SWOT Analysis Tool

Summary: SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis is a tool or technique that can be used in business, design or personal settings to evaluate a project or company and to create constructive goals and strategies.

Originators: George Albert Smith Jr., Kenneth Andrews, Albert S. Humphrey (1927-2005)

Keywords: decision making, goals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, strategy tool, management, business, external issues, internal issues, growth, performance


The exact origin of SWOT Analysis has been debated.[i] Some people believe that it originated in the 1950s at Harvard Business School and was the work of professors George Albert Smith Jr and Kenneth Andrews. Others believe it was created by Albert S. Humphrey in the 1960s during his time at the Stanford Research Institute. Regardless of its origins, SWOT analysis has become quite popular, and may be one of the most widely used management decision-making tools among business managers.

SWOT Analysis gathers data about internal issues within a company or project  – strengths and weakness – and external issues outside of the company or project – opportunities and threats. It then analyzes this data to inform future goals, decisions, and strategies. The ultimate goal of SWOT analysis is to achieve a more successful outcome; for a company, the goal may be to improve performance and enhance growth.

Application of SWOT Analysis

One of the most appealing feature of SWOT analysis is its universal applicability. SWOT analysis can hypothetically be used by any type of organization as a decision-making tool. It can also be used by individuals for similar purposes. Consider the following examples.

EdTech designers – As a project is created, SWOT analysis can identify factors that lead to the eventual success of the project, while also considering risks and areas that need improvement.

Small and medium companies – SWOT analysis of small and medium companies can consist of formulating, implementing, and evaluating strategies that lead to improvements in productivity, performance, and successful operation of the company.[ii]

Farming and agricultural development – Researchers have shown the use of SWOT Analysis in the context of farming and agricultural development in Iran.[iii]

Private schools – SWOT analysis was used in an attempt to improve two different private schools. The researchers stated that the analysis benefited one of the schools by allowing it to “advance in the face of growing challenges thereby leading to its stability and increased productivity.”[iv]

Nursing policy – Researchers have used SWOT analysis to consider the nursing policies of multiple European countries. Their analysis allowed them to identify factors that prevented collaboration between countries.[v]

You can download a printable SWOT Analysis Template below (in Word and PDF formats).


[i] Madsen, D. O. (n.d.). SWOT analysis: A management fashion perspective. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dag_Madsen/publication/299278178_SWOT_Analysis_A_Management_Fashion_Perspective/links/56f05fee08ae70bdd6c94a74/SWOT-Analysis-A-Management-Fashion-Perspective.pdf

[ii] Houben, G., Lenie, K., & Vanhoof, K. (1999). A knowledge-based SWOT –analysis system as an instrument for strategic planning in small and medium sized enterprises. Decision Support Systems, 26, 125-135.

[iii] Ommani, A. R. (2011). Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) anlysis for farming businesses management: Case of wheat farmers of Shadervan District, Shoushtar Township, Iran. African Journal of Business Management, 5(22), 9448-9454.

[iv]Ifediora, C. O., Idoko, O. R., & Nzekwe, J. (2014). Organizations stability and productivity: The role of SWOT anlysis an acronym for strength, weakness, opportunities and threat. Internatinal Journal of Innovative and Applied Research, 2(9), 23-32.

[v] Uhrenfeldt, L., Lakanmaa, R., & Basto, M. L. (2014). Collaboration: A SWOT anlysis of the process of conducting a review of nursing workforce plilicies in five European countries. Journal of Nursing Management, 22(4), 485-498.

Backward Design

Summary: Backward Design is a model for designing instructional materials where the instructor or designer begins the design process with a focus on the desired results (i.e., the outcome) of instruction.

Originator / Contributors: Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

Keywords:  Outcomes, Evidence, Experiences, Instruction, Backward Design, Wiggins, McTighe

Backward Design can be summarized as a process or model for designing instructional materials where the instructor or instructional designer focuses on the desired end results (i.e., the outcome) of a class or course instruction. Rather than beginning the planning process with a focus on supporting exercises, resources or long-used textbooks, the designer focuses on the learners and begins the design process by asking what learners should be able to understand and do after the provided instruction. The designer then identifies what types of evidence are sufficient proof of the desired end result. The designer works “backwards” from that end goal and intentionally plans and develops supporting instruction and learning experiences around the desired outcomes and evidence[1].

Backward Design can be summarized in a three-step process:

1: Identify Desired Outcomes: Articulate what learners should be able to understand and do after provided instruction.

