Seven Strategies for Choosing the Right Training Program

How do companies choose where to train their employees in Autodesk® Revit® or AutoCAD® Civil 3D®? Is all courseware the same? Should the cost of the class be the deciding factor? Should students simply show up, or do they need any preparation before they attend? And what can they expect to happen after the class?

Following is an interview with Matt Miyamoto and Sash Kazeminejad, two instructors from Ideate, Inc., an Autodesk Developer Network member for more than 20 years and Autodesk Platinum Value Added Reseller, to understand the whole training process from the instructors’ point of view. Miyamoto is a licensed Civil Engineer in the state of Hawaii. Before he became an instructor with Ideate seven years ago, he logged nearly a decade of experience in residential and commercial site development; water, drainage, and sewage systems, and harbor and roadway improvements.

Miyamoto described some recent changes he’s observed in AEC students who typically attend his classes. “At first, when everyone was adopting Revit for Architecture and Civil 3D, our classes were packed with students who were unsure about the value of the new software. They had been doing things differently for much of their careers. But we notice that the latest round of students, often directly out of school, are quite open to learning new processes, theories, and styles,” he said. “Success depends on having an open mind, and I think the AEC industry really understands that now. Our students realize that there will be change ahead, change that is perhaps uncomfortable, but it will be for the better.”

That open mind is critical, given where the focus of training might develop in the next few years. “Collaboration is probably the number one thing you’ll hear about in the near future,” said Miyamoto. "During the last several years, everyone got up to speed in learning how to create their own 3D model. Now, people will need to create 3D models that display well together with models from other departments. You’ll have civil engineering models, building models, and structural models. The way I envision a meeting in the future, I will be able to see a model of my building, as well as a model of the pipes that will go in the building, as well the river landscape in which that building will be situated. For something as sophisticated and complex as this kind of collaboration, training will be absolutely key. Not only training in how to work within Revit or AutoCAD Civil CD, but more customized training for a company’s employees, such as training in that company’s standards and specific needs. We spend a lot of time thinking about how the most effective training for that scenario will look."

Like Miyamoto, Kazeminejad spends most of his waking hours thinking about how to become a better instructor and offer a better training program. In fact, Kazeminejad was recently selected as the top North American Autodesk Training Center (ATC) instructor for 2015.  Since he became an Autodesk Certified Instructor in 2014, more than 200 students submitted evaluations attesting to his enthusiasm, expertise, and effectiveness. His performance quality gave him top North American rating among the 635 active Autodesk-certified instructors. “We’ve gone through this Revit and Civil 3D training ourselves,” said Kazeminejad. “We’ve been where our students are now, so we can relate to their experience, and we can help companies to think of certain criteria as they search for the best training.”

Miyamoto added, “I remember everything about my own initial AutoCAD Civil 3D training experience. It was five days of more information than anyone could process, then the instructor gave us a phone number and a ‘See ya later.’ That learning model is flawed, in that it is not enough. You cannot drink from a fire hose; the learning process happens a little at a time. Topics and concepts should be broken down into smaller pieces that students can understand and integrate, and then the instructor should build on those pieces.”

“My goal is not to put a book on your desk and walk away,” Miyamoto added. “My goal is to engage you and then teach you principles and techniques that will help make your job easier and your approach more efficient.”

Between them, Kazeminejad and Miyamoto created a practical, applicable list of strategies to consider and elements to look for while choosing the right trainer for employees who need to learn.

1.  Identify that there is a need for training. Was there a recent change in your industry? Are clients beginning to ask for certain deliverables that you unfamiliar with? Did several new employees just join your company, or are you the new employee, fresh out of school?
2.  Identify your specific training need. Make an internal assessment so you can easily explain to management and potential training companies exactly what you’re looking for. Maybe seven employees need training on everything that architects can do in Revit, or maybe only one person needs that training and the rest of the crew needs to get updated on office standards.
3.  Carefully examined the website of the reseller/trainer you are considering. Examine not only the courseware, but also the training team members’ credentials. Where are they coming from, what professions? You’ll want, ideally, instructors who have worked in your profession and in the industry versus   trainers who simply know how to operate the software.
4.  Explore the training program itself. The training program should be clearly and comprehensively explained on the company’s website. The training should be suited to your real-world needs of reducing time-to-market, increasing productivity, and maintaining quality standards. The courses should qualify for Professional Development Hours (PDHs) either under AIA or ACEC guidelines. But don’t just stop there. Suppose you examine five or six training companies and narrow that group down to three. That’s when it’s time to pick up the phone and call each reseller to have a discussion about the topics that they list on their website. You can actually speak to one of the instructors about the depth of topic coverage in their class.

