructional design pain points, like meeting timelines, staying on budget, and collaborating with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).” Just like the Kemp Model, this is a non-linear process, with three cyclic phases: Analysis, Design and Development.

It comes in two versions: the basic one with three iterations, ideal for simple projects or small teams, and the advanced one with eight iterations, more suitable for complex projects. In particular, the second one focuses on the preparation phase, which consists of two steps: collecting information and holding a brainstorming and prototyping meeting called “Savvy Start”.

Compared to other models, SAM is considered an agile approach, since it helps to prevent many problems, for example related to the team not knowing what is going on in the instructional design process. Nevertheless, to be able to work, this Instructional Systems Design requires an environment with flexible processes and quick feedbacks: otherwise, it is advisable to use linear model like ADDIE.


After having examined all the different Instructional Systems Design it should be clear how this process is fundamental, both in traditional training and elearning, to select all and only the needed information and to look for creative solutions to achieve the desired goals. Would you like to know more about all the single phases of instructional design for elearning? Read the following articles!




Kahuna Learning, Introduzione all’Instructional Design
ISU College of Education, ADDIE 
Wikipedia, Modello ADDIE
Training Industry, The Dick and Carey Model
The Performance Juxtaposition Site, The Dick and Carey Model – 1978
ETEC 510: Design Wiki, The Kemp Model of Instructional Design
Kemp, J. E. (1985). The instructional design process. New York: Haper and Row.
Kemp, J. E., Morrison, G. R., & Ross, S. V. (1994). Design effective instruction, New York: Macmillan.
E-learning Heroes, An Introduction to SAM for Instructional Designers



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