2: Identify Acceptable Evidence: Determine what types of assessments and measures would clarify (or serve as evidence of) when and whether students can perform the desired outcome.

3: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction: Develop exercises, materials and instruction around the desired outcomes and evidence.

By way of example, consider a paralegal instructor who wants students, as a result of her instruction, to be able to prepare case briefs. She could begin a class by sharing a summary of cases she finds fascinating and then spend time discussing the cases with students. However, this might not be the preferred use of instructional time when the goal is helping students understand how to produce a case brief and why being able to do so matters.

With Backward Design’s focus on the desired result (for example, preparing a clear, well-written case brief), instruction can be tailored to support this desired product. Backward Design focuses on essential questions (for example, the value of case briefs, how to read and understand a legal opinion, application of case briefing in professional contexts) such that students develop a deeper appreciation for the practical relevance of their work.

Following the Backward Design three-step process:

1: Desired Outcomes: Students should be able to prepare a written case brief after reading a judicial opinion.

2: Acceptable Evidence: A marked up judicial opinion and a supporting written case brief that follows a standard, professional format.

3: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction: The instructor might model note-taking when reading a judicial opinion, provide a template for a case brief, and then illustrate case briefing in a step-by-step manner. Students might prepare case briefs in a step-by-step fashion that follows the instructor’s modeling and template.

Backward Design focuses on what students need to know, understand and be able to do as a result of provided instruction[3]. The desired result is the catalyst for all related instructional and assessment planning. Emphasis is placed on essential questions and what is most important for students to understand and know (student learning), rather than on materials, topics and content an instructor might be most comfortable with (student teaching). Student understanding is a central focus of the backward design methodology[3].

Pursuant to the Backward Design model, desired results of instruction might be based upon national, state and local standards. Results might be tied to professional goals and workplace needs, as well. This model prioritizes knowledge and focuses on what is most important for students to understand and achieve. Arguably, if design begins with the end in mind, instruction is more likely to clearly focus on the identified desired results[3].

Some argue that this model places too heavy a focus on the result (or test) at the expense of the learning journey or experience[2]. Others caution that there are risks of incorrectly identifying which knowledge is essential for students to understand. There are concerns for too narrow a focus on results, where a design does not address all elements of a lesson or workplace needs and results in little flexibility to incorporate alternate paths to achieve a final goal. Finally, the Backward Design process can be time consuming (to learn and in practice)[3].


For links to Backward Design templates and additional resources, see: Jay McTighe Design Tools, Templates and Resources

For videos of Grant Wiggins explaining Understanding by Design, see:

“Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (1 of 2)” at Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (1 of 2)

“Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (2 of 2)” at  Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (2 of 2)

For a video of Jay McTighe explaining Understanding by Design, see:

“What is Understanding by Design? Author Jay McTighe Explains” at “What is Understanding by Design?”


  1. Bowen, Ryan S. (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/understanding-by-design/
  2. Meier, E.B. (n.d.). Understanding by Design Wiggins & McTighe. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://edtech4schools.pbworks.com/f/Understanding%20by%20Design%20Teaching%20Ellen%20Meier%20CTSC.pdf
  3. Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (1998) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Author Credit:  J. Schneider

Gamification in Education

Summary: Gamification describes the process of applying game-related principles — particularly those relating to user experience and engagement — to non-game contexts such as education.

Originators and Key Contributors: In 1980, Thomas Malone published the study “What Makes Things to Learn: A Study of Intrinsically Motivating Computer Games.”[1] Later, in 2002, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, based in Washington D.C., established the Serious Games Initiative to explore the application of game principles to public policy issues. From that initiative, gamification for education emerged and gradually evolved into a field of study. The term gamification was coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling[2][3]. Today, many game researchers including Katie Salen, founder of the Quest to Learn public school, Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, and Joey J. Lee, Director of the Games Research Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, have extended serious advancements in the application of gamification (or “gameful thinking”) to educational contexts.

Keywords: gamification, education, learning, classroom, engagement, motivation


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Learner-centered design

Summary: Learner centered design focuses on creating software for heterogeneous groups of learners who need scaffolding as they learn while completing constructivist activities.

Originators and Key Contributors: Elliot Soloway, Mark Guzdian, Kenneth E. Hay

Keywords: constructivism, learner-centered design, learners, scaffolding, software

Learner-centered Design

Learner-centered design (LCD) theory emphasizes the importance of supporting the learners’ growth and motivational needs in designing software[1]. In addition, since learners have different learning needs and learn in different ways, the software must be designed for the specific learner-audience.

