June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.77.1 - 13.77.10
A Novel methodology for engineering course design based on Six Sigma principles: Incorporation of diverse constituents in course design Abstract
This paper seeks to present a systematic and thorough methodology to incorporate basic six sigma principles for quality into engineering course design from the ground up. Six sigma principles have been widely used in industry in conjunction with the basic philosophy of ‘lean thinking’ so as to achieve the twin goals of quality enhancement and cost minimization. The authors intend to extend an identical thought process to the field of education, beginning at the basic course level in an engineering setting. The principal advantage of this extension is to incorporate voices of widely varying stakeholders including the community, industry, academicians etc into the basic course structure. Another advantage of implementing this thought process includes rigorous control of instruction quality across a wide spectrum of instructors thereby infusing much needed objectivity into basic course design. Different Six Sigma tools such as Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Pareto Analysis etc have been used as appropriate and a pilot study is presented at the end in order to illustrate practical utility of the methodology.
The Six Sigma concept of product design and management has been widely utilized in commercial enterprises for over two decades now. The basic idea underlying this tenet is primarily of ‘waste minimization’ as well as of ensuring uniform levels of quality in terms of product characteristics as well as service characteristics (1, 2, 3, and 4). The concept of ‘Total Quality Management (TQM)’ is often used synonymously and sometimes in conjunction with the basic principles of lean engineering and Six Sigma.
It should be noted that while the principles of Six Sigma are generally used in the context of product design and manufacturing industries, their scope is not merely limited to these two fields of endeavor. Six sigma principles find much wider scope of expression in other industries as well. For instance, the service industry such as banking, finance, health services, restaurant management etc routinely utilize six sigma concepts in order to ensure the availability of quality products so as to gain and maintain an edge over their competitors (5,6).
While the aforementioned facts are largely understood as well as followed, the authors wish to point out the fact that there has been very little formally documented research connecting a formal process of building quality to the field of education. Undergraduate as well as graduate education is conducted in institutions that are primarily ‘not for profit’ in terms of their formal tax status. However, as far as quality of the final product is concerned (quality of education imparted to students, in this context), it should make no difference whether the institution rendering the service is a ‘for profit’ institution or otherwise.
This paper seeks to extend the practically realizable as well as demonstrable advantages of the ‘six sigma method of reasoning’ to the field of course design. This is meant to be a starting point in a wider research attempt to finally try and extend this concept to program design.
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