Establish a Training Program for Your CAD Users, Part 224 Oct, 2012 By: Robert Green
You've gotten the go-ahead from management; now it's time to gather supplies and locate the right training venue.
In the previous issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I advised CAD managers to start in-house training programs, and I provided some action items to that end. If you haven’t had a chance to review that column, you may want to do so before moving on with this installment.
In this issue, I’ll focus on materials preparation and training delivery. I'm assuming that you have already won upper management's approval for a training program, and that you’ve determined your training topics. Here goes.
Gather Your Training Necessities
Before you conduct any training, ensure that you have all the resources you’ll need to do so efficiently — including the following items. As we go through the list, I’ll explain the importance of each item and recommend a few of my favorites.
A capable projector. You'll need to generate output that can be seen clearly in the lighting conditions you’ll encounter in the training room. Old 1024x768 models are no longer good enough to project modern CAD interfaces with wide-aspect ribbon interfaces, and HD wide-screen projectors are becoming the norm.
A properly prepared computer. That means a machine that's set up for the screen resolution you’ll use with the training projector and recording software, with screen colors and contrast settings that make the screen easy to see. In addition, it's a good idea to:
- Enable mouse trails for easy cursor visibility.
- Turn down the mouse speed so users can follow you better.
- Disable your e-mail and messaging to prevent interruptions caused by pop-up alerts.
- Use large buttons/ribbons in CAD applications for easy visibility.
- Hide the Windows task bar.
The goal is to make everything clear and highly visible, while getting rid of any potential distractions — prerequisites that are especially important when you're recording your training sessions.
The ability to record training. Why conduct the same training twice, when you can simply record it the first time? My weapon of choice for recording is Camtasia, which gives me a wide range of formats, editing options, and advanced features, including intelligent zooming and speech-to-text conversion.
(For a detailed description on how Camtasia can assist you in the composition and capture of training presentations, see two of my previous columns: Creating Training Videos Part 1 and Creating Training Videos Part 2. The screen captures in these two articles are based on an earlier version of Camtasia, but the concepts are very similar.)
A high-quality microphone. If you’re going to record your training, make sure you are prepared to capture clear, intelligible audio. If you’ve ever struggled with a video where the speaker sounded like they were under a blanket or inside a coffee can, you know how distracting it can be when an otherwise good training session is hampered by poor sound quality.
I use either a Blue Yeti microphone (as shown in the figure below) or a Logitech H530 USB headset. I find it very useful to have both options, because the various training environments I work in dictate different approaches. I use a headset when I’m sitting down at my computer, and a desktop microphone to capture training sessions in open rooms.
The heavy-duty Blue Yeti podcasting microphone, shown next to a 14-inch laptop for scale.
Documentation. You'll need to gather relevant example files and create course guides. As I practice my training sessions I record them with Camtasia first, then use the recordings to help me create my training documentation.
When preparing your training exercises, it helps to:
- Use standard files from your production environment.
- Demonstrate software using standard files.
- Always stress use of company standards.
- Keep each training class short and to the point.
If you follow these steps, you’ll create training that demonstrates exactly how users should operate in your standard CAD environment — you'll be enhancing and enforcing your standards while you train.
A serviceable training room. You need a space where users can hear what you’re saying, see your demonstrations, take notes as needed, and not be interrupted. To meet these goals, look for a conference room with:
- A door that closes.
- Three feet (one meter) of linear table space per user.
- A phone that can be muted (or none at all).
What won't work are cramped rooms without writing surfaces, lunchrooms, or open cube farms where noise and interruptions are commonplace. The goal is to eliminate distractions so the users can be completely focused on your training.
Network access. Your training will incorporate your company's network directories, plotting devices, and any other network resource your users would normally use with their CAD systems, right? Therefore, your training room should have actual network access, not just visitor-style Wi-Fi Internet access. The goal of your training is to show users exactly how to operate in your standard CAD environment, and that means your standard network environment as well.
A stable training schedule. It might be once a month, once every other month, or the second Wednesday of each month — the specifics don't matter, as long as you can get into a consistent pattern that your users grow accustomed to. What doesn’t work is training for two months, then skipping the next six months — you will lose all your training momentum that way.
Smooth delivery. You’ll need to perform some rehearsal runs to get comfortable with your new tools. After all, practice really does make perfect!
Putting It All in Motion
Now that you know what you need to pull together for your training sessions, you can start assembling your lessons, planning your schedule, and getting your machine configured for maximum visibility and recording efficiency. And if it takes a while to get the first training classes rolling, so be it — you can use that time to practice and become a better trainer.
My hope is that you now feel empowered to plan and deliver your training program. Will it take work? Yes, but it's the only way to change user behavior, increase standards adoption, and fix broken processes! So go get your training program rolling, and be sure to let me know how it goes.
In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor and Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD video tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!