I am always amazed that such a simple thing generates so much counter opinion and frequently repeated discussion. It often seems that an Instructional Design model is taken to be the solution rather than the means to discovering and providing the solution. For me, the first three steps in the ADDIE model are the big ones and if they are done well, the others are already considered and planned for and happen smoothly. Here's the way I see it.
Analysis - If you don't spend the time finding out what the performance problem / gap is, you cannot hope to find a cost / outcome effective solution. This means applying the appropriate analyses at the front end, and many of these will be different for each project. In terms of core analyses, and before doing anything else, you must at least know:
- who your target audience is
- where they are starting from in terms of skills and knowledge
- what you need them to be able to do after training
- what the main business drivers / goals are
- if there are new concepts / processes / procedures involved
- who owns the content
- is the content complete, accurate and currently valid
- how will I be able to assess the learning? and so on
Design - Reusing the building metaphor, and comparing a high rise apartment building with a cardboard box humpy - a construction company would not start building without having a detailed (and signed-off) design, spelling out every detail down to the size of the nuts and bolts. If they were to just start building and adding rooms on a whim, they would quickly find nowhere to run the cables and plumbing and there would always be the chance that the whole structure fails because there are no engineering standards applied. On the other hand cardboard boxes are cheap and they can be put together very quickly. They are pretty useless however when it rains, blows a gale, catches fire etc. Once again, putting in the time, up-front, with a solid design methodology gives you some hope that the finished product will facilitate the most desired learning outcome. Give a half-way competent developer a complete design and storyboard and you will not have to waste time standing over their shoulder making up as you go along and redoing things that no longer fit.
Development - So many people in the training business actually start at this point. All they can hope for is that their assumptions and guess work are somehow close to the ballpark and that the learners don't put anything negative on the post course happy sheet. Fortunately for them there aren't a lot of learners who have ever seen really good training or eLearning so it's not a big issue as long as they can click through quickly and print a certificate.
By all means prototype, but be aware that if your client likes something that turns out to be useless later on you may find it hard to argue that it needs to come out. I do prototype because it is the best way to show the client what they are getting for their time and money, but I do it based on a solid analysis and design platform specific to their needs.
ADDIE is really like the perfect golf swing. It takes a lot of time and words to explain and if you try to do it exactly as you were told, you will spend too much time focussing on the words rather than the overall concept and most likely miss the ball. ADDIE is an adaptive process but you do need to apply all of it to get the best results.