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SAM instructional design model


March 28, 2021



SAM instructional design model

SAM and ADDIE are called “models of instructional design" because they are most often used by instructional designers. [f/y/i “Instructional designer” is the formal title for someone whose profession it is to design and craft digital and physical instructional learning experiences.]

However, in my opinion, anyone dealing in such instructional learning experiences is an instructional designer, even if they have not had formal training as such. In fact, for these people, SAM and ADDIE can be even more helpful.

Have you met SAM and ADDIE? If not, you are in for a real treat.

ADDIE Instructional Design Model

What they are

SAM and ADDIE are methodologies. They are both used to develop and create learning solutions for a better learning experience. 

Who uses them

ADDIE is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate. It is described as a “waterfall approach” since you basically flow from one step to another in succession. For an excellent discussion of the ADDIE model, check out this article.


The SAM acronym comes from Successive Approximation Model. I must admit that the first time I read about SAM, I found the name confusing, even off-putting. ADDIE I was able to understand right away. SAM left me with questions.

Actually, though, SAM is a very easy model to understand. The three components are Analyze, Design, Develop, and work through them in a circular fashion.

The idea is that you Successively (repeatedly) cycle through these three elements until you Approximate your product. In other words, you get your product “as right” as possible.

For those who like this methodology (now known as SAM!) but want something more involved, there is SAM2—more steps and more phases.

SAM instructional design model

Putting SAM Instructional Design Model into practice

Have you got an LMS (Learning Management System)? If you do, you are in luck because your LMS has learning technology features that can make following SAM a snap. If not, check one out here.

The first round

The first time you analyze—design—develop your instructional product you have to do your best from the information you have. Usually, there is little data showing how your product performs. Sure, you beta test it first in a learning environment, but that is often with a limited audience.

That’s fine though. It is very important to get your products out of development and into use. It is only then that you can really make the best use of what SAM has to offer.

And speaking of the best that SAM has to offer…

Here’s what I really like about this instructional design model: the “successive” part, the repetition.

As SAM is only three steps, you can change your instructional product quickly, really quickly. I am speaking about days or even hours. 

Something not working? Figure out what it is, come up with a solution, put it into practice. 

A very wise entrepreneur I know always says “Done is better than perfect”. He is exactly right. When something is done and in use, we can test it, evaluate it, and make it better. When we keep on perfecting something, we have no idea whether or not we are going in the right direction. It could be that after all of our efforts, the product misses the mark completely, and we are back to square one after having wasted a whole lot of resources.

Subsequent rounds


A vital part of your data should be feedback from the people who are actually using your instructional product. For example, if you are doing corporate training or other company learning and development, you would want feedback from your new employees/trainees. It would be beneficial to ask them what particular knowledge and skills they’d like to improve, or the instruction course design process that would work best for them. 

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Surveys are the perfect tool. However, I’m not just speaking about getting their opinions (although that is relevant also). My idea is to turn your survey into a mini “quick check” by asking content questions instead of opinion questions. A multiple-choice survey is a great example. Instead of a question such as “What did you think of this lesson?” and choices such as “Fit my needs perfectly / Not bad but could be better / What a bore”, ask an important instructional question such as “If you are unable to successfully resolve a customer complaint, what is our [the company’s] preferred next step?”. Then, offer choices that test whether or not the learner has absorbed the material presented in the lesson or learning courseware.


One of the most frequent educational design issues spoken about by learners is boredom…and they are right. Frankly, many instructional products are boring. 

As you may know (from reading other articles of mine), I am a teacher. So, I’ve seen material prepared by other instructors for their learners. I am always amazed by how boring it is. 

OK…I am not saying that every part of every lesson has to be a circus. Far from it. However, where we can, we owe it to our learners to make corporate learning as interesting as possible. 

Gamification (in case you are not familiar with this term) is an instructional design principle that involves the idea of adding game elements to our instructional systems design. Your learning management system (LMS) can help with this in a big way via plug and play games templates: you plug in the content to an already designed game and your learners play it.

Besides being fun, an important element in learning, games can be used as motivators via prizing leading to real rewards. Players get stars or points which they can use to “buy” rewards. Find out more about rewards here.


At the moment, many areas of the world are exploring how people can move back to partial (or full), in person, physical work and education. Even so, it appears that our long-term experiences with online and mobile learning, training, work, etc. have changed our ideas. The trend seems to be that some sort of hybrid system will emerge. In other words, both physical and digital rather than just one or the other. Thus, online learning will most likely remain a big part of the instruction of all types. 

The data shows that the average elearning course takes 14 weeks to develop. While 14 weeks, or roughly 3 months, is not forever, it kind of defeats the advantages of the SAM model. It would be much more efficient to reduce development time without sacrificing instructional quality. 

Fortunately, there is a learning tool to do just that: an LMS with SCORM rapid authoring tools. Rapid authoring is made possible by a library of highly responsive templates. For lightning-speed course development, just use them as-is and plug in your content. For super fast professional-development, you can not only plug in your content but also make some changes to the learning objects. Either way, microlearning elearning courses can be completed in minutes which means that your learning programs, whether it be blended-learning or fully virtual, can be ready in hours (development time obviously depending on the number of lessons, modules, etc.)

Now that you’ve met SAM and ADDIE Instructional Design Models

You can call on one of them to help you create more effective, new instructional products and/or significantly improve the ones you already have. Either way, a world-class LMS is going to be a “must-have”. You can find one at the end of this click.


Lisa Aharon Guest Author

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