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Craft Effective Remote CAD Trainings, Step by Step

9 Sep, 2020 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: These tips will help you prepare video tutorials and accompanying cheat sheets, and deliver polished instructor-led trainings.


In the previous installment of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I began a discussion on how best to run a training program, given the restrictions of remote work imposed by the COVID-19 situation. I stressed how to organize for such a program, what to avoid, and how to get your management to support you in your endeavors.

In this edition, we’ll wrap up by covering the practical mechanics of how to capture, control, and deliver your training, while also passing along some tips and tricks for becoming a better remote trainer along the way. Here goes.

Why Written Materials Matter

Whenever I discuss these issues, someone will inevitably ask, “In the age of YouTube and Microsoft Teams, do written training materials still matter?” I continue to answer that question with a resounding Yes! True enough, “written materials” are now most likely a PDF file prepared using a handout-style format and emailed to your colleagues, but they still must be crafted just as any other printed resource would be.

Why? Because after the training takes place, human memory fades, and the only thing users have to fall back on is whatever handouts or cheat sheets you give them!

But shouldn’t users take good notes in the first place? Well, yes, but can they really take notes that are complete enough to serve as a record of training? Can they accurately record the details of how a dialog box looks or how many program options there are in a given command? Most likely not.


Even if your users are diligent about taking notes during trainings, you’ll still need to prepare written reference materials they can rely on once the training is over. Image source: StudioRomantic/stock.adobe.com


Creating Video-Worthy Scripts

Using tips from the “Aim for Minimal Length and Maximum Engagement” section in the previous edition, you’ll easily create training material scripts that are concise and geared for video — which will be our format of choice — right from the start. As a bonus, we can create these using video-centric methods and get your written materials done with very little incremental effort. Here is a modified approach to building training materials that takes current technology tools into account, even though the eventual output will be a traditional written handout:

  1. Create the rough script. I start with a list of bullet items combined with a demonstration model or file, then move into a rough script of actions that moves me through the exercise I’ll use in the training. My goal is simply to capture the steps I need to demonstrate and get them in the right order, in the context of conveying my training concept(s).
     
  2. Now wing it. Using my rough framework and sample model I talk my way through the training to see how it flows. At this stage I’m not worried about making mistakes, I’m just trying to be sure I haven’t missed any steps. I’ll often try this “wing it” approach several times just to get a better feel for the training exercise, and I’ll update my rough framework notes as I go along.
     
  3. Repeat as needed. After I feel confident enough in my rough framework, I begin getting the presentation in final shape by refining my notes, example files and talk track until I feel I’ve got a valid training lesson. At this point it may still not be perfectly smooth, but it should be final in content, sequence, and form. The more time you spend here, the better your training will eventually be, simply because you’ll be more confident in your delivery.
     
  4. Record your final trial runs. This is a bonus step: Using a video-recording tool (more on this shortly), capture the screen and narration of your final trial runs. This recording will help you create training handouts, practice your timing, and will help you improve your public speaking skills if you take the time to listen to yourself.

Going from Videos to Written Handouts

The training handouts I create these days are actually “cheat sheets” that users can reference later, so they tend to contain lots of screen captures and minimal wording. I typically include an action item — such as, “From the FILE menu select PLOT, and your screen will look like this” — followed by a screen capture.

Remember that script you’ve been editing? That’s a great start on the handout! Remember that recording you did? It already has the screen captures in it, and you can use your own narration to write the action items!

Copy, paste, transcribe. All you have to do now is open Microsoft Word and start putting your screen captures (just pause the video you recorded), notes (from your script), and bullet items into handout form (just listen to what you said in the video).

Proofread, adjust, and finalize. This is the spit-and-polish phase where handouts are checked, example files are saved, and your presenter’s notes are finalized. You’ve now been through the material many times and should be ready to train.

You’ve just used the “completion backwards” principle: By creating my training class by talking it through first and getting the writing done last, I find that my work process is backwards from how most people approach the creation of training material. I just find it is more efficient; try it and see what you think.

Instructor-Led Training

Now that it’s time to train your users, let’s consider what it takes to deliver great training. Most of these tips correlate to in-person training just as well as remote, but in pandemic times, remote training will be the order of the day. Here’s how I get the most from my training time:

Use a good training platform. Use Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or whatever your company standard is to deliver training to your “live” audience. Your studio environment should be quiet, well lit, and free of distractions, so that once you get into training mode nothing will bother you.

Remember that they can’t see you. Since you can’t communicate via body language or hand gestures during an online session where users will only be seeing the software, you need to be more detailed in your spoken instructions and a bit slower in your presentation so users can easily follow along. And don’t forget to use a good podcasting microphone or headset, because there is nothing more frustrating than great training with poor audio.

A properly configured training machine. This could be your laptop or it could be a desktop machine, but either way, you need to make sure at least the following items are taken care of:

  • All required applications and sample files installed.
  • All network drives and peripherals properly configured.
  • E-mail and messaging applications disabled (to prevent unplanned pop-ups).
  • All icons/ribbon elements set to large size (so they’re easier for trainees to see).
  • Mouse trails enabled (so mouse motions are easy to follow).
  • Webcam and microphone properly configured.

Test everything first. Anything that can go wrong will, so be prepared by doing a dry run with everything in dress-rehearsal mode.

Distribute handouts and record attendance. All attendees should receive the training handout cheat sheets discussed above prior to training. Your online training platform should be able to document who attended, but do let your students know that attendance matters.

Deliver your training. This is the easy part because you’re well prepared, so you’ll breeze right through it.

Record as you go. If you are conducting training, why not record it as you deliver it, so you’ll never have to give the same training class again? Your online training platform should make it easy to record and download your sessions for editing later.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

Repeat after me: Never run the same training twice. You should never have to deliver a particular training class again if you record it the first time!

Now that you’ve run your training session and recorded it, you can edit your recordings into short segments and put them on the company network for people to watch over and over. While you’re at it, include your training cheat sheets, so remote users can download the materials and watch the videos whenever they need to. I find that a dedicated landing page on the corporate intranet, or something hosted in the CAD standards directories of the network, works well.

Summing Up

I hope this series on training topics has reinvigorated your commitment to train users, and given you some helpful hints for doing so. I realize that COVID-19 has made training more difficult, but the good news is that if you approach training in a manner that is optimized for remote learning you should be able to not just train, but build a video training library as you do so. Until next time.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green


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