The ADDIE model for online course design

Instructional design is a process for creating a lesson or course that will enhance learning through the application of sound pedagogical or andragogical learning theories. One of the models used for this process of design was developed for the U.S. Army training and is called the ADDIE – which stands for Analaysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (Branson, Rayner, Cox, Furman, King, & Hannum, 1975). While this method can be used to develop online courses and lessons, it was initially based on behavioral/performance learning theories (Watson, 1981).

I used the ADDIE model to create a lesson plan about family life during World War II. The authentic learning activity will include an exploratory learning environment for grades 6 and above.  Through the use of video and links, students will be able to experience and compare life then and today. Students will interact via a discussion board, and the teacher will take an active role in communicating as well, encouraging collaboration and connectivism. 

Title: 1940s House: Making a connection between World War II and Life Today.

Grade Levels: 6+

1.  Pre-video discussion board: What do you think the 1940s kitchen was like? What appliances and conveniences do we enjoy that they might not have had during World War II?

2.  Watch the video:

3.  Take a look at rationing by interacting with the following site: World War II Food and Shopping. Leave your comments on the discussion board. What meat did they can that would be outlawed today?

4.  The family ate together during this time period and rationing was enforced. Do you think they had more family meals than we do today? 

5.  What items were rationed and how were they controlled? Some people grew gardens and had rabbits and chickens for food. How would you compensate for the small rations? Leave your ideas on the discussion board.

6.  As you watch this video, look for the items in the 1940s living room that have been replaced with technological advances today. What's your favorite?

7.  Use the interactive map to see what was happening in your country during World War II: Interactive Map

8. Can you find any ration books that were used during World War II?  Check ebay for sources. Post your finds on the discussion board.


Branson, R. K., Rayner, G. T., Cox, J. L., Furman, J. P., King, F. J., Hannum, W. H. (1975). Interservice procedures for instructional systems development. (5 vols.) (TRADOC Pam 350-30 NAVEDTRA 106A). Ft. Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, August 1975. (NTIS No. ADA 019 486 through ADA 019 490).

Watson, Russell (October 1981). Instructional System Development. In a paper presented to the International Congress for Individualized Instruction. EDRS publication ED 209 239.


Technologies and Authentic Activities


Authentic learning tasks are real-world activities -- tasks or problems that a student would encounter in life. For example, an instructor gives college students the task to produce a documentary film. Since technology has advanced, this kind of project provides learning tasks that result in a real product. The task requires a student to solve a series of problems that lead to a final meaningful product (Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). Teachers need to develop learning activities that are grounded in reality. I don't think we can ask students to memorize long lists of dates that have no meaning outside the need to pass an exam. True-false questions or multiple choice answers are teacher driven. That is the traditional assessment. Authentic learning and assessment, as in life, requires that a student demonstrate proficiency (Mueller, 2012).

Ten characteristics of authentic learning tasks were identified by Reeves, et al. (2002) to help instructors design authentic tasks. They included:

1.  Real-world relevance for all tasks -- Activities match real-world tasks of professionals.
2.  Ill-defined -- Requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.
3.  Complex, sustained tasks to be completed in days, weeks, and months rather than minutes or hours.
4.  Multiple perspectives where students examine the task from different perspectives.
5.  Collaboration is integral and required for task completion.
6.  Value laden -- Provides opportunities to reflect and involve students’ beliefs and values.
7.  Interdisciplinary perspectives enable learners to play diverse roles and build expertise.
8.  Assessment is integrated with learning that reflects how quality is judged in the real world.
9.  Activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else.
10.  Multiple possible outcomes -- Activities allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by the application of predefined rules and procedures. (Reeves, et al., 2002)

However, the list of nine elements to design authentic learning tasks adds the importance of guided learning (Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2010):

1.  Provide authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life.
2.  Provide authentic tasks and activities.
3.  Provide access to expert performances and the modeling of processes.
4.  Provide multiple roles and perspectives.
5.  Support collaborative construction of knowledge.
6.  Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed.
7.  Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit.
8.  Provide coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times.
9.  Provide for authentic assessment of learning. (Herrington, et al., 2010)

Guided learning is a necessary component of authentic learning, where technology and skill of one person (be that the instructor or other specialist) provides an atmosphere of collaborative learning. Without the guidance, students can become discouraged as they attempt to complete difficult tasks that require previous experience (Mascolo, 2009). In my example of the authentic task to complete a documentary film, students will excel if they have access to experts who can model the process rather than be left to "hunt" for answers on discussion boards or a Youtube instructional. Instructors must consider cognitive load theory when leaving students to make their own discoveries or how to use a technology such as Final Cut Pro. While students do not like to be bothered with "busy work" or seemingly useless tasks, they still have a need for guidance in successfully completing an authentic task (Herrington, 2010).

