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Blended learning keeps classroom productive

Instructors take advantage of eLearning courses, online simulations to teach remotely

COVID-19 has impacted schools in an unprecedented way this year, but some teachers continue moving forward without skipping a beat.

At many of the country's top universities, instructors have been using eLearning courses and online simulations for years, helping them smoothly transition to a fully virtual classroom during this pandemic.

This is especially prevalent with Lean Six Sigma instructors, who often seek out the most effective teaching methods possible. During the past two decades, many have turned to a blended learning model that allows them to flip the classroom — meaning they can spend class time on practice instead of base instruction.

It's a win-win for everyone. Students benefit from the flexibility and freedom of an eLearning course, while instructors free up more time for open-ended simulations, group workshops, and personalized coaching.

In addition, students and instructors both benefit from having visibility to detailed analytics that show them where they're excelling and what areas might require more attention.

We recently spoke with a few college instructors who regularly use MoreSteam's eLearning courses and software to enhance their classroom. We asked what they like best about the blended learning model, and why they think it benefits everyone involved.

California Polytechnic State University

After 20+ years of industry experience in engineering and manufacturing management, Eric Olsen made the move to higher education. He's spent the past 16 years at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where he serves as the Area Chair and Professor of Industrial Packaging Technology in the Orfalea College of Business.

His class is built around MoreSteam's Green Belt course and online simulations, which have helped him create a more standardized — and thus, comprehensive — experience for his students.

Under normal circumstances, Olsen's class is split into two groups — half the students attend in person, the other half attend virtually. During the pandemic, he's seamlessly transitioned to a virtual classroom for everyone.

"When I was teaching Lean classes on my own, I discovered there was a lot of content I wasn't getting to," he said. "I'm a big believer in standardized work, but I'm not always the best practitioner of it. I'd find myself getting into a topic, and sometimes I'd cover this aspect of it, sometimes I wouldn't."

Just like he teaches his students to do, Olsen found a practical solution.

Eric Olsen's headshot

With MoreSteam I get 80 hours of standardized content, allowing me to do more of the fun stuff in live sessions — like simulations, interviews with guest speakers, answering questions, and sharing examples of how this works in the real world.

— Eric Olsen

In addition to providing standardized work, Olsen also appreciates how the eLearning course keeps students engaged and provides regular opportunities to test their knowledge.

"The course is really interactive," he said. "It's easy to use, and there's always something to click — that keeps students interested. Plus, I like the fact that there's a built-in quiz at the end of every session. We take full advantage of that, using those quizzes as sort of a metronome for the whole class. We build assignments and due dates around those quizzes."

Olsen also utilizes MoreSteam's simulations to help students practice in an open-ended environment. When we interviewed him recently, he was in the middle of running our popular Sherlock Holmes Zombie Hunter sim — a team-based project game allowing students to practice the investigative and analytical Lean Six Sigma skills they've learned.

"We're always looking for ways to help students learn in a fun and creative way," Olsen said, holding up a couple of zombie figurines he uses during the simulation.

Eric Olsen teaching at whiteboard

The Ohio State University

Cheryl Dickerson spent more than 25 years in healthcare administration before joining the faculty at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business in 2014. She teaches Lean Six Sigma principles and projects in two undergraduate classes, broadcasting her virtual classroom to four regional campuses.

Students start by learning core Lean Six Sigma concepts in a curriculum built around MoreSteam's Green Belt course. After completion, students can take a project-based course to practice applying those concepts at a local nonprofit organization.

"From a learning standpoint, I think that the principles class alone doesn't give students enough experience with the challenges of executing a Six Sigma project in a real environment," she said. "The second course takes them into the workspace so they can apply everything they've learned in a dynamic setting."

While Dickerson considers that real-world experience invaluable, she knows students will only be prepared for it if the first course provides a thorough understanding of DMAIC principles. She likes using the eLearning course as the foundation of the curriculum for a few different reasons.

Cheryl Dickerson's headshot

I like the creativity behind it, so it's what we use instead of a textbook. It's comprehensive yet concise and articulate, which makes a difficult subject easier to understand.

— Cheryl Dickerson, describing MoreSteam's Green Belt course

To enhance the virtual content, Dickerson spends classroom time on simulations and interactive games, while also emphasizing skills that best prepare students for life after graduation.

"I give students the opportunity to practice in a safe environment so they can develop their communication and delivery style," she said. "They can do a great job on a Six Sigma project, but if they can't communicate effectively, executives aren't going to listen."

Duquesne University

Unlike her peers mentioned in this article, Kathryn Marley teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in her role as an associate professor at the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business.

One of the undergraduate classes she teaches is an elective course in Lean Six Sigma, entitled Supply Chain Process Improvement. She has taught this class for years, using MoreSteam's Yellow Belt eLearning course as the foundation for the curriculum.

"What I like most about MoreSteam is the opportunity it gives students to practice," Marley said. "I have an ASQ Black Belt and used print materials to study for the online exam. That's not the preferred way of learning for most students. The online course fits so well into all the different ways a student can learn. There's not one topic you can say you don't understand by the end of the course."

In addition to that undergraduate course, Marley recently began teaching graduate students in a course built around MoreSteam's Green Belt curriculum. Because many of her master's students work during the day, she teaches the class in the evening. Students meet once a week, rotating between in-person and virtual classrooms.

"It's a hybrid for master's students, and the MoreSteam module works great for that," she said. "Students are able to work through the MoreSteam modules in online weeks and when on campus we discuss content, do exercises, and apply what they learned."

While Marley enjoys seeing students learn and practice using these concepts during class, she knows the end result is what matters most.

Kathryn Marley's headshot

What stands out to me is watching students from so many different backgrounds all benefitting from these classes. We've had students in manufacturing, service, healthcare, and a lot more. For them to take the same course and all get benefits that relate to their job — that's what I really love seeing.

— Kathryn Marley

One other component Marley loves using with her class is EngineRoom, an online application created by MoreSteam to help with statistics and data analysis. Through EngineRoom, students have the opportunity to practice organizing and managing sample data sets, mimicking what they will experience in the professional world.

"The students love using EngineRoom — it's great," Marley said. "We just started using it last year, and I'm definitely planning to use it even more moving forward."

University of Notre Dame

Carol Mullaney spent 10 years directing process improvement programs at a Fortune 500 company before joining Notre Dame's staff in 2010. Today she's the Sr. Director of Sustainability and Logistics, and one of her many roles is teaching a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course built around MoreSteam's eLearning curriculum.

"The MoreSteam Green Belt course is basically our textbook," she said. "Students enroll in that online course, go through the course material, practice extensively, and take assessment questions at the end of each module. We supplement that with in‐class discussions and presentations, highlighting some of the key concepts."

She also supplements the online material by running MoreSteam's SigmaBrew DMAIC simulation, giving students an opportunity to practice process improvement tools and techniques in a safe, constructive environment.

"Everyone can understand and relate to the idea of running a coffee shop," Mullaney said. "It takes students through the five phases of DMAIC in sequential order. There's ambiguity in the work we do — there usually isn't one right answer and one wrong answer."

"The simulation is constructed that way. They work in teams and get to spend play money, trying to make good decisions and run a successful business."

Mullaney also takes advantage of EngineRoom, using it to help students understand concepts like control charting and multiple regression analysis.

"It helps them learn about topics from their coursework that they might not see in their real‐life projects," she said.

While there are many reasons Mullaney utilizes the online tools she does, the biggest reason is that she believes it sets up students for success after graduation.


Want to learn more?

Contact us to talk about implementing our eLearning courses at your university.