The concept of scaffolds is central to learner-centered design. In order to support learners optimally, software should be designed with scaffolds that will support the learners as they need it. Examples of scaffolds in software are hints, explanation and encouragement to help learners understand a process, and questions to help learners reflect on what they are learning[2].

Software scaffolds that support learners best are adaptive, meaning that they change according to what the learner needs in any learning moment. When a learner needs more support, the software provides an increase in feedback to help the learner grow, stay engaged, and progress in mastering a skill. When the learner is reaching mastery, the software will provide reduced scaffolds in response to the learner’s increased skill level.

In focusing on learner-centered design, four elements must be addressed in designing the software. They are:

  1. Context: The goal, purpose, and audience of the software
  2. Interface: The front end and/or aesthetics of the software that learners interact with
  3. Tasks: What the learners will do in the software
  4. Tools: What is needed in the software to support the tasks that students will do; these can include scaffolds

Designing software from a LCD perspective keeps the learner in mind and, if done well, provides an effective and meaningful learning experience[3].

For more information on learner-centered design, read The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences.


  1. Soloway, E., Guzdial, M., & Hay, K. E. (1994). Learner-centered design: The challenge for HCI in the 21st century. interactions, 1(2), 36-48.
  2. Soloway, Elliot, et al. “Learning theory in practice: Case studies of learner-centered design.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 1996.
  3. Quintana, C., Carra, A., Krajcik, J., & Soloway, E. (2001). Learner-centered design: Reflections and new directions.

Multimodality (Kress)

Summary: Multimodality is a theory which looks at how people communicate and interact with each other, not just through writing (which is one mode) but also through speaking, gesture, gaze, and visual forms (which are many modes).

Originators & Proponents: Gunther Kress[1]

Keywords: communication, design literacy, expression, gesture, linguistics, medium, mode, multimedia, semiotic resources, sign, visual literacy, writing


Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)

Summary: Elaboration theory is an instructional design theory that argues that content to be learned should be organized from simple to complex order, while providing a meaningful context in which subsequent ideas can be integrated.

Originators: Charles Reigeluth (Indiana University) and his colleagues in the late 1970s.

Key Terms: conceptual elaboration sequence, theoretical elaboration sequence, simplifying conditions sequence


ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theories (Keller)

Summary: According to John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theories, there are four steps for promoting and sustaining motivation in the learning process: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction (ARCS)[1][2].

Originator: John Keller

Key terms: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction (ARCS)



The ADDIE model is a systematic instructional design model consisting of five phases: (1) Analysis, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Implementation, and (5) Evaluation. There are several versions of the ADDIE model.


  • Unknown. Refined by Dick and Carey[1] and others[2]

Key Concepts

The generic term for the five-phase instructional design model consisting of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Each step has an outcome that feeds into the next step in the sequence. There are probably over 100+ different variations of the generic ADDIE model[3].

The five phases of ADDIE are as follows:


During analysis, the designer identifies the learning problem, the goals and objectives, the audience’s needs, existing knowledge, and any other relevant characteristics. Analysis also considers the learning environment, any constraints, the delivery options, and the timeline for the project.


A systematic process of specifying learning objectives. Detailed storyboards and prototypes are often made, and the look and feel, graphic design, user-interface and content is determined here.


The actual creation (production) of the content and learning materials based on the Design phase.


During implementation, the plan is put into action and a procedure for training the learner and teacher is developed. Materials are delivered or distributed to the student group. After delivery, the effectiveness of the training materials is evaluated.


This phase consists of (1) formative and (2) summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process. Summative evaluation consists of tests designed for criterion-related referenced items and providing opportunities for feedback from the users. Revisions are made as necessary.

Rapid prototyping (continual feedback) has sometimes been cited as as a way to improve the generic ADDIE model.

Additional Resources and References



  1. Dick, W., & Carey, L. (1996). The Systematic Design of Instruction (4th Ed.). New York: Harper Collins College Publishers.
  2. Leshin, C. B., Pollock, J., & Reigeluth, C. M. (1992). Instructional Design Strategies and Tactics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Education Technology Publications.
  3. Branch, R. M. (2009). Instructional design: The ADDIE approach (Vol. 722). Springer Science & Business Media.