Six Sigma training – online or classroom?

One of the dilemmas that students face when choosing Six Sigma certification training is whether to attend a live, instructor led course in a traditional classroom setting or an online course.  Both types of delivery have pluses and minuses.

In the classroom, you will have the benefit of interaction with your instructor and the other students.  You will have the opportunity to ask questions of and get feedback from the instructor on a real time basis.  The classroom environment is relatively free from distractions, and allows students to block out time to focus only on their course work.

There are some negatives to consider.  Classroom sessions are offered at fixed times during the year and the scheduled dates of the sessions may or may not be convenient.  Classes for programs such as the Black Belt are typically scheduled at intervals, say one session each month for three or four months, and students are expected to complete significant work on a project in between class sessions without the mentoring of their instructor.  The schedule is a one size fits all approach that may or may not make sense for any particular project.

Online courses are typically offered so that students may start whenever it is convenient and work at their own pace.  They offer a great deal of flexibility for students who are geographically remote, travel extensively, work odds hours, or have other issues that make it difficult to attend classroom sessions.

When attending an online course, you must be prepared to spend extra time reading and figuring things out on your own beyond what you might spend in the classroom.  Equally as important, you must have the personal discipline to work on the course on a regular basis despite all of the demands of daily life.

Our Black Belt consists of two courses.  Course 1 of 2 is knowledge based and covers all of the concepts, statistical tests, tools and techniques, and charts and graphs that students must be familiar with.  Course 1 of 2 is completed prior to selecting a project.  Course 2 of 2 is application based, where students plan and execute a real world improvement project.

Over the years we have refined our Black Belt training program to offer two formats.  In the first approach, students take both courses online.  The second approach is blended learning.  In this format, students take the first course in the classroom and the second course online, with the direct mentoring of a Master Black Belt at every step of their project.

The online only format offers an alternative for students who are unable to attend any classroom sessions.  The blended format offers the best of both worlds.  Students have the opportunity to learn all of the basics in a structured classroom environment, working with a live instructor.  They then move on to course 2 of 2 online, where they are mentored every step of the way while completing their Black Belt project based on a schedule that they create.  Depending on the project, students submit approximately 50 deliverables during course 2 of 2 and receive detailed feedback on each from their instructor.

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About the author:  Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession.  He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 48 years of business experience in a wide range of fields.  Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to