The Seven

January 15th, 2013

In this article, I present information learned from experience, plus expert advice from a recent Autodesk ACI workshop. Herein are seven items that will help you if you’re planning a career in the Education and Training field.

Become Certified

A very important step for anyone pursuing a career in training is to become certified in one or more software products. Autodesk provides different certificates for their products—study hard and gain your certificate. This is a very important step for you to gain solid knowledge of the program, which you will need in one way or another. This is the first step. Now let’s explore some different tips, tricks, techniques, and methodologies you may find useful for developing your teaching style.

Planning

Planning is the most important part in your preparation as it describes everything for you. It organizes your thoughts and clears your mind so you can achieve the best results.

Before you start a new class, do the best preparation you can, because it’s all about that. Following are some best practices regarding the planning process.

The lesson plan is the most important part of the planning process. The Plan organizes your thoughts, materials, duration of the class, examples used, and files needed for activities.

Let’s take a look at sample lesson plan.

It starts with the lesson title, learner level, module you are teaching, and the duration of the lesson. It must contain a brief description of learners’ backgrounds, including their industry, level of education, experience with the software or other CG software. This helps you when you prepare your content; you prepare the best assignments and examples for them.

After that you must state the Objective of the lesson and that is something you must start your lecture with, because it gives the learner a solid understanding of what he is going to be able to do after completing this lesson.

Example of a bad objective statement: “Today we are going to learn how to create 3D objects using 3ds Max.”

Example of a good objective statement: “Today we are going to model a low-poly warrior helmet using graphite modeling tools.”

After that you talk about the lesson delivery and the timing of your lesson. You will talk about what I like to call “The Magic Cycle,” described later at this article. Then you conclude your lesson in about five minutes by restating the Objectives of the lesson. If necessary, provide a short review of the key points covered in it.

Presentation

At a recent Autodesk training workshop, I learned that people learn in different ways, by different methods, and at different rates. And you as Instructor must have the ability to deal with different types of adult students.

Principles of Adult Learning

Experience. Students often are experienced and they bring this experience with them. They would like to have the opportunity to talk and contribute in the learning process, and you must have the talent to handle this desire and make use of their experience throughout the lecture.

Self-Esteem. Everyone likes to be listened to—especially adults; try to fulfill this desire for them.

Relevance. Focus on techniques in your lectures, not tools. Give students real-life problems and teach them how to deal with these things. Give them tasks and examples from the industry and expose them to the different pipelines. That’s what I have been doing for many years of training and it works great for me.

Benefit. Help the students to see what they have achieved, what they will achieve later, and how this is beneficial to them along their career.

Time Orientation. Impress upon your students that present, current, and now are when they’ll see the return on this training in their career.

Participation. Always give students the opportunity to participate—either in conversation or even in demonstrating something for his classmates.

Self-Direction. Try to guide students in achieving what they want—not what you want for them. In the real world, they will always be self-directed.

Different Types of Students

You need to know many things about your students to achieve best results in your training sessions. One of the most important things to know is student type.

Is he an experienced user of the software (for example, Autodesk 3ds Max) or is he a beginner?

Is he experienced in other CG software such as Adobe Photoshop or is he a CG beginner?

You must understand that you’ll deal with every student type by way of different methods and means, and that every student type has different needs and expectations from the learning experience. You’ll need to plan for this.

Buttonology versus Workflow

Buttonology is something we all have done, yet it’s a bad thing. It occurs when you open a menu or rollout and you begin to explain every icon, radio button, slider, or option you find—whether or not they are relevant.

Examples of Buttonology

Say your topic is Rendering. If you open the rendered frame window and begin explaining every option listed there, you have engaged in Buttonology.

Another example of Buttonology in presentation occurs when you are introducing a technique for modeling something, such as a plan. You start by creating some primitives and start explaining parameters and it finally ends with some primitives in your scene. You have delivered a Buttonology presentation. By contrast, if you begin your presentation with some primitives—a box or sphere, for example—and it ends up being a plan, then you have probably delivered a workflow presentation.