Technology provides many applications that can be integrated in authentic learning tasks. In fact, students have laptops, smart phones, and tablets or ipads to access the Internet. The problem for teachers in creating authentic learning tasks today is in their need to understand what sources are available and how to use them. Technology provides opportunities for creative designers to assist educators in developing authentic activities that can be supported by professionals.

Technology That Supports Authentic Learning Activities

#1 Project provides real world relevance. 

Example -- Film making provides students with the task of developing a documentary film that can be uploaded to Youtube, Vimeo, or burned onto a DVD. Two technology options can be used for either the Mac or PC. However, this is where guided instruction will be necessary to use the features effectively for either of these applications.

#2  Students define tasks,  #3 complete complex sustained tasks,  and  #4 look at different perspectives.

Students can use technologies to outline their tasks and look at different perspectives for completing them. However, guidance may be needed to answer questions and even provide a list of tasks. Collaboration should feed into this process. Defining the tasks will not be possible without some expert input.

Scrivener is a content generation tool for writers. It is useful to develop a script, novel or make a storyboard. Other storyboard software can be found here.

#5 Students use collaboration tools to communicate.

Collaborating is where students work together to either solve problems using the film editing software or getting ideas. There are several options: 

Voice and video conferencing:

#6 Students reflect and  #7 Take on diverse roles through collaboration.

Students reflect as they review the footage and editing, collaborating through the process. Various technology applications exist for this type of reflection and sharing. Evernote is helpful for sharing across the board, with sync-ing of information on phones, laptops and the cloud.

#8 Assessment and #9 Task enables learners to creates polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else. Although this task leads to other projects.

#10 Multiple Outcomes happens when students choose their own subject matter and develop their project.

This example provides tools to meet the needs of an authentic learning task, but the elements for designing this learning experience must include the nine points to have a successful outcome. The instructor provides not only authentic tasks, but the means to accomplish them, or the tools to use. This would include expert modeling and collaborative support. The students cannot be left to figure out how to make a documentary film. Experts should be available to provide solutions to problems when they are encountered and examples of the process. There is plenty opportunity for creative thinking within the constructs of guided instruction. Technology alone does not provide an authentic learning task, but it must be supported with professional guidance in the form of collaboration.


Reeves, T., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2002).  Authentic activity as a model for web-based learning.  2002 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, USA.  Retrieved from http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/7626/1/authentic_activity.pdf

Herrington, J., Oliver, R., & Reeves, T. (2002).  Patterns of engagement in authentic online learning environments. Proceedings of Auckland Educational conference.  Retrieved from  http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland02/proceedings/papers/085.pdf

Herrington, J. (2010).  What is authentic learning, why is it needed, and how can we promote it? Authentic Learning. Retrieved from http://authenticlearning.info/AuthenticLearning/Home.html

Mascolo, M. (2009).  Beyond student-centered and teacher-centered pedagogy: Teaching and learning as guided participation. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences (1) 1 p. 3-27. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1027631/Beyond_student-centered_and_teacher-centered_pedagogy_Teaching_and_learning_as_guided_participation

Mueller, J. (2012).  Authentic tasks.  Authentic Assessment Toolbox.  Retrieved from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/tasks.htm


Constructivist Learning Scenario -- Classroom Blog

Part I:  Scenario Description

Students in the past have learned about journalism and writing by working on a school newspaper or yearbook. However, newspapers are transitioning to becoming online papers. The presses are closing as the traditional newsprint moves to digital print. But one of the benefits of the computer and Internet age is that production can become more professional looking. The cost becomes lower and the speed of production becomes enhanced. Not only does this skill provide a form of communication for a classroom, but also it translates into a skill that can be used personally, in the work environment, and any social or learning scenario.  

Students will create a classroom blog. Narrowing it down to classrooms keeps it more interesting to the students and parents. Only information pertinent to the students will be covered. Dialogue will increase and a community of learning will be formed as students contribute information to be added to the blog.

