This post was guest blogged by Albert Whatmough at Inspirtech.com

For one reason or another, engineers, designers and trades people are constantly faced with the demand to continue learning new CAD applications. Depending on their current level of expertise, the ideal training solution can change. The various methods of learning a CAD application can be broken into three groups:

  1. Instructor led training
  2. Self-paced training
  3. Discussions and collaboration

Each training solution offers specific advantages and disadvantages and used in the right combination these three methods can make learning SolidWorks extremely enjoyable. Let’s break it down.


Instructor led training
Instructor led training can be broken into three main categories:

  • Reseller courses
  • On-site trainers
  • College/University level courses

To make the most out of any instructor led training, students must avail themselves of the opportunity to talk with both the instructor and other students.

Reseller courses
Reseller courses are offered by SolidWorks resellers and generally cost upwards of $600.00. These courses require users to travel to the location of their reseller and spend 3 – 5 consecutive days completing training. At times resellers will also offer training in local hotels when there is a large demand for training in a geographical area.

On-site Training
Companies that are looking to train a large number of employees may be interested in contracting onsite training. Onsite training is most often offered by SolidWorks resellers, although, there is also the option to hire individual consultants. This, solution, again, is expensive as conultants generally bill based on travel expenses plus either a fixed rate or an hourly rate ranging upwards from $65.00/hour.

When choosing a training consultant, it is wise to find a consultant that isn’t going to offer an “out of the box” training solution. SolidWorks is a vast program with a large number of strengths; each company will make specific use of different aspects of SolidWorks capabilities. A good consultant will understand this and focus training on the aspects of SolidWorks that pertain to an individual business.

College/University level courses
Courses offered by college and universities should be the least expensive among instructor led training. Unfortunately, class sizes are much larger than other instructor led courses and often times courses are simply made up of an instructor led lecture and then lab time supervised by a grad student.

Another drawback to courses offered by educational institutions is that students will be working with an educational copy of SolidWorks. Although educational copies are fully functional copies, they are a full version behind the industry equivalent. Also, due to the semester structure of academic institutions, students may find the learning process to slow.

If you have or are in the process of completing this form of training it is recommend to complete the SolidWorks Certified Associate exam after completing training.

Self paced training
Self paced training is growing in popularity due the competitive pricing and the ability to complete training at your own pace. However, with so many solutions to guide users through self paced training, it is difficult to know what solution is the best. The most common aids are:

  • Help files
  • Books or training DVD’s
  • Web-based videos

Help files
Choosing to learn SolidWorks simply by using the help files can be a risky undertaking. Creating 3D models in SolidWorks can appear to be extremely easy, and it is. However, to create models with proper rebuilds and capture design intent is far more difficult.

Often times at first glance, models look extremely impressive. On a closer look, they can be full of sloppy geometry. If deciding to learn SolidWorks without any guidance, be very leery of developing bad habits.

Books or DVD’s
Books and training DVD’s are a very popular option for learning SolidWorks. If it is decided to use one of these options, make sure to choose a solution that provides multiple examples and exercises.

Surprisingly one of the most difficult aspects of getting started using a new CAD package is finding an adequate number of examples that focus on the skills. By completing examples, users will find they retain 70% of the new skills as opposed to only 40% of the skills if there is no hands-on interaction. There are also some excellent books written that are intended to be resources for advanced users.

Web-based videos
Web based solutions are growing in popularity daily due to their easy instant access and competitive price points. At present, there are several web-based training solutions. Streaming video based training over the internet allows trainees to gain instant accesses to updates and view training at any computer that has access to the Web without the need for a SolidWorks installation.

The better solutions offer courses that come packaged with multiple examples and exercises along with the corresponding SolidWorks files. To get the most out of training try to find a solution that integrates example files into the Task Pane.

Discussions and Collaboration
Participating in discussions and communications is one of the most powerful methods of solidifying the information learned. Research shows that people retain 90% of information that is discussed. Discussions can take place in various forms including:

  • Forums
  • Blogs
  • SolidWorks user group meetings
  • Peers

Forums
Forums are internet based locations where users can get together to post questions and respond to questions others have posted. Generally forums require registration to post comments. Moderators are used to keep topics separated and in line. Forums are an excellent means to get free answers to specific questions for a database of worldwide users.

Blogs
Blogs, like forums, are also web based. However, unlike forums, blogs are centered around posts made by an individual or a group of individuals. Readers have the option to subscribe to receive daily updates via E-mail, as well as make comments on posts. Blogs are an excellent way to pick up tidbits and tricks from respected professionals on a daily basis.

User groups
User groups are local groups of users that meet on a regular basis and discuss various aspects of a software package. User groups offer a personal touch to discussions and are an excellent way to pick up advanced skills and tricks.

Peers
Most importantly keep those lines of communication open with others using the application. It doesn’t matter if any individual is the “best” in the class or the onsite expert; others always have something to offer.

Everyone must be willing to listen to the grouch in the corner, the new young hire or the guy they can’t stand. New younger people that are hired on should listen intently but not be afraid to add what they find hard to understand.

All things considered, it is important to remember that some form of core training is essential and always beneficial.
Most importantly… Never stop learning!!!!

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.