During a recent industry group discussion, I was asked to provide insight regarding the best Learning Management System (LMS) for Autodesk software training. Like many things, best is a relative term. What works best for my firm may not work best for your firm, and vice versa.
When implementing an on-demand training solution, you have two basic choices. You can build something from scratch, or you can choose an off-the-shelf solution from an online training provider. A solution you build from scratch has the advantage of being a solution built specifically for you, whereas an off-the-shelf solution has the advantage of granting access to a robust course library economically, and with little effort.
Despite the advantages each method offers, both share one indisputable truth. Without a plan, both solutions will fail.
Cool Your Jets
As someone who has provided training on Autodesk software for nearly fifteen years, training is something that excites me. Like many, I often fall into the same trap I see so many others fall into. That trap being you get so excited about the training you’re going to offer, all the great things you know its capable of delivering to your team, that you skip over the first and most critical step.
That step is none other than pausing for a moment to create a plan.
You’ve probably heard about the “7 P’s” before. For the indoctrinated, the 7 P’s are typically defined as; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
There are several other variations of the 7 P’s, but they all boil down to one reality. Without taking a moment to plan and prepare, failure is far more likely than success.
Identify a Training Champion
Just as important as creating a plan is having someone there to oversee it. If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance that person is you. Regardless if the champion is you or someone else, the important thing is to identify who will be the training program manager.
Whomever your organization selects will be instrumental in crafting the overall training plan based on objectives identified up front. Once the training plan is implemented, the Training Champion/Training Program Manager will be the one who not only promotes the training program, but also the one who makes sure the content of your training program remains in alignment with the training objectives of your organization.
Crafting an On-Demand Training Plan
Training is not a field of dreams. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll (your learners) come. That’s the reason creating a plan is so imperative. Before building your own LMS or purchasing an off-the-shelf course library, you need to ask yourself several questions.
Recognizing every organization is unique, the only wrong way to answer these questions is to not answer them at all. Likewise, there’s a strong possibility answering the foundational questions about training will reveal several transient questions about training.
What do you expect to achieve from training your employees?
Training can accomplish all sorts of things, but all the things training could deliver your team doesn’t matter. You need to define what you what it to provide to your team. Is training about driving profitability for your organization; is it about developing entirely new skills; is it about bridging gaps in existing competencies; is it something else entirely?
Again, there’s no wrong answer here, but if your objective is to bridge knowledge gaps for AutoCAD, and the on-demand catalog you’re looking primarily focuses on how to begin using AutoCAD; that catalog probably isn’t the one for you.
Why are you looking to offer training at your company?
This overlaps a bit with the previous question, but what is the compelling event that has you looking at training in the first place. Did your company lose a job because of skill gap it has recently, and a principal is asking you to fill those gaps? Are employees growing frustrated because they don’t know the best way to use the software? Is the lack of training causing employee retention issues?
The list of reasons companies offer training to their employees is endless, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is neglecting to align your training program with those reasons. Failing to do so will result in tension between your training program and the goals of your company.
A Reality Check on Autodesk Software Training
Speak to almost any in-person or on-demand Autodesk training provider, and you’ll likely hear a remarkably similar story. The provider will likely talk about how the training they offer is better than the training another provider offers. In my opinion, better is a relative term here and is among the key reasons you need to know why you’re training and what you hope to achieve BEFORE talking to a training provider.
The inconvenient truth of Autodesk software training is that what most providers call Fundamentals, Essentials, or Complete Guide is all pretty much the same from a content perspective. There’s a good reason for this. First is Autodesk’s Autodesk Authorized Training Center/Provider program, and the second is Autodesk’s Certification program. Fundamentally, both are standardization constructs that reputable training providers craft their Autodesk software training classes around.
This standardization is a good thing, as it insures if you leverage a reputable provider of Autodesk software training, you’re going to receive a well-crafted class that’s going to cover the topics proficient users of that software need to know. The other side of that is because Autodesk has defined what makes an AutoCAD training class through things like Autodesk Certification Objectives, an AutoCAD class from two training providers will be more alike than they are different.
Choosing an Autodesk Software Training Provider
If the training content offered from reputable Autodesk training providers is more-or-less the same, how do you pick the provider that’s best for your organization? In a sentence, you find the provider whose product best aligns with your training objectives.
While the basic topics covered by courses from providers like LinkedIn Learning, CADLearning, Pinnacle, and Global eTraining are all very similar, what varies is how each delivers its content to learners. Which of these is best is not a matter of opinion, but your organization's training objectives. Since the objectives my company defines for training varies from the objectives your company defines, we are likely to consider different providers as best.
Again, this is why I can’t emphasize the importance of knowing why you’re training and what you expect to achieve with training before starting a conversation with any training provider. Doing just a little bit of upfront planning will go a long way not only in making your conversations with training providers more effective, but it will also help you better quantify which one is best for you.
Building Your Own Solution
While there are many advantages of choosing an off-the-shelf training solution, there are times where building your own solution might be more advantageous. The primary benefit of building your own solution is the final product will align specifically to your organization’s training needs. While custom solutions have the advantage of best aligning with an organization’s needs, the other side is they require the most work to build and implement.
Despite requiring the most work to build and implement, building your own LMS could be the best choice for firms looking to provide training that’s highly contextualized to their organization. Such a need stands in contrast to organizations whose primary training need is for fundamentals/essentials-level training. The bottom line is a training company is often able to provide baseline training more economically than your firm can reinvent the wheel. By contrast, it would be exceedingly difficult for a training company to acquire the institutional knowledge of your company to create and produce content that’s highly contextualized to your organization.
The function of training means different things to different people. Chances are that your vision for training in your organization contrasts with the vision others in your organization have for training. I believe this contrast in opinions is valuable during the planning phase but is detrimental any later than that.
Use the planning process to evaluate contrasting ideas for training in your organization and build your training objectives around what you collaboratively find are the best ideas. With stakeholders on the same page, you can be sure everyone is evaluating each LMS you consider based on the same basic metrics, not each person’s own agenda. This alignment is what will pave the way for a successful implementation later down the road.