Part II:  Connecting the Scenario to a Constructivist-Based Pedagogical Model

Constructivist learning empowers students to collaborate as they work in a community of  practice. The control of learning will be distributed among the students and not just one expert (Bannan-Ritland & Dabbagh, 2005).  As they work together on a classroom blog, participants will share ideas and learn to be flexible and inclusive. They will learn the advantages of dialogue, interaction, negotiation, and collaboration (Bannan-Ritland & Dabbagh, 2005). A classroom blog provides multiple and ongoing opportunities for innovation, creativity, and learning among the diverse backgrounds of all the students. They will be able to propose ideas for images, articles, advertising and the initial layout. The teacher will be the guide to cultivate this community of practice, which will be more alive and flexible. Designing for this “aliveness” requires some thought beforehand and throughout the year. Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (2002) have derived eight principles that can help define the community of practice.

  • 1.     Design for evolution.
  • 2.     Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives.
  • 3.     Invite different levels of participation.
  • 4.     Develop both public and private community spaces.
  • 5.     Focus on value.
  • 6.     Combine familiarity and excitement.
  • 7.     Create rhythm for the community. (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

By having students design and maintain a classroom blog, they will be part of a situated learning model. Jean Lave put forth the learning theory that learning is situated, embedded within an activity of context and culture (Lave, 1991).  Knowledge is acquired in the context of building a blog that will require the social interaction and collaboration of all of the students in the class. Instead of studying about the subject of writing, journalism, blogging, publishing, design, and dialogue, in an abstract way, the students will be part of a community of learning as they work together to produce a classroom blog. Learning is an ongoing process, which happens in daily life as we interact with others (Wenger, 2007).


When the students become engaged in the process of creating a blog, they will have developed a community of practice (Smith, 2009). This type of learning theory is based on the research of Lave and Wenger who promoted the idea that people learn as part of life. This can be seen in anthropological settings where tribes struggled to survive to a group of engineers collaborating on the design of a bridge. Situated learning occurs throughout life, in the pursuit of any goal, from the task of earning a living to seeking recreation (Wenger, 1998).  

According to Wenger (2007) a community of practice requires three elements:  the domain, the community, and the practice. In this scenario the shared domain of interest will be the classroom blog because it will touch the lives of all the students in the class. They should all feel a commitment to the success of the project. Joint activities and discussion will build the community, as the students decide on topics, share in the roles of writer, editor, publisher and designer. They will be able to learn from each other. The third requirement – the practice – will evolve when the students become practitioners, sharing resources such as experiences, stories, and technology (Smith, 2009).

Although the community of practice is more than the technical skill to build and maintain a blog, the teacher must provide scaffolding for the success of the community. Otherwise, the cognitive load of first building a blog could prompt discouragement within the community. The teacher must provide resources where the students can find the information they need, and be able to communicate as part of the community. Because a blog is dynamic and ongoing, the community will have a sense of joint enterprise and identity (Wenger, 2007).  Some students may express a greater interest in certain aspects of the blog, but all should move forward in knowledge so that each of the students will feel to be full participants. While this method of learning is somewhat like experiential learning, it promotes the learner to becoming actively engaged in the activity. 

One of the concerns in the community of practice learning is that some students may not become engaged due to lack of interest or peer pressure or even shyness. The teacher must monitor the classroom dynamics and reach out to anyone that may seem too far on the periphery of the community. Perhaps personal blogs can evolve out of the classroom blogging community, where individuals can apply the knowledge of the group to their own success. The drawback of situated learning is that the teacher may not focus on the individual, where learning must eventually reside (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011). This is where online learning may provide opportunities for all sets of learners to succeed.


Part III:  Learning Activities

Learning activities are needed to support and encourage the development of the blog by the community of students. While the blog becomes a classroom project, individuals will contribute their experience, research and learning. One of the first activities would be to decide on the blogging platform and require students to look at examples of other classroom blogs. Examples are one way of saving cognitive load and encourage the success of the task. The teacher can give the links to several classroom blogs where students can see what they are ultimately planning to achieve. This should prompt discussion in choosing platforms and design. The safety of online blogging can be addressed by using blogs designed for education such as edublogs.

The next learning activity would include learning how to use the blogging platform chosen. The class can begin to brainstorm on a name for their class blog and categories of subjects to be covered in “posts.” Timing should be addressed – “do they want to blog daily, weekly, or on some other schedule?”

A learning activity should include the use of copyrighted images and videos. The whole class would want to learn how to choose images that do not infringe on copyright. The creative commons rights should be part of this learning activity. Students will learn what is infringement and what is safe to use, whether that be music, film, or images. This is when it is valuable for the teacher to provide a list of image sources that are within the creative commons, and how to attribute credit.
Images must also be optimized for the blog and students should have an activity that guides them through the process of learning how to edit photos. Camera use for personalizing the blog would also be an item for activity.

A learning activity about how to write for a blog would be important for all class members. This would be an opportunity to improve writing skill that are informal and much more like students communicate. Instead of the formal five-paragraph essay and thesis statement, students can learn to write with clarity and a topic.

