Designers today are constantly acquiring updated software tools to keep up with fast-moving product development. In turn, software developers are continuously pushing out new and more powerful versions of their solutions.
Caught in this upward spiral, a designer might find that the CAD classroom training from just a few years ago is no longer relevant to the new software capabilities. A sudden shift to a new product or work assignment can require the designer to get up to speed on long-forgotten CAD functionalities that were covered in the classroom but never used.
“Classroom training historically has been very good for learning things like math or English,” said Tony Glockler, CEO of online CAD training provider SolidProfessor, speaking with Design News. “But those topics are static. Technical software is always getting better, always developing new functions. The change happens rapidly, so in a few years the software can become almost unrecognizable. Sitting in the classroom is just not the appropriate way to learn it.”
The value of just-in-time software training, whose goal is to deliver the exact knowledge or skill that the user needs at just the right time, can thus rise.
Most know how to search Google or YouTube for solutions to problems. But in a world of fast-changing software, how do you know that the answer you found works with the most recent version of a product? And how do you qualify the person who posted the solution?
Those kinds of questions prompted Mike Spicer, CAD administrator at sensor manufacturer Kavlico, to search for a more reliable training solution. The company, a Solidworks customer, faced a challenge around the diversity of skill levels among its designers. He related, “Some had never used Solidworks before, while others had been using it every day for years.”
MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: CAD Moves to the Start of Design
Kavlico team members weren't always sure of what to do when they encountered a new problem or when they hadn't come across a certain situation for a while. Just telling users to consult the manual or search for a solution online wasn't bringing the team, as a whole, up to speed. “We needed a skills development solution that would allow us to standardize skills across our team while simultaneously raising the bar for everyone,” Spicer said.
Ultimately, Kavlico decided that SolidProfessor's approach could give the company the kind of formal technical training program and on-demand resources its designers needed to make the best use of Solidworks.
“Just-in-time learning” is sometimes used as a catchall term for non-traditional educational models, delivered outside the standard degree programs offered at universities. And, indeed, providers of “lifelong learning” experiences are flourishing and attaining massive user bases. Khan Academy delivers free short video lectures on focused topics. Coursera partners with universities to deliver free access to MOOCs, or “massive open online courses,” which comprise a mixed bag of filmed lectures, readings, problem sets, and interactive forums.
However, they don't offer the kind of in-depth and up-to-date lessons needed by technical designers, engineers, and other professionals.
MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Steep Growth in 2015 CAD Adoption Trends
On-demand training providers SolidProfessor and Lynda.com target professionals who are trying to learn specific software programs or solve specific problems. Subscribers gain access to libraries of video lessons and tutorials. Lynda.com offers a broader inventory, ranging from development to design to animation to video to general business topics. SolidProfessor is dedicated to CAD, CAM, and BIM software, with particular expertise in Solidworks and Autodesk products.
As an example, SolidProfessor's Solidworks offerings include a “Detached Drawing Tutorial” that focuses on the associativity between parts, assemblies, and drawings, such that a change to a part is automatically propagated to related assemblies and models. That makes sense, but what if you wanted to make edits in a Solidworks drawing without affecting the part file or vice versa?
SolidProfessor is certified as a solution partner for the software it teaches. SolidProfessor subscribers receive advanced notice of new software versions, so they're able to field lessons on new versions, tools, and features as soon as they're released.
Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.