Good instructors look forward to speaking with you because listening to your requirements helps them to keep their curriculum current and relevant. After a fact-finding discussion, they may even be able to identify a different course that works better for you or your company. It’s possible that you, your group, or your employee will benefit from custom training more than from a standard two-or three-day class, because they are past a certain level but not yet up to the next level. Choose instructors who appear to be passionate about the material and are driven to succeed in teaching.

5.  Before class starts, the training company should reach out to the students. Students do not benefit from walking into a class without preparation. Ideally the training company will say, “Here is the outline of what we are to cover. Be on time, and bring your questions with you to class.” Expectations       should be set ahead of time so that the students have some idea of what they’re going to be studying.

Meanwhile, students should also know what they want to get out of the class. As a student, arriving with a goal or an outcome in mind will help you to know, during the class, when you’ve hit your milestone. You should be able to communicate your goal with the instructor during the first day of class.         Just as the instructor’s responsibility is to tell you what’s going to be covered, you are responsible for saying, “By the way, I really want to know how to add notes and annotations to my slide,” or “I need to know how to design a road by the end of this class."

6.  Blended learning should be part of the curriculum. After the standard, in-person, two-to-three day classes, the blended learning methodology is to follow up with numerous resources such as reading material, self-paced video, and other forms of eLearning. Blended learning is a hot new development in   training; in fact it was discussed at last year's Autodesk University ATC Summit. Several companies are developing their own blended learning resources; Ideate's package, for example, includes 90 days of support (via phone and e-mail) with experts who have real-world knowledge, plus access to self-     paced video tutorials through “CADLearning Portal” so students can remind themselves of what they learned, build on what they were taught, and stay current on any Autodesk software updates.

"We want our students to continue to be able to apply their newfound skills, even if they don’t have a project waiting for them back at work," said Ideate Training Manager, Jennifer Anderson. "Blended learning continues the support and reinforcement of their lessons." Students can practice exercises         that are focused on their own scenario, such as interiors.

If the Autodesk software is updated, students can learn about the updated software as part of their training package. “We are passionate about keeping our client current in their products,” said Kazeminejad. “We want to maximize return on your investment in our training service. There’s never just a one-off between us and our students.” In addition, Ideate has a policy in which a student can come back and retake a class within a year. “We hear from students that it’s a lot easier the second time around,” said Miyamoto. “The things they didn’t get the first time around are suddenly easy for them and that’s well worth the investment of their time.”

7.  Customized learning should be an automatic part of the trainer’s offerings. Customized learning is curriculum assessment and development to fit your company’s specific needs, and whether held at an Autodesk Training Center or at your company, your group learns in a private environment. “More and more of our customers are requesting this service, especially companies using AutoCAD Civil 3D,” Miyamoto said. “Often they determine the need for this group learning after they have brought all their newcomers up to speed with the standard classroom experience.” If a company wants its group to take a certain focus geared toward their profession, they can take a class just for that, such as Revit Architecture for Interior Designs. Or they can simply fine-tune their skills, bringing a mixed-level group of skillsets to a single higher level.

“We also do consulting as a follow-on to customized learning,” Miyamoto continued. “Suppose you take a three-day class and then hit the ground running on a huge project in your office. An instructor can visit your site and lead your group through those initial software hurdles that present themselves on     this project. We offer this to reinforce the value of our instructional offerings as a whole.”

Kazeminejad added, “I’m a huge believer that continuing education and face-to-face training are valuable in every sense. Videos are very helpful and can offer a robust training experience without expensive travel costs, it’s true. But that face-to-face relationship, in my opinion, is more important. Questions will arise in a class that the instructor can answer immediately—you can’t get that from a video. You will also receive immediate feedback from an instructor as to how you are doing.

“When we teach, we make sure to always give you the theory behind why you are pushing certain buttons, and that’s a benefit from the face time with your trainer. Once you have the theory, you’ll be better able to remember the process. Best of all, you can lay all your questions and concerns right out on the table. Being able to relate to a live instructor is a big motivator to be a good student. Regardless of your skill set, you’ll always come away with something new.”

“Don’t settle for the first company that comes up on an Internet search page,” concluded Miyamoto. “Look for Autodesk Certified Instructors (ACI) at least. At Ideate, we have learned, during our ACI training, to incorporate aural, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles, and we break topics into small, repeatable cycles that build upon each other. That’s because our CEO, Bob Palioca, has made it our mission to overwhelmingly delight our customers. Our students are an important part of our customer community, and we think constantly about how to improve their experience.”

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