Management

CAD Manager - Deliver Your Own In-House Training

1 Jun, 2006 By: Robert Green

Good planning, materials and attention prepare students to learn.


CAD managers frequently become trainers—whether they planned on it or not. In fact, when I teach CAD management classes, I find that many of my students were sent by their employers simply so they could learn, take their knowledge back and train other users. Sound familiar?

In the March 2005 issue of Cadalyst (http://management.cadalyst.com/0306cadman/), I outlined strategies and resources that CAD managers can use to build their own custom training topics. Here I'll focus on your actual in-house training sessions and provide some recommendations about training resources you can purchase inexpensively to help you spend more time training and less time writing materials, all while obtaining better results.

What Do You Train?

Some CAD managers perform major training tasks such as product version upgrades, new coverage and new employee training. For these managers, it's imperative to deliver training efficiently and not get bogged down. They don't want the rest of their job to suffer. Other CAD managers must perform a patchwork quilt of training that embraces coverage of standards, common company procedures and lunch-and-learn topics.

Begin by determining the components of your training program and what type of trainer you need to be to meet those demands. Although figuring out what topic you'll train is a task in and of itself, I've found that the actual delivery of training content is essentially the same no matter the content. Therefore, I'll pass along tips that are helpful for everyone and highlight specific information for various types of training environments.

Prepare with Good Materials

Even the best instructor-led training is only as good as the training materials students take home with them. Students typically don't take good notes, so the only thing they can review later is the material you provide. To put it another way, the only thing that'll keep them from calling you and asking the same questions they asked in class is if you put the answers in your materials.

Although you may have to prepare your own custom materials from time to time (again see the March 2005 issue of Cadalyst), you always can use commercially available materials. The following are some training materials I've used personally. I've listed the weak and the strong points of each so you can decide which could be useful.

Published books. Softcover, bound books cover a broad spectrum of topics for $30 to $50 per copy. The advantages are that they cover a lot of ground and are ideal desk references for students willing to read and learn by themselves. The disadvantages are that they typically aren't geared toward classroom training environments and are seen as Old School by younger students, who seem to prefer electronic learning tools. You can find dozens of titles on Amazon.com along with customer reviews to help you decide which are right for your needs. Autodesk also publishes a variety of books, which you can find at www.estore.autodesk.com.

Workbook-type training guides. These training materials are delivered via CD or Web site, so you can print or copy whatever chapters and topics you deem appropriate. The advantage is that you control the content; the disadvantage is that the one-time purchase fee typically is in the $500 to $800 range. I've used Caddex (www.caddex.com) materials over the years with great success.

CBT. CBT (computer-based training) materials combine the comprehensive approach of a book with a DVD or CD that students can watch or listen to, rather than read. I've used 4D Technologies (www.4dtechnologies.net) with success. CBT offers the benefits of actually seeing how to use a command/feature and so is an ideal resource for posttraining learning and support.

User manuals. Some software developers still ship actual user manuals with their products, and almost all allow you to request a user manual. User manuals will never be confused with a tutorial, but they do provide a thorough resource for every nook and cranny of your CAD software. Some people feel that user manuals are obsolete, but I find them useful and, most importantly, portable—users can take them home, on trips or anywhere the mood strikes them to do some extra reading. You're entitled to the user manuals, so why not issue them to your users as an extra resource that reinforces your training regimen?

Homemade handouts. These handouts are the training materials you make yourself to address company-specific procedures and processes for which store-bought materials simply aren't available. The advantage of homemade handouts is that they target exactly what students will see on their desktops. The disadvantage is that you must spend your time to make them.

Tips for Running Training

When you know your training topic and you have your materials ready, you simply need to deploy your training program using either formal instructor-led training sessions or informal meetings such as lunch-and-learn sessions. In any case, I recommend the following steps to make your training sessions go smoothly.

Use a good projector. I've learned that you can't train people without showing them what you're doing. A picture really is worth 1,000 words, and a data projector with good resolution and brightness is the only way to show people what you're doing. Don't own a projector? Buy one! Look at the money your company is saving by having you conduct training classes! That amount alone should foot the bill.

Have your materials ready. Don't start your training session until you have the materials copied, bound and ready and the learning software installed. In fact, give a handout to each student as he or she enters the room and take that the opportunity to welcome him or her.

Insist on timeliness. Set a starting time and stick to it. Late arrivers should be expected to make up for lost time on their own. Set the tone that training is valuable, as is your time as the instructor.

Gain their undivided attention. Insist that students turn their cell phones, IM clients and any other electronic communication devices off. If students want to surf eBay or IM their colleagues, why are they in class in the first place? Again, set the tone that training is time well spent.

Have a sign-in sheet. This document shows who was present and who wasn't. It also makes it easy to spot those who say they want training but don't show up for it. You'll also be able to demonstrate to management that people are attending your training sessions.

Record your session. As long as you're conducting an instructor-led training session, why not record your training and make it available later to those who missed class, new employees or those who simply want a refresher? Utilities such as Camtasia and Morae from TechSmith (www.techsmith.com) make recording simple. You can even connect a video/audio line out from your computer to a DVD/hard disk recorder. The clear advantage to video capture is that it can be burned to DVD or placed on your network so users can replay it whenever they want. I've used Camtasia with great success to create audio/video files of entire training sessions that can be replayed using Windows Media Player.

Wrap up with a writeup. After your training is complete, summarize how it went and forward a copy to your manager. This document is a small bit of self-promotion to show management what you've accomplished.

Posttraining Follow-Up

After you've completed your training session, be sure to get maximum value from your efforts by using some of the following ideas.

Organize your recordings. Take all training recording sessions you made and burn a copy to several DVDs. Also place electronic versions of the training on your networks for future replay. Making these resources available will cut down on follow-up questions and will be valuable when training future employees.

Build a training library. Make copies of all handouts, course materials and electronic reference materials and place them in your office for loan to any staff members who want them. Providing materials for motivated learners will help you build a better staff with little effort on your part.

Poll attendees for new ideas. Follow up with your students via a class evaluation form or an e-mail message that solicits their ideas for improving your training sessions. You can get some great ideas from people—if you ask their opinions.

Summing Up

Being responsible for training CAD users is no easy task. I hope that you'll be able to succeed by using some of the training materials I've listed along with your own custom handouts and video captures.

If you conduct training based on delivering benefit to your company and you catalog your training work for maximum recycling and reuse, you'll do a great job. As an added bonus, if you follow the metrics I've outlined, you should have a much easier time getting the respect and approval you deserve for your in-house training program.

Robert Green performs CAD programming and consulting throughout the United States and Canada. Reach him at rgreen@greenconsulting.com.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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