Part of communicating online in a blogging format is the opportunity for discussion in the form of comments. Students should have an activity about etiquette in posting comments and learn about respecting other students’ perspectives and opinions.

Part IV:  Learning Technologies

Situated learning practices can be found in online learning communities. For example, online communities draw attention to group processes, develop roles and levels of expertise, and have application outside the community (Haythorthwaite & Andrews, 2011).  Learning technologies are needed to complete the task of building and maintaining a classroom blog. These technologies are the Internet, computers, camera, and the blogging platform. While learning will be student centered, the teacher will be the guide in this constructivist learning model. Collaborative learning, experiential learning, and situated learning will constitute the methods for using the technologies. Even though the students will be the center of learning, the teacher must take on the role of facilitator or coach, so that the learning will be a form of guided participation in this socio-cultural activity (Mascolo, 2009). The teacher as the coach will guide the students on the use of the technology needed to complete the task of building a classroom blog.


Bannan-Ritland, B., & Dabbagh, N.  (2005).  Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and application.  Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011).  E-Learning Theory & Practice. London, England: Sage.
Lave, Jean (1988). Cognition in practice: mind, mathematics and culture in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mascolo, M. (2009).  Beyond student-centered and teacher-centered pedagogy: Teaching and learning as guided participation. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences (1) 1 p. 3-27. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1027631/Beyond_student-centered_and_teacher-centered_pedagogy_Teaching_and_learning_as_guided_participation

Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009).  Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice.  The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved from  www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Retrieved from: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/2855.html

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of practice. Learning as a social system. Systems Thinker. Retrieved from  http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml

Wenger, Etienne (2007).  Communities of practice. A brief introduction.Communities of practice. Retrieved from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/

Wenger, Etienne and Richard McDermott, and William Snyder (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.


An Analysis of Learning Theories for Online Learning

Theories of learning have been postulated, studied, and revised, giving way to new viewpoints about how people learn. Many of these theories overlap and one theory does not encompass how everyone learns, or even how one person learns. It often varies by subject matter to be learned. Theories are based on research, personal experience, and observation of others (Wang, 2012). Yet, theories dictate how information should be shared in an effort to “educate” the student.

In online learning we often call students  “learners” which emphasizes the disposition of those to be educated or taught. Traditional education has been built around the need to “teach” students. The knowledgeable teacher “instructs” the students; often with little regard to whether the students have a desire to learn. School has become mandatory and as such, students may not come ready to learn. Apathy in either teacher or student can negate the best of theories. This is even true at higher educational institutions, where students have the liberty to make choices in courses and instructors, but because degrees and grades stipulate success in careers, they may not have chosen to learn. Teachers are not always interested in helping their students understand and learn. However, there are always teachers who have become more of a mentor and facilitator of learning, reaching out to those wanting to learn.

Online learning has begun to center more on learning than teaching (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011). A team of technologists, designers, and teachers work together to create successful online courses. Learning rests with the student.  Hence, any successful learning theory presupposes a desire to learn. Yet, even with a small desire, a teacher, as an artist of learning, is capable of opening up new vistas and desires or squelching them. Even with the best theories of learning, so much is dependent on the giver and the receiver – the teacher and the student. There are those who love to learn and share that excitement. Online learning should bring them together.

When the teacher becomes the mentor and the student a seeker of knowledge, a community of learning is created.  Many online learning theories subscribe to the theory of constructivism where students construct knowledge based on previous experience and learning (Koohang & Paliszkiewicz, 2013). It is an active dynamic process where knowledge is constructed through activities of sharing, generating, combining, creating, and internalizing (Koohang & Paliskiewicz, 2013). It is applicable to online learning where higher education addresses the needs of adult learners and embraces the classification of teaching called “andragogy” or the art of teaching adults, versus “pedagogy,” the art of teaching children. Andragogy is a term popularized by Knowles (2005), which stipulates that adults take responsibility to build knowledge upon need, ability, and desire (Knowles, 2005). The term “pedagogy” originates from the Greek “paidaggos” -- a male slave who was responsible for the education of children (Bradley, 2011). As such, the paidaggos was not considered a member of society with high rank or admiration. It's funny that this word is now used to describe the science of learning and teaching.

Because the desire to learn is so important to any successful learning theory, the constructivist theory seems to be a good framework for online instruction. It is based on the "learner" constructing knowledge through a process of actively selecting and transforming information (Dabbach & Bannan-Ritland, 2005). The role of the instructor is more of a mentor – providing information and encouraging students to make their own discoveries (Dabbach & Bannan-Ritland, 2005).  

