CAD training in a Twitch generation

There never seems to be enough CAD training to go around. As the complexity and availability of 3D tools proliferates, so does the demand for training. It's a problem for everyone: students new to the tools, veterans looking to increase the breadth and depth of their knowledge, and employers striving towards workforce efficiency. Yet few employers and even fewer individuals can afford the time and expense commonly associated with CAD training. Where does it end?


Everyone needs help

A common complaint is engineering college graduates aren't well versed in all the right CAD skills. Engineering curriculums just don't have the bandwidth. Whether such bandwidth could ever be provided is highly debatable; the variety of available tools and the pace at which they evolve is overwhelming. As such, most CAD training occurs outside of the college classroom. But the training dilemma is not just limited to students. Practicing engineers continually face new challenges in a multi-CAD reality, whether learning new capabilities or refined techniques with their favorite tool or learning new tools altogether.

Traditional methods are not enough

Truly transformational CAD training is not a one-time event, it has to be both frequent and continuous.

That certainly sounds both expensive and time-consuming. Despite the acute challenges, classical training approaches are not proving sufficiently effective:

  • Books: Antiquated but relatively affordable, books struggle to maintain relevance in today's deluge of interactivity, and can't be updated fast enough to keep pace.Also, good luck handing a CAD training book to anyone under 30. It's the ultimate case of TLDR.
  • Classes: Anyone who has experienced a CAD class with an expert instructor instantly recognizes the undeniable benefit. However, not enough engineers get the chance, especially on a recurring basis. With stifling limitations in both time and cost (mostly from having to remove a productive engineer from their current work), most organizations resign to send a select few as an exception (if any at all). Choosing who should go becomes a balance of who could benefit the most from the advanced training, multiplied by their ability to pass the knowledge on to others, and divided by who can be pulled off project right now. Unfortunately, because the number of people involved in such training is often insufficient relative to the organization's size, the end effect tends to just widen the skill gap between the best and the worst performers.
  • Online training: While certainly more accessible and cost effective, online tools are still mostly passive experiences. This includes the current unwitting leader in CAD training today: YouTube. The loss of student/instructor interaction is a detriment, but as a lowest common denominator it certainly is better than nothing.

Distributing expert knowledge

Much of CAD training today is necessarily tribal; it has to happen on the job. The strongest users in an organization are at the core of this largely informal mentorship, be they Rockstars or Orchestra Musicians. Their collective experience is crucial to disseminate, and sometimes they need to teach each other a thing or two. Often they try their hardest to do just that in their own fashion, including helping to define modeling standards, squeezing in a brown-bag lunch session, or just giving some quick advice about how to get that nasty blend to behave. But it's often just not enough. The biggest obstacle is that strong user core struggles to break out enough time from getting actual work done to teach others effectively. Not to mention the additional challenge of increasing the overall reach of their expertise, especially when teams are often strewn across geographies.

The Twitch potential

Perhaps you've heard of an immensely popular gaming service called Twitch. It's a game video streaming service where you can watch other people play games and chat with them. Amazon scooped them up along with their 55 million users for slightly less than a billion. But what does this seemingly frivolous tangent have to do with solving CAD training? It turns out that gamers aren't watching just for the lulz, but in the case of high skill games, they're learning how to tweak their techniques from the very best. They play and watch, simultaneously. They are in fact training. In live sessions, they can even interact through the chat window with questions.

You see where this is going: it's an over-the-shoulder look without shoulders of any kind. And more than a passive YouTube experience. Already game professionals are realizing the unintended training benefit of the Twitch environment and have begun streaming workflows for specialties like animation workflow or even game development itself.

Imagine Twitch for CAD training. Your best CAD drivers just focus on their work and stream. Anyone else can tag along from wherever they are, and learn by watching as they practice themselves. If they get really stuck, they can ask a quick question. Certainly less intrusive than a phone call, a video conference, or annoyingly standing right behind someone's shoulder. It might very be the future of CAD training.

Who will be the first Twitch for CAD?


A Part Number Anthology part-number-anthology-small

Part numbering. For most engineers, this two-word phrase is all it takes to conjure up especially strong feelings about what it means to be “right”, and what it means to be very, very “wrong.” We've assembled a handful of our part number greatest hits in this eBook anthology.