Prepare for Ongoing CAD Training Needs

26 Mar, 2017 By: Tony Glockler

Viewpoint: Keeping up with new software capabilities requires long-term effort on the part of CAD managers and users.

For less-demanding transitions, such as moving to an updated version of the same software, management teams often skip training altogether. This means that, while your users might have the latest and greatest software capabilities at their disposal, they won’t take full advantage of those new features — simply because they’re not familiar with them. Adjusting to any shift in CAD software, major or minor, is something that happens over time.

CAD managers should expect to initiate a training program whenever they make a software change, no matter how significant, and should plan on the program persisting well after the initial implementation. It can be daunting to think of an indefinite timeline for continuous training, so planning out training on an annual basis may be easier for both budget and implementation.

If the company is implementing a software version update, then an overview of the new capabilities relevant to the team should be presented to the users. In addition, supporting materials should be made available after the software update is rolled out so users can review any new capabilities while they are actively engaged in the design process. It is natural for users to forget techniques that they don’t use frequently, so make sure reference tools are available to them as long as they continue to use the software.

If the company is implementing an entirely new software solution, then a more comprehensive curriculum is required, developed (or customized) around the unique requirements for different groups in the company that will use different aspects of the software. For CAD, this includes more than the designers — consider the impact the update will have on further removed departments such as marketing, which may use renderings in marketing materials.

Gaining and retaining. The ongoing aspect of training that continues after the initial program is essential, because most information learned without reinforcement is quickly forgotten. The forgetting curve, hypothesized and studied by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 1800s, indicates that after being taught new information, people can forget half of what was presented within a single hour. Within 24 hours, that number increases to 70%, and after a week, an average of 90% of the information learned in a particular session is forgotten — information is exponentially forgotten from the time learners consume it.

Training is most effective when it is ongoing, spaced out over an engineer’s workweek, and integrated with solving daily design challenges. Just-in-time learning, also called on-demand training, provides this integrated approach by giving team members access to training resources they can consult whenever they have a question or run into a design challenge. This approach helps improve knowledge retention dramatically. Engineers and designers can get quick answers to problems that arise in their everyday work, yielding unlimited learning opportunities. It also helps increase efficiency: Instead of interrupting other team members for help, engineers and designers can watch a short lesson whenever they need to brush up on a skill, then get right back to work.

Planning for New Training Needs in a Less-Local Future

One of the big changes beginning to happen in CAD is the transition from software that's installed on a local computer to software that’s located in the cloud and accessible via browser-based platforms. The move to the cloud will allow for rapid design iteration, improved communication among geographically diverse team members, and greater accessibility to engineering software.

But there are also challenges associated with the move to the cloud, which make it more difficult for engineers to stay current on rapidly evolving software capabilities. With browser-based platforms, users receive instant updates and changes whenever software companies roll them out. This makes the interface and the number of commands available much more fluid, and it forces the user to learn new capabilities more frequently. These updates mean that CAD managers no longer control when updates will take place, making predicting training needs more difficult.

CAD capabilities and update cycles are increasing at a rapid rate — a situation that can be daunting for CAD managers. To meet this challenge, the industry is moving away from older models that treat training as an annual event and realizing the value of ongoing professional development. When predicting training needs for your team, look to incorporate just-in-time reference tools and ongoing learning into the workweek to help users retain what they learn and capitalize on the latest CAD capabilities.

Editor's Note: Tony Glockler is the cofounder and CEO of SolidProfessor, which provides online training for designers and engineers in SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Onshape, and other software.

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About the Author: Tony Glockler

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