When it comes to learning 3D CAD tools in today’s age – be it SolidWorks, Rhino, Catia, Fusion 360, MODO or most any other – motivated self-learners have more options than ever before ranging from random tips and tricks videos on YouTube to more organized online courses from multiple providers.

But as educational tools as a whole continue to become more interactive thanks to new digital tools and experiences for today’s always-connected students, CAD education itself has sadly fallen behind. Among others who want to change this is Autodesk, and they’re starting by launching a new Fusion 360 course on iTunes this Fall.

Structured to be used by both educators and students, the new Autodesk Design Academy will offer a series of lessons, projects, and courses that were developed by some of the world’s leading product designers, engineers, architects and artists. In addition to having been developed by the real-world professionals, the content also features plenty of real-world examples of the software in use to help engage the student into thinking like a designer within the world rather than simply learning how to build a 3D model. Additionally, a growing library of Multi-Touch Books will provide students with a digital and interactive library for further exploring design topics with ease.

To gain a better understanding of the Autodesk Design Academy, we talked with Peggy Snyder, Autodesk’s Director of Education about what this means for designers and engineers both new and old:

What is the Autodesk Design Academy and who is it geared towards?

The Autodesk Design Academy features a growing collection of lessons, projects, and courses that help educators support students as they develop technical skills and creative confidence. Each Design Academy project asks students to use Design Thinking and software skills to make innovative designs that have an impact on people’s lives. Developed by leading architects, engineers, artists, and animators, each project and course delivers measurable results aligned with academic and industry standards. Combined with Autodesk’s free educational software, these free resources give students everything they need to start creating tomorrow’s world.

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How does the process of attending a course work? How much do they cost?

The content is free to all educators and students. Additionally, the material is licensed under creative commons, so instructors can customize content to fit their teaching and learning goals.

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What are your long term plans for the Design Academy?

The long-term goal for the Autodesk Design Academy is for educators and students to share their work on the site as a way of educating others about what is possible in design and the best practices for teaching it. Educators will be able to share their lessons and project ideas with other educators and students will be able to share their portfolios to inspire other students engaged in similar work.

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Do you see the Academy being used as an alternative to formal design training taught in schools?

The Design Academy supplements design-based disciplines and classrooms focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) while using Autodesk’s professional-grade 3D design, engineering and entertainment software used in industry. Courses are in-depth explorations of how design works in a specific industry. These multi-week experiences are comprised of multiple projects and additional course material, along with lecture tools for teachers. The content supports instructors by providing free access to design activities and materials for project based learning, which they can plug into their existing curriculum.

Will there be any sort of certification for completing the courses?

Coming this fall, the Design Academy content will feature badging and links to product certification.

How long would you estimate it takes to complete an average course?

The curriculum support materials distributed on the Design Academy range from as little as one hour up to several weeks. The average length of time to complete a project on the course depends upon how an instructor chooses to integrate it into their existing curriculum; the average length is five to 10 hours of class time.

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What other courses do you have planned in the near future?

The content will continue to be developed to support design-based disciplines with a focus on animation, product design, architecture, engineering and sustainability design.

Why did you choose to use the iTunes platform rather than establish your own platform for viewing content?

Last year we announced free access to our 3D design software and creativity applications to schools, educators and students around the globe. As an extension of this initiative, we’ve made a commitment to make available the Design Academy in iTunes U, the world’s largest catalog of free education content. The Apple iTunes U platform is also completely mobile across the iOS ecosystem, which supports a varied and diverse set of use scenarios to address online, hybrid, blended and flip classroom models, as well as the diversity we see in teaching methods, devices and environments in many countries.

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When can we expect everything to go live or do you have a course schedule?

Design Academy content is continually updated, with new materials published on a weekly basis.

Find out more by heading over to Autodesk Design Academy.

(Feature Image via Point and Shoot)


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.