While I believe that adults prefer constructing knowledge based upon previous learning and experience, I do not adhere to the concept of letting students discover solutions by themselves without first providing information. The amount of information I believe to be necessary might not fit into the constructivist model, as I agree with Sweller, Kirschner, & Clark (2007), that minimally guided teaching methods do not work. So, while an instructor should encourage discovery, he/she must also provide guidance during learning. I disagree with problem-based learning (PBL), inquiry or discovery learning and other forms that are in favor of reducing relevant information to students and rely solely on teaching them how to find information (Sweller, et al., 2007).  It is my belief that this constitutes a heavy cognitive working load that is not conducive to problem solving and learning, and as such can lead to discouragement. As Sweller, et al. (2007) states, there are limitations to working memory that should be addressed by providing information instead of “having learners spend unnecessary time and effort on extraneous search activites” (p. 116). 

I prefer “direct instructional guidance:  providing information that fully explains the concepts and procedures that students are required to learn as well as learning strategy support that is compatible with human cognitive architecture” (Kirschner et al., 2006, p. 75).  This strategy is applicable in the math and sciences, where problem solution procedure (a fully worked out problem with narrative) assists in lowering cognitive load and transferring knowledge to long-term memory, as well as language arts where an example (paper or other task) aids in reducing extraneous searching (Sweller, et al., 2007). In the absence of instructional guidance, students may turn to collaborative learning to find answers and examples (Sweller, et al., 2007). Sometimes this can be helpful if the information is correct, but online learning with access to the Internet can often lead students astray. Guidance is necessary to reduce errors and time. Therefore, the cognitive load theory of learning should be applied for the success of an online course.

Experiential learning as proposed by C. Rogers (1969) is a theory that seems to be on the opposite end of cognitive theory, but in my opinion utilizes aspects of cognitive learning such as memorization. Even in the most basic of experiential learning situations, cognitive theory has application. Experiential learning theory is based on the idea that people learn information that they need or want for growth, through experience (Culatta, 2011). This is applicable to adult learning where the instructor sets a positive atmosphere, clarifies the purpose, organizes resources, shares but does not dominate (Dabbach, et al., 2005). Even though this seems to apply to face-to-face learning, the concepts are applicable to online learning where learning is self-initiated and proceeds at an individual rate.

Information comes alive when dialogue is open and continual. Moore’s (1997) transactional distance theory stresses that there is more to online learning than the physical distance. It involves the three variables of dialogue, program structure, and learner autonomy (Haythornthwaite, et al., 2011).  The benefits of online learning are not just the geography factor, but that it supports multiple communities of learners – those wanting more active involvement via discussion boards, web conferencing and messaging and those wanting more distance. Transactional learning theory addresses the needs of a variety of learners.

Online learning is more than a site for learning, it affects the nature of learning (Haythornthwaite, et al., 2011).  Therefore, traditional teaching methods and theories used in brick and mortar classrooms must be evaluated for online learning. Technology and learning must work together to provide a rich and successful learning environment. Even with communal constructivism where individuals contribute and connect to each other via the Internet, guided instruction is important in lowering cognitive load and supplying information for constructing knowledge. The student of learning is not only those at school, but anyone who has a need and desire to learn something. This includes most people searching for answers through sources available at the touch of button through internet access. The difficult part for anyone searching, is to be able to shuffle through what is inaccurate information to find the truth. The instructor, teacher, mentor is the person that should guide the learner to find that information and construct knowledge.


Bannan-Ritland, B., & Dabbagh, N.  (2005).  Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and application Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Bradley, K. & Cartledge, P. (2011).  The Cambridge World History of Slavery: Volume 1, The Ancient Mediterranean. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Culatta, R.  (2011).  Instructional design:  Learning Theories.  Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/index.html

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011) E-learning Theory & Practice. London: Sage.

Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005).  The adult leaner.  The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development.  Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

Koohang, A., & Palisszkiewicz, J. (2013). Knowledge construction in E-learning: An empirical validation of an active learning model. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 53(3), 109-114.

Moore, M. (1997). Theory of transactional distance in D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical Principles of distance Education. London: Routledge. pp 22-38.

Sweller, J., Kirschner, P. & Clark, R. (2007). Why minimally guided teaching techniques do not work:  A reply to commentaries. Educational Psychologist, 4(2), 115-121.

Wang, V. (2012). Understanding and promoting learning theories. International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 8(2), 5-11. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofs&AN=82187857&site=eds-live

Disqus for Online Learning