The New Frontier Of Successive Approximation Model

The New Frontier Of Successive Approximation ModelThe need for useful instructional design models has always been at the forefront of all types of the educational experience. Throughout the years, various instructional design formats have been introduced to assist with the process of creating curricula and course planning options that would prove successful in helping people learn. Although some of these models such as ADDIE have proven the test of time, currently the use of the Successive Approximation Model has become quite popular for its unique, flexible approach to producing learning modules that have proven quite successful in application.

What is the Successive Approximation Model?

Successive Approximation Model (SAM) is an agile development model created by Michael Allen, a recognized pioneer, and leader in the design of interactive multimedia learning tools and applications. SAM is a method that Allen applied to his instructional design models as a means of creating more effective and efficient ways to build quality training and instructional tools. With SAM, the goal is to take smaller more flexible steps within a larger framework to achieve high quality in training and learning as opposed to following the rigid, step-by-step process that is attributed to other instructional design methods such as ADDIE.

Advantages of the Successive Approximation Model

There are a number of reasons why the successive approximation model is highly preferred by those implementing educational models for testing such as through eLearning as well as by instructional designers. In application, it appears that SAM is:

  • It is less linear and more “true to life” when considering the building of a learning or training course
  • It considers various points of views allowing for the consideration of options that could improve the learning or training experience
  • Uses iterations-small steps during the development process which makes room for evaluations and necessary changes as needed
  • The goal is to find out where energy and resources should be placed immediately in order to create projects/material that can be used at once
  • Very collaborative/teamwork based

Disadvantages of the Successive Approximation Model

Just as there are many reasons why people prefer SAM over other instructional design models, there are some disadvantages. They include:

  • The idea that mistakes are “inevitable” may result in overlooking potential issues in a project
  • Doesn’t acknowledge and account for risk in relation to the effectiveness of a project in comparison to other instructional design models
  • One must consider a variety of input which can lead to less cohesiveness if not monitored correctly
  • There is a need for a considerable amount of collaboration to ensure the cohesiveness of the project


For years, many training developers and instructional designers have used the ADDIE design model. ADDIE, which stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate, was built on the idea that following a strict, linear framework would ensure high-quality training, learning, and retention of information by the users. The only issue is that with ADDIE many instructional designers and trainers felt as if they couldn’t progress with projects because everything had to be “perfect” in order to avoid the mistakes that would potentially derail an entire project. With the understanding that this method can be somewhat limiting, many are leaving ADDIE for SAM. The flexibility of SAM allows for the development of learning and training materials that account for possible mistakes at each step that is often rectified with collaboration and teamwork.

Using SAM for learning and training purposes allows for the creation of materials that take into consideration their real-world application. Nothing is perfect, but flexibility creates results.

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