In higher education, we don’t usually talk about ADDIE much, but she is still the most popular model in the world when it comes to instructional design. In my opinion, the most important aspect of ADDIE is the first A: Analysis. Only I prefer to think about this first stage with another important A word: Ask.
I remember as a young writer, I loved to dream up characters and scenes and introduce conflict in the imaginary world I had created on the page. How would this character feel in this situation? I would get used to asking myself. When I transitioned to non-fiction and started writing for magazines and newspapers, I loved “investigative reporting” the Freedom of Information Act became my new best friend. Really, I can get that document? On many occasions, I tracked down public records and poured over research until the stars were snuffed out by a pale predawn blue. But what I learned as a reporter was that the truth is only revealed in the asking. And until you ask, you really aren’t going to get at the reality of a situation—if that’s what you are after. The key aspect of Analysis then becomes asking. Your learners’ answers will prepare you to deliver an effective set of learning activities that will help them build transferable knowledge.
Instead, all too often, we tend to dream up what we think students should know, need to know, and will know as a result of our teaching, but what we really need to do to is: Ask. Creating surveys, interviewing, gathering focus groups, reading reflections—and asking powerful questions about students’ experience, including what our students know and what they have experienced as participants in our courses, should be our first step and our last step in designing effective online education.