Explore the World of CAD Training Options1 Dec, 2015 By: Scottie Barnes
CAD and related software tools are more sophisticated and varied than ever — but fortunately, so are the resources available to help you master them.
© iStockphoto.com/Steve Debenport
CAD users know that change is a constant. On a typical workday, you may be introduced to new workflows, new software, new capabilities added to a familiar tool, or all of the above. In addition to annual or biannual updates, some software companies are now continually sharing updates in real time; major changes can occur overnight. In such a dynamic environment, a CAD professional who believes he or she can remain competitive merely by attending a yearly refresher course may be left in the dust.
Fortunately, opportunities abound to enhance skills and boost productivity; long gone are the days when a CAD user looking to learn had no options beyond printed software manuals. Training for CAD and related software tools is now available in a variety of formats, including online classes, in-person workshops, video tutorials, and more. Some providers even offer a baseline test to help users determine their strengths and weaknesses so they can customize their curriculum accordingly.
To better understand the available resources, let's look at a few examples of providers offering some of the most popular types of training. To see a broader list of options, go to www.cadalyst.com/ExploreCADTraining.
Free Peer-Created Videos
YouTube isn't the only source for user-created CAD tutorials. Autodesk Screencast (screencast.autodesk.com) is a free utility from the Autodesk Knowledge Network that enables Windows and Mac users to create user-narrated screen-capture video tutorials and share them online. In addition to recording the video and voice narration, the utility also records the presenter's actions as they are carried out (for supported Autodesk applications, including AutoCAD, Revit, Fusion 360, and Inventor), such as the commands, settings, and dialog boxes used. These events are then displayed on the interactive Screencast Timeline at the bottom of the video display. The site's ever-growing library of free tutorials is accessible to everyone.
Video Training by Subscription
Users rarely have a project that goes perfectly smoothly, where everything works exactly as the software developer designed it. In the real world, users spill their coffee, a command doesn't work, a saved piece of work disappears, a boss or co-worker interrupts, and things don't fit. That's the environment O'Reilly Media (www.infiniteskills.com) aims to recreate in its range of high-definition video-based training programs. The project-based training videos walk customers step-by-step through challenging real-world problems that are throwing kinks into the project.
Users can learn at their own speed on a desktop computer, iPad, or iPhone. The introductory portions of individual video courses are free; prices for full courses vary, but most are less than $100. Alternatively, a subscription of $25 per month or $250 per year purchases unlimited access to a complete library of more than 300 training courses. The library includes CAD, building information modeling (BIM), and animation titles, among others.
Another option for subscription-based video training comes from SolidProfessor (www.solidprofessor.com). Its online subscription service begins with a skills assessment to identify knowledge gaps, then suggests specific lessons or tutorials to address areas of weakness. Students can obtain tips and learn new methods each day.
This was the chosen solution for Honey Bee Manufacturing. The Canadian company had been using SolidWorks for more than 10 years and was using SolidProfessor to train new employees when it realized that some senior staff could use a refresher course as well. So the company retrained everyone.
"We found that experienced users relied on the tools and features they had learned when they first began. We were regularly upgrading our software, but not our methods. So there were a lot of great features we were not using," said project engineer Joel Seerey. Honey Bee scheduled group training sessions in which staff watched videos, then discussed how the new features being taught could be incorporated into the company's workflow. "Viewing lessons taught by competent, trained instructors, then discussing how the lesson applied to our workflow, completely changed how we use the products," Seerey said. "Now we take advantage of every feature that we can. And with every product update, we send out the newest lessons and make sure no one is left behind."
SolidProfessor offers training for a variety of applications, including AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, and Onshape. Pricing varies based on software title, but for individuals, monthly subscriptions start at $19 per month or $199 per year. SolidProfessor for SolidWorks starts at $399 per year. Schools and companies with teams of users receive special pricing based on their needs.