Main Body

Key Terms and Definitions

This e-book is designed as a companion to UNH-CPS’s COM 707 Communication for Training and Performance Improvement. It has been adapted from a textbook that was originally designed for students in an Instructional Design program for Educational Technologists.

In this revised edition, there is more emphasis on communication strategies and less emphasis on learning theories, models of evaluation, task analysis and other dimensions of instructional design (ID) as a scholarly or professional pursuit. Students in COM 707 who wish to pursue further studies in instructional design will encounter more in-depth material on cognitive science, learning theory, instructional theory, multimedia design, and more.

Students of Communications should know that communication is one of the most important skills in the ID profession. Instructional design, as a process, is facilitated through communication, both on the inquiry side in gathering information, in the presentation side in reporting to stakeholders, and in the development of instructional media.

All instructional designers need to be good communicators.

What is ID about?

Everyone at some point has taken a class, a training session, or used a how-to resource to learn something new. In each instance, there was a design process where decisions were made about the nature of the instruction and how it would be facilitated to the enduser, student, trainee, or whichever title you can think of as the consumer of instruction. This design process is embodied in the ID profession and practiced in many areas: K-12 education, higher education, corporate training, military, non-profits, and enrichment programs.

So, what is instructional design, and how is it different from teaching? The teaching profession is concerned with the interplay of people in a set of learning conditions assembled to achieve a goal. As a profession, teaching is primarily focused on the moments in time after the planning process has occurred, the instructional materials have been produced, the conditions for teaching have been determined, and the analysis and selection of students prior to teaching have been conducted.

Instructional design is concerned with structures and strategies within which teaching takes place, much like how an architect conceptualizes a building according to how it will be used. Think of ID as systems thinking about the conditions of learning and the scientific process of learning itself where teaching is a component of its implementation.

When approached with a need for education, training, or performance improvement, the instructional designer, as a systems thinker, considers the following:

  • What research strategies do you employ to determine whether the instructional needs are, in fact, related to a need for instruction? (In corporate training situations, there may be organizational or managerial causes for performance problems). How do you determine the exact needs for instruction, and how do you compose the Learning Outcomes/Goals/Objectives so that they are measurable, feasible, and attainable?
  • What do you know about learners prior to instruction that would inform the scope of the content, the context of their needs, and the level of complexity they can comprehend?
  • What do you know about the subject matter that informs the optimal instructional strategies, forms of communication, and instructional media?
  • What artifacts of learning are optimal for assessment? On what basis should student work be assessed?
  • What are the options for a learning experience that are stimulating, personalized, emotionally motivating, socially safe, and aligned to authentic experiences in the real world?
  • What are the optimal/feasible methods of instructional systems and technologies, given the circumstances? (This would be related to the methods/modes of delivery, such as face-to-face, online, hybrid, blended, Zoom, videos, etc.).
  • How do you go about formative improvement of the program of instruction before it launches? What are the criteria for summative evaluation to determine whether the program of instruction met its intended goals?

These are the fundamental questions that are addressed in the instructional design process. Some IDs are specialists in one or two areas. And not all institutions (education, military, corporate, etc.) embrace the full spectrum of ID, as a systematic endeavor.

In COM 707, however, you will touch upon the basics of each phase of the instructional design method through the ADDIE Model.

What is the ADDIE Model?

ADDIE is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Each phase of the model is intended to produce information, plans, or products that affect the character, content, and experience of instruction, one deliberate step at a time.

The ADDIE Model was developed at Florida State University in the mid-1970s and has been adapted into numerous variations ever since.  A cursory Google search on “ADDIE Model” will reveal a wide variety of interpretations and tasks at each stage. You will also notice that there are numerous interpretations of the ADDIE Model as either a linear or cyclical process:

addie model cycle
ADDIE Model as a continuous process (Credit: Dave Braunschweig CC-BY via Wikimedia Commons)


addie model
ADDIE model as a linear cascading process

Every context where a program of instruction is needed draws from the ADDIE model in different ways. A training program for complex industrial safety issues would require a greater depth of task analysis than a program to learn how to type.

In this e-book, the ADDIE Model will encompass only the basic areas of research. Students wishing to continue their education in the instructional design field will discover more dimensions to the analysis, instructional strategy, and implementation development process.

