Whither ISD, ADDIE & HPT?


Here is the question of the month from The Learning Circuits Blog:

Are ISD / ADDIE / HPT relevant in a world of rapid elearning, faster time-to-performance, and informal learning?

First, some definitions:

  • HPT – Human Performance Technology
  • ISD – Instructional Systems Design [or Development]
  • ADDIE – a process incorporating Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation, stemming from the Systems Approach to Training (SAT)

SAT, ISD and ADDIE stemmed from the need to train military personnel for the Second World War. They were necessary to train lots of people really fast. My initial experiences as a military trainer were from the point of view of ISD, SAT, & ADDIE.

Later I became immersed in HPT, and found it a good method to analyse certain aspects of organisational performance. One thing that HPT does well is to ensure that training, which is costly, isn’t prescribed unless it addresses a verifiable lack of skills and/or knowledge.

SAT, ISD and ADDIE are excellent methods to develop training that is stable. I spent several years using these methods to develop helicopter training for aircrew and maintenance personnel. These methodologies were highly suitable for the task. These methods are not suitable for developing educational programming. The problem with using training development for education is that the performance objectives are not clear. What are you supposed to do at the end of this education and how do you measure it?

As I have said before, I think that one of the problems with our education system is that there is too much of a focus on getting quantitative data, like testing. These functions are more suited to a “training” system, where the performance requirements are clear, measurable and observable. In education, the performance requirements are fuzzy. There is nothing wrong with either a training focus or an education focus; each one has its merits. The problem is when you try to mix the two.

So, are these methodologies suitable for today? The short answer is yes, but not everywhere. Too often we see training as a solution looking for a problem. Training often worked before, or at least didn’t create more problems, when work processes and organisations were stable. As we move to more networked businesses, training’s weaknesses are becoming evident. These weaknesses are also evident when we don’t really know what the performance objectives are in a constantly evolving society, economy and marketplace.

Enter the two-way web and the ubiquitously connected computer. We now have several new tools to address other performance issues that training was never good for anyway:

  • Unclear expectations – collaboratively constructed wikis and up to the minute blogs
  • Inadequate resources – user generated knowledge bases through tagging and social bookmarking
  • Unclear performance measures – direct feedback from customers via blogs

The Web is also providing an open platform for people to connect and converse with others all over the world, expanding informal education opportunities for millions. Both training and education are being opened up and exposed as individuals create their own networks and converse with each in their personal searches for knowledge and community.

The Internet is forcing us out of our self-constructed disciplinary boxes. As work and learning become connected online, the barriers are blurring between organisational development, HR, training, education, HPT, etc. A new, amalgamated field of practice requires better tools and integrated theories from which to base our practice.

These models are relevant, but they’re not enough.

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