Six Sigma course materials can benefit from “dynamic content,” engaging and relevant examples and assignments tailored to class participants.
As Six Sigma continues its expansion across many lines of business, traditional training courses for continuous improvement programs run the risk of becoming stale or outdated. Unless it is frequently updated, Six Sigma courseware can threaten the momentum of a deployment by using uninteresting or overly theoretical content. Examples can quickly become irrelevant and impractical, and the depth of the course material can be limited by time constraints.
One way to address these common problems found in Six Sigma course material is to augment it with “dynamic content,” a concept that fully engages students through interaction and feedback from instructors. Dynamic content can be obtained through elicitation and discussion from students, subject matter experts, current events and other information sources.
Dynamic Content Principles
Organizations that wish to establish a dynamic content instruction program should adhere to the following basic principles to ensure success:
1. Reduce original courseware to high-level fundamentals: Start the course with the most efficient combination of information. There should be a direct mapping to the required body of knowledge, and these fundamentals should create consistency and structure upon which to place dynamic content.
2. Avoid over-informing in the initial courseware: This avoids overwhelming learners and will compel participants to fill in the details, with instructor guidance.
3. Make special preparations prior to class initiation: By becoming familiar with students, an instructor can quickly assess the backgrounds, capabilities, motives and expected success factors for the course.
4. Facilitate collaborative in-class discussions: Free-flowing discussions can help to effectively elicit ideas and counter-perspectives that will add the depth of insight.
5. Enhance evaluations and course closure: Increase the level of detail when providing evaluations to enhance understanding and comprehension of the specific items. Such feedback also entrenches the best practices for diagnosis and implementation.
Prior to the beginning of the course, the instructor should gain an understanding of the participants and look for opportunities to develop dynamic content for the course. Getting to know more details about course participants can help the instructor to prioritize and emphasize portions of the course for maximum relevance and applicability.
To ensure that students are delivered a course that meets their expectations, it is important to understand those drivers that will determine success or failure. During preparation, instructors should ask the students:
- Why was this course selected?
- Is the course part of an overall degree, diploma, certification or larger educational program?
- What does the learner have to do to demonstrate valid completion?
At the beginning of the course, the students should be provided with a structured and documented set of courseware. This should include the course notes, supplemental materials, high-level concepts, templates and generic examples. This is the “fixed” portion of the curriculum, with dynamic content being the variable component.
Course documentation should be supported by references to source materials, websites and organizations. This serves two purposes: 1) it establishes the credibility and legitimacy of the material, and 2) it provides the learner with the quick path to gaining deeper knowledge.
Start classes with an overview on the course objectives and style. Successful discussions occur when students are engaged and committed. By knowing the respective backgrounds, instructors can tailor examples to be more applicable and relevant.
Content should be confirmed and supplemented with external references. These references should be traceable through the facts and findings to the conclusion to show how the response was derived and to validate the accuracy.
Instructors should consider using guest presenters to showcase a particular topic or subject as an enhancement because students appreciate diversity and variety in the course. The content from external presentations should be retained in the course so that it can be leveraged for future examples.
Assignments: The DEAR Method
When making class assignments, some common problems can include:
- Unclear expectations, resulting in inconsistent or incompatible results
- Frustration and difficulty experienced by the student
- Unclear directions, which can lead to rework and lengthen the time required to complete the assignments
- Inadequately or incompletely reviewed assignments, which do not clearly indicate shortcomings to the student
The remedy for these problems and other related concerns is to apply the “DEAR method,” where:
D = Demonstrate: The instructor provides students with an overview of the assignment.
E = Explain: The instructor works with students during an in-class explanation.
A = Assign: The instructor delegates the work to individuals or groups with a clear delivery expectation to complete the work.
R = Review: The instructor works with students during a follow-up in-class session to reinforce correct concepts prior to marking.
The DEAR method can be supported in different Six Sigma domains. Table 1 shows three examples of how this method can be applied.
Table 1: Examples of DEAR Method Application
|Statistical Techniques (Chi-square Goodness of Fit)||Software DMADV Design (Security Test for Automated Teller Machine)||Configuration Management DMAIC Plan (Medical Device Design)|
|Demonstrate||Introduce formula and tables for completion||Introduce DMADV documents and templates for baseline use||Introduce the DMAIC documentation structure, categories and examples|
|Explain||Complete a problem or scenario using the formula and tables||Complete a software DMADV design that verifies improvements to security features and mitigations||Complete a configuration management DMAIC plan showing the steps to ensure improvement through traceability and version control|
|Assign||Delegate learners with questions requiring statistical technique to complete||Delegate learners with tasks to create a software DMADV design within their domain||Delegate learners with tasks to complete a high-level DMAIC plan for configuration control, identification and audits|
|Review||Correct a portion of the work in class to identify where mistakes were made and how problems should be correctly completed||Correct a portion of the DMADV work in class to identify where mistakes were made and how different students completed their designs||Correct a portion of the DMAIC plans to identify shortcomings and breakthroughs|
The benefits of using interactive assignments in Six Sigma courses include:
- Core fundamental concepts are ingrained through repetition
- Hands-on demonstration reveals actual learner capacity
- Assignments are leading indicators of performance on exams or extensive projects, allowing for contingency planning or mitigation of anticipated problems
- Students are encouraged to contribute and be actively engaged
Sharing evaluation results at the end of each assignment can be a learning opportunity for students. Instructor evaluations can help students understand the shortcomings in their work and ensure that they are better prepared to complete future assignments or initiatives. Evaluations and instructor feedback should also reflect the complexity of the course material.
Benefits to Six Sigma Courses
The benefits of the Dynamic Content approach, seen in Table 2, can be realized by not only the learner and instructor, but also the education institution that supports this teaching style.
Table 2: Dynamic Content Benefits
|Course is more relevant, practical and applicable||More creativity permitted through improvisation||Increased satisfaction and participation of learners and instructors|
|Better value for time and money spent||More enjoyable and meaningful engagement with learners||Improved reputation for current, accurate and relevant course offerings|
|Increased flexibility for customization and tailoring of material||Constant refresh of courseware and body of knowledge through constant updating of dynamic content||References and testimonials build business portfolio within locations and domains|
|Better networking and professional engagement||Better interaction with students and participants||Justification for advanced resources (i.e. course website, blog)|
The objective evidence of the effectiveness of dynamic content can be demonstrated by the following tangible indicators:
- Student performance in understanding and demonstrating knowledge
- Positively rated course and instructor reviews
- Corporate sponsorship and adoption of Six Sigma practices
- Continued study towards advanced certifications and professional credentials
By leveraging the capabilities of the instructor, students and other participants, dynamic content integration is a deliberate method that engages and involves all participants for the benefit of a more positive and effective learning experience.
About the Author: Daniel Zrymiak is an American Society for Quality (ASQ) senior member, an ASQ-certified Black Belt, co-author of the ASQ Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook and an ASQ-Quality Management Division volunteer member leader. Zrymiak has more than 17 years of experience in various quality management roles. He is currently a manager with Accenture and on the faculty of multiple post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.