A final example of Buttonology lies in this scenario. Let’s say you select a topic such as low-poly modeling. You might begin by talking about low-poly modeling and in what cases you would need it, and you might explain the theory behind it. But in the middle of the presentation you become distracted and begin to explain some editable poly options, which is irrelevant to the current subject.  Instead of staying focused on the original topic, you start explaining other editable poly options such as tessellate or the NURMS option, for example, and what iterations are, then what the show cage option is, and you may take them to the graphite modeling tools to find the same option there. Then you may tell them to turn off NURMS because they don’t need it right now and undo the tessellate as well. Then you complete your lesson.

You may believe you have delivered a workflow presentation. Actually, instead of focusing on the subject and the tools they need to complete it, you started to explain other tools that aren’t needed and which don’t belong to the topic, and end up telling them to “undo” some commands. Chances are you have delivered a buttonology presentation.

When to Use Buttonology

You may find buttonology beneficial in one case. When you are dealing an advanced user, then he or she would be familiar with the concepts and workflows. In this case, all the user needs is to know the different options, what they do, and where they are found. 

The Learning Cycle

This is my favorite lesson from the Autodesk ACI Workshop because it helped me a lot with my career as instructor.

The learning cycle, which I like to call “The Magic Cycle,” is composed of three components.

Figure 1: The Learning Cycle

Lecture (tell them):

First you introduce your lesson, write down your objective (on white board for example) so your students will have a graphic example of what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson), capture students’ interests with your presentation skills, then you introduce content for them, talking about the theory behind this topic.

Figure 2: The Learning Cycle: Lecture

Demonstration (show them):

In this section you start to simplify things by doing it for them and start clarify the tools and techniques they are going to need to accomplish the task. You provide them with step-by-step instructions, keeping it easy to follow and to the point. Those are the keys to success in this stage.

Figure 3: The Learning cycle: Demonstration

Activity (let them try):

Now it’s time for the students to unleash their potential. Let them follow your technique, achieving the same result they witnessed through your demonstration.

Figure 4: The Learning Cycle: Activity

Then you will be able to monitor every student and evaluate his/her performance, answer their questions and give them your feedback. This is the time they gain confidence in themselves as well as trust in you and your teaching style, because they have managed to follow you and achieve the same results.

Tell them, show them, let them try it, and then review—the keys to success.

Benefits

There are several benefits I found in following this methodology.

First, it organizes your lesson in a way that achieves best results for both the learner and the instructor.

Second, it keeps both the learner and the instructor alert as it’s a very quick cycle (preferred duration is 15 to 20 minutes for every cycle).

Finally, it makes the most of the training.

Stay Updated

I can’t stress enough the importance of staying updated with the latest technologies. Always search for new technologies in your industry—try them, explore the different solutions, attend as many conferences as you can, and contribute in different types of media, on social networks, websites, or blogs. That way you will be knowledgeable in many areas and this helps you a lot with your career.

Conclusion

We’ve talked in this article about some benefits I received through the ACI workshop from Autodesk—told from my own point of view. Then we discussed some techniques you may need in training sessions—whether it’s a beginner or intermediate class. These are techniques I’ve acquired through my career, which have been developed a lot by Autodesk’s efforts.

The last thing you need to remember is to always conclude your lesson. In a five-minute wrap-up, restate the Objectives of the lesson.

This was a very quick overview of what I gained from Autodesk’s ACI program. I encourage you to apply for it if you haven’t already done so. Thanks to Autodesk, especially the ACI program team, and special thanks to AUGI for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.

Osama Ali is a furniture and interior design graduate from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Egypt. He has worked in the field of architectural visualization with many clients in Egypt and has been teaching Autodesk 3ds Max, among other products, for the last five years. Osama is an Autodesk Certified Instructor for 3ds Max. Currently, he works as a 3D designer and instructor at Information Technology Institute (ITI) and as a training manager for Arab Society for Applied Arts Designers in Egypt (NGO). Osama can be reached at oalbaky@mcit.gov.eg.

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