The Engine Room of Continuous Improvement

Best Practices in Lean Six Sigma e-Learning

To paraphrase George Orwell, "Some online training classes are more equal than others." But when faced with choosing the best possible e-Learning course or provider, what are the critical factors should you consider?

What are the best practices for e-Learning? This page discusses those practices and what you should consider (the Critical-to-Quality Characteristics, or CTQCs) when assessing your e-Learning options.

In our experience, five factors play a decisive role in whether or not a course will provide you with an exceptional learning experience:

The Quality of the Content

The Six Sigma methodology has existed since the 1980's, and Lean has been around even longer. Most online courses have superficially similar outlines that cover the basic tools and techniques of DMAIC, DFSS, and Lean. Although you cannot view the actual content before purchasing a course, you can easily review two critical and revealing factors: the depth of the material and the experience of the provider.

Always view or request a course overview and detailed outline, and make sure to compare the outlines of similar courses from different providers. Is anything inconsistent or missing? Courses that appear overly short (e.g., a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt in 36 hours vs. a more realistic 90 hours) are likely to short-change students of valuable material.

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The best providers develop and refine their courses on a ongoing basis using the latest technologies and instructional methods. Check for evidence of this and that the content conforms to existing industry standards. The best course also include external references and optional materials that enhance your knowledge.

The best process improvement teachers are most often those with the most experience and responsiveness, so learn as much as you can about the background of the provider. What level of practitioner developed the content? Are there actual, experienced Six Sigma professionals or statisticians on call if you have content issues?

If you cannot determine this from the Web site, call the provider with your questions. The best providers offer transparency into the origin and quality of the online material.

The Level of Interactivity

When you think of online training, you probably don't expect PowerPoint® slides posted on the Internet. Maybe, if it was still 1998! 21st-Century learning must use the tools that engage 21st-Century professionals.

Interactive lessons

Today's technology and high-speed Internet connections have allowed online training to evolve into a high-tech campus of rich media (like movies), audio alternatives, point-and-click exercises, simulation games, and even quizzes that provide the reasoning behind ever correct or incorrect answers. In short, the highest quality e-Learning experience is a fully interactive one.

Take a look at the available Lean Six Sigma courses or ask a provider about the level of interactivity. In the worst-case scenario, the course is either a set of slides or a pre-recorded video lecture followed by a quiz. Consider how long you have to sit and read or watch before you get to click a mouse or answer a question.

Beware of the opposite: flash demos replete with bright colors and thumping music. The same technology that delivers a dazzling online experience may also restrict the quality and amount of content available to the class. When possible, request an online tour to make sure you're going to receive the best possible online experience.

The Percentage of Time Devoted to Practice

Time for Practice

The surest way to forget a lesson is to never practice the concepts or tools it describes. In instructor-led classes, roughly 15% of the time is dedicated to practice, but this is also bolstered by class discussions and homework (and digressions!) in the "lecture" portion of the course. The amount of imbedded practice is critical to the learning experience, and it should be more than simple point and click interaction.

Questions to ask providers include: what percentage of the course is dedicated to practice? Are the practices online or offline? Do the practices require more than just picking a multiple choice question? Can they be revisited? The best exercises and tests provide immediate feedback require critical thinking, not rote memorization.

The Flexibility of the Interface

A live Lean Six Sigma class is essentially a linear experience where students learn in a progressive fashion. One of the top benefits of e-Learning is that it can be linear or non-linear. Students should have easy access to a map that displays the course outline and links directly to all lessons, exercises, toolsets and quizzes.

With such access, you are free to move about the course and revisit and review materials as needed. You can also skip sections with familiar content and spend more time on more difficult material.

Flexible interface

Flexible course features that a provider should support include: easy access / login, point-to-point navigation, visual progress indicator, print on demand, minimal scrolling, intuitive movement, audio as an option, and online and offline resources.

You should be able to start and stop the course as needed and return directly to the place where you left off when you return. You control the pace of the action so that it fits your schedule.

Additionally, the best e-Learning providers offer language options and courses geared towards specific demographics like healthcare, services, and manufacturing. A Lean Six Sigma course originally designed for manufacturing engineers will not provide a relevant experience for a back-office banking professional.

The Stability of the Technology

Online training is on-demand training.

That is, you can take your class at any time of the day from any location with an Internet connection. The best e-Learning providers have a solid technology foundation and redundancies that ensure full access and connectivity. You should expect fast loading speeds of materials and media and links that work.

Is any technology flawless? No, but a proper e-Learning provider will offer full technical support before you purchase a class!

How Does MoreSteam Align to These Best Practices? has offered online training to Six Sigma professionals since 2001, and our course overviews and outlines are all available to the public. Our materials are used, reviewed and approved on a regular basis by the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Learn more about MoreSteam and it's partners and mission. offers a fully interactive online experience. All classes feature flash movies, games, practices, quizzes, audio, all in service to - and reinforcing of - the content. Sessions (collections of lessons) are punctuated by MoreSteam's Toolsets, which provide an overview, practice, and details on how, when, and why you would use a particularly Lean or Six Sigma tool.

MoreSteam believes that 50% or more of a student's time should be spent in practice rather than in static instruction. The online experience is no better than a book or movie unless it can challenge and engage you in ways that help you to internalize and confidently master the material. The example below shows the amount of individual interactions (subdivided by type) in MoreSteam's Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course.

Black Belt Practice has designed its classes to provide maximum flexibility to students. The course map, course memory, navigation elements, and lesson format all aid the student for on-demand training. The pages and exercises are formatted for easy navigation and printing. uses the best redundant technology to provide continuous Internet service to students. All courses and our Web site offer links and contact information for technical support, and we also provide an explicit list of system requirements and a free online tool for testing your own computer and Internet browser for compatibility.

We're the leader in Lean Six Sigma online training because we strive to exceed the needs of our students and customers and provide them with the best possible content, technology, and online learning experience. Read below for more specifics on how we design our courses. To preview one or more of's courses, contact us and request an online tour. Instructional Design Guidelines's online courses adhere to the latest adult instructional design techniques. We use the following guidelines in our course development and revision:

  • The course must be personally important.
    Communicate clearly the immediate relevance to the student's job or personal life. Answer the question "what's in it for me?"
  • Offer as much choice as possible.
    Let the student direct the learning process. Allow the student to participate in planning and evaluating their instruction. Break the delivery into small pieces for student convenience, retention, and control of delivery.
  • Make new learning relevant to the student.
    Use experience (including mistakes) to cement new learning. Pursue active learning through a problem-centered, structured project - emphasize applied learning over conceptual learning. Test assumptions explicitly to simulate experience.
  • Communicate WHY specific things are being taught.
    Establish a sense of the whole - the context for understanding the parts and how they relate. Form a web of relationships between the context and the content.
  • Repeat the message several times in different media.
    Use video, audio, and slides to increase interaction and retain interest. A course must be more than reading on-line.
  • Move from simple to complex in small steps.
    Use response and positive reinforcement at every step. Provide secondary reinforcement as well as primary reinforcement.
  • Generate a sense of community.
    Encourage student-to-student communication through virtual forums. Provide interaction with the Instructor.
  • Facilitate exploratory learning and outside research.
    Provide links to related material. Leverage the web to provide a richer learning experience with greater control by the student.
  • Provide fast-loading pages and easy navigation.
    These help to retain student interest and provide a sense of control.
    Almost 1/2 of course time is spent practicing Six Sigma concepts through interactive simulations, exercises and quizzes.
  • Make it FUN!

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