Imagine your company has just purchased Autodesk Inventor® and has decided to move forward with an implementation. This can be an exciting time, and your company has high expectations about the increased productivity, reduced errors, and better designs that are to be expected with this powerful solution. Since you have been working with AutoCAD® for years, your boss asks that you investigate and propose the best way for the design team to learn how to use Autodesk Inventor. This can be a daunting task as the team has a lot of 2D AutoCAD experience, but limited 3D experience.
Where do you start? Who offers training? Should we use face-to-face training or web-based training, or both? Are there other training options? How much training do we need? Or you may wonder whether you need training at all. After all, you already know AutoCAD; how much different can Inventor be? These are great questions, and the good news is there are more training options available than ever before. This article identifies the different training options at your disposal and what to expect from each of them.
The first question is: Do I need training at all? The answer is simple: absolutely. Even if you are extremely knowledgeable about AutoCAD or another CAD system, training is highly recommended. Without training you may figure out how to create models, but will this be an easy path? Probably not. Will you create models using the best techniques to ensure design intent? Probably not. Learning through trial and error can be both frustrating and costly.
Once you’ve decided (or rather, accepted) that you need training, you have several options to consider: face-to-face classroom training, virtual (web–delivered) training, or self-paced learning.
Face-to-face, instructor-led training is the traditional method and, in my opinion, offers you the fastest path to success. Face-to-face training has the advantage of allowing you to immediately ask the instructor questions, and you can interact with other students who are also learning Inventor. The other students may have different perspectives that lead to techniques and processes that you can apply within your own company. Another advantage is that the instructor is able to pick up on body language that indicates a student may be struggling. Many adult learners don’t want to ask questions, so watching body language is key for instructors to help students.
A second option is virtual training. Virtual training is when a training class is delivered via the Internet and the instructor is at a different location than the students. The advantage to web-delivered classes is there is no travel necessary, allowing you to optimize your time. Some potential downsides are that it is not as personal, and there is no eye contact or body language that help the instructor see if a student is struggling.
The software that is used to deliver virtual classes plays a huge role in their success. Some platforms allows the instructor to see the student’s screen and take control of their computer if needed, while other platforms do not. Before enrolling in a virtual class, ask if the instructor has capabilities to see your screen and take control. Virtual training can be ideal for small or brief topics, but in my opinion it can be harder to retain students’ attention with classes that span multiple days. Think about watching a webinar: how long can you pay attention to the presentation without being distracted? Due to our smaller attention span, many virtual classes are broken into smaller sections and delivered over a longer period of time.
A third method is self-paced learning, also referred to as e-Training, e-Learning, or computer-based training (CBT). Self-paced learning is where you take a class that has been previously prepared and you move through the curriculum at your own pace and when you can fit it into your schedule. Advantages to this approach are flexibility and the ability to come back to a module when you need it. Figure 2 shows the user interface of Global e-Training’s Inventor course. Some downsides are that students cannot ask questions of the instructor in real-time, and there is no interaction with other students. Some providers offer support where you can ask questions. Many courses have quizzes and offer the ability to monitor a student’s progress, but the success of this approach depends for the most part on the student’s determination to complete the class. This medium can be a great supplement to traditional classroom training.
Where Do I Get Training?
Once you’ve decided on the type(s) of training you want, the next question to answer is where do you get it? For the face-to-face and virtual training, I would recommend an Autodesk® Authorized Training Center (ATC®). ATCs are focused specifically on training for Autodesk products, and ATC sites have met Autodesk's rigorous standards of excellence and are monitored for quality. You can find an ATC at www.autodesk.com/atc. For self-paced courses, I have personally worked with two companies: Global e-Training http://www.globaletraining.ca (which is currently offered by MasterGraphics) and 4D Technologies http://www.cadlearning.com.
What Classes Should I Take?
If you are brand new to Inventor, I recommend you seek out a fundamentals or Level 1 introductory class. In an introductory class you will learn the basics of Inventor and thereby build a strong foundation of knowledge. I often hear people say, “I’ll learn the basics on my own; I want to dive into the advanced material.” Consider this: if you were learning how to fly, would your first lesson focus on advanced maneuvers? No, you would be learning the basics of flight. The same philosophy applies to learning Inventor. Before you learn the advanced features you need to understand the basics. After taking an introductory class I would suggest that you work with Inventor for a month or two in order to master the fundamentals and build that strong foundation of knowledge. Then look at advanced classes covering any manner of topics such as advanced modeling techniques, stress analysis, and so on. Many ATCs offer advanced classes that can be customized to meet your requirements. Many self-paced courses also include advanced topics or offer advanced courses for purchase.