Key Terms and Definitions

The the following chapters, you will see certain terms used in the description of the ID process. Some of them will already be familiar, though their precise meaning in the ID context may be slightly different from what you know.

Training vs. Education – Training is used primarily as a term for learning new skills in corporate, organizational, and military operations. The purpose of training is often highly specialized and applied in specific settings. In contrast, education is used to describe more holistic learning such as in K-12 (elementary school, high school) and college where learning is organized in a curriculum.

Performance improvement – Performance improvement is related to training, though improvement implies that the trainee is already proficient to a degree.

Gap – Instructional designers use the word “gap” as a way to refer to the area of deficit that the learners need to learn. You may hear IDs say, “What’s the gap?” as a shorthand way of asking what knowledge, skills, or attitude goals need to be achieved.

Subject matter – Instructional designers use the term subject matter as a shorthand way to refer to whatever is the area identified as the domain of instruction. For example, “statistics” would the subject matter in a course about statistics. Similarly, the collection of tasks in a given training scenario would also be considered the subject matter of instruction.

Learner vs. Student – In the study of instructional design and in teacher education, “learner” is the formal term used to identify the individuals who are the subject of education or training. “Student” is used in less formal communication.

Instruction vs. Teaching – Instruction describes a specific set of directions or guidance designed to produce a particular outcome. Teaching is a broader term to describe the act or profession of teaching, in general.

Design vs. Development – Design refers to a stage of work where the elements and resources for instruction are assembled into a plan for the program of instruction, much like how a blueprint or mockup is assembled prior to actual construction of a building. The purpose of design is to be creative and collaborative with the greatest degree of flexibility. Development refers to creating the actual program of instruction based on a settled design.


You will encounter the term stakeholder throughout this e-book. Stakeholder is to be interpreted similarly to the word client in the sense that the word can refer to either a single individual or a group of people for whom the work is being produced. A stakeholder can simultaneously include the people for whom the work is being produced (the sponsor) as well as the people who are affected or impacted by the outcome of the work (learners or customers).

At the outset of a project, it is important to determine who the stakeholders are because it informs who is affected by the work, both in how it is constructed and for whom the work, when implemented, has an impact. Note that even those who may be negatively impacted should be considered a stakeholder even if they will not be involved in the process because this can affect the final product.

For example, in developing a computer system, a hacker would be considered a stakeholder since the quality of the system’s security affects the hacker’s job. Though we may not want a hacker to be involved in the development process, it is important to keep them in mind so we can develop a robust system. (Some computer systems developer hire a “white hat” hacker to test how well the system resists penetration). Similarly, it is important to consider all stakeholders because the success of the project may depend on stakeholders’ feelings that they were involved in its development..

Some individuals may have multiple roles to play in the ID process, especially in a smaller organization. The following list is a starting point for considering the stakeholders who should be involved in your work.

Instructional Designers are involved in developing the instruction and will be involved in the entire ADDIE process by eliciting requirements of what the instruction must accomplish, designing and developing the instruction, and negotiating its implementation.

The client is the person or organization who pays for or sponsors the instructional program. This person or organization may or may not have been the one who discovered the need for solving the instructional problem but they may determine if the solution is acceptable. The client will need to agree to and sign off on all decisions.

Discoverer is the person who recognized the gap in the subject’s knowledge, skills, or attitude, and then took steps to determine how to remedy the situation. This person is likely to be involved in the entire development process and may also be the client or sponsor.

Learners are the people will undergo the program of instruction and therefore have a stake in the outcome of the program’s design, development, and mode of delivery.

Evaluators are typically people external to the organization who will determine if the training met the goals of reducing the gap between actual and expected results. It may be important for them to be involved early in the process to determine how the instructional solution will be evaluated so that they can provide suggestions before significant work has been invested in the project.

The Supervisor is the person who may have insight into the reasons why their workers may be underperforming or have a lack of knowledge. Supervisors will be impacted by the amount of time the learners will spend on training. They may also have insight into the prior knowledge the learners have experienced in addition to their background experience. Supervisors may not be involved in the process but may serve as a potential proxy for the learners.

Subject Matter Expert (SME) is the person who ensures the information in the training program is accurate according to the discipline or subject matter because they are experienced with the requisite knowledge or skills. The SME should be involved in all phases of the program development process to determine its accuracy.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

ADDIE Explained Copyright © 2017 by Albert D. Ritzhaupt and Steve Covello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book