- Inventor’s onboard “help” option is a great resource. It is wiki-based, which means it is web-based and users can add content to the database. Autodesk does review the user-provided content before it is posted. Since it is web-based, the data is always the latest and greatest.
- Autodesk also provides topic-specific tutorials and skill-building exercises. Access the tutorials and skill-building exercises via the Help menu as shown in Figure X.
- If your Inventor software is on Autodesk subscription, then you have access to e-Learning modules at www.autodesk.com/subscription. You will need your Autodesk subscription login.
Books / Texts
When you attend a training course you usually receive a book. You can also purchase books on Inventor from many publishers. My Autodesk Inventor 2012 Essentials Plus book is available from Delmar Cengage Learning www.cengage.com.
The ever-expanding Autodesk Inventor user community has additional opportunities to learn and share knowledge. Visit the following sites to gain additional knowledge.
- All About Inventor – Inventor articles, books, news, tutorials, tips and tricks: www.allaboutinventor.com
- Autodesk University - The ultimate Autodesk learning and networking annual conference. You can check out many of the classes that were presented at the December 2011 conference at www.autodesk.com/au.
- CAD digest – Inventor articles and tutorials hosted by CADdigest.com: www.caddigest.com/subjects/adsk_inventor
- CBliss - Inventor parts, tips and tricks, and macros by Charles Bliss: www.cbliss.com/CAD/cad.htm
- GrabCAD - CAD library and Q&A section: grabcad.com
- In The Machine – The official blog of the Autodesk inventor Product Management team, hosted by Autodesk's Garin Gardiner: inthemachine-autodesk.typepad.com
- Inventor Connections - Inventor news, tips, links, events by ConnectPress: www.inventorconnections.com
- Inventor Parts - Inventor parts and tutorials: www.inventorparts.com
- KWiK Mcad - Inventor code, iParts, tips, and more by Kent Keller: www.kwikmcad.com
- MCAD Forums – Inventor discussion groups, hosted by Sean Dotson: www.mcadforums.com
- User Groups – Attend a local user group meeting in your area. A list of user groups is located on the AUGI website at: www.augi.com/user-groups/local/local-usergroup-list
- YouTube – Autodesk has its own YouTube channel that has many videos on Inventor: www.youtube.com/autodesk
After you’ve completed your Inventor training, you will also need support for questions that inevitably arise. For technical support, I recommend you contact your Autodesk reseller to see what support plans they offer. Keep in mind that support is not a replacement for training: it is aimed at helping you through a technical challenge, and not training you over the phone. The Autodesk Inventor discussion group is another great resource. You can search the discussion threads to see if your question has already been asked and answered.
If you do not see your question, then you can post a new question. Access the Autodesk Inventor discussion group by going to www.autodesk.com > click the Community tab > from the list click Users - Discussion Group > click Autodesk Inventor. To post a question or answer you will need to create an account (which is free). You can also use the AUGI forums at www.augi.com/forum.
Autodesk Inventor Certification
Once you are proficient in Inventor (usually after 100 to 400 hours of use), you can validate your knowledge and skills by becoming an Inventor Certified Associate or Inventor Certified Professional. To become an Inventor Certified Professional you need to take and pass the Certified Associate and Professional exams.
Certified Associate Exam
The Autodesk Inventor 2012 Certified Associate exam consists of 30 questions that assess your knowledge of the tools, features, and common tasks of Autodesk Inventor 2012.
Certified Professional Exam
The Autodesk Inventor 2012 Certified Professional exam is a performance-based test. The exam comprises 20 questions. Each question requires you to use Autodesk Inventor 2012 to create or modify a data file, and then type your answer into an input box. It is recommended that you pass the Associate exam first.
You can learn more about the Autodesk Inventor Certification by going to: www.autodesk.com/certification
The learning process with Inventor is not a one-time event. Autodesk is continually adding new features and functionality to the software, so there is always more to learn and processes that can be improved. Be a lifelong learner and keep honing your skills. You and your company will reap the benefits.
Dan Banach is an Autodesk Inventor certified expert, an Autodesk certified instructor on Inventor, a nationally recognized instructor, and a longtime speaker at Autodesk University. He has been providing CAD solutions to clients of MasterGraphics (an Autodesk Gold Partner and an Autodesk Authorized Training Center) for more than19 years. He has authored three books on Autodesk Mechanical Desktop and is coauthor of fifteen books on Autodesk Inventor. Dan has consulted with Autodesk on many projects. He has also created Autodesk Inventor computer-based training videos for CADLearning. Dan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org