On an almost weekly basis, I see someone asking what the best way to learn SolidWorks is. The thing is, there’s no blanket answer. There are those who swear by VAR training. Others swear at VAR training and opt for online training. Still others go through the tutorials, then learn as they go along. There are also the ones who learn in a formal classroom with an instructor.
What’s best for you depends on you, your needs and your learning style. [...Read More...]

Learning SolidWorks

Posted on May 1st, 2009. Posted In SolidWorks Community

I received an email today from someone wanting to know what I thought was the best SolidWorks training for your dollar; VAR training or something like SolidProfessor? He wanted to know, too, how I learned SolidWorks. I explained to him that I learned, in the beginning, through trial and error. Not a way I’d recommend.

His question got me to really thinking about what I thought was the best training for your money. When I started using SolidWorks, the company I was working for at the time wouldn’t pony up the money for “real” training. It wasn’t until a number of years later that I went to a VAR for some training. By that time, however, I didn’t get too much out of it. Since then, I’ve had the opportunities to experience a bit more VAR training (both as a student and teacher) as well as trying out myigetit.com and SolidProfessor. Here’s my take on things:

VAR training: It can be intense, especially for newbies. You’re in a room with a bunch of other users, all with varying abilities. The class has to move along at a certain pace so that all the material can be covered within the allotted time. For some it can be too slow, for others it can be (way) too fast. Prices can range from around $400 for a 1-2 day class to upwards of $1500 for a 4 day class.

Upside: You do have a live person to be able to ask questions of, which is nice. You also have your fellow students to lean on should you get stuck. You get to keep the manual and you get a certificate suitable for framing.

Downside: Being stuck in a training room for hours on end, trying to absorb a ton of info can be extremely trying. Brain overload isn’t uncommon. There were a few classes I taught where the students would come in Monday all jazzed to learn but by Thursday, were pounding the coffee and looking like they’d partied all night long. Once the class is over, you have a certificate and your manual, but no visual on how, exactly, the instructor created that widget in chapter 4.

Online/Video training: SolidProfessor and myigetit are the two most well known. Another up and comer that I’ve heard of is Inspirtech. I’ve tried out both SolidProfessor and myigetit, and liked them both, though it’s been a few years since I’ve seen what myigetit has to offer. SolidProfessor, however, has a rock-solid setup. Their interface is excellent and easy to navigate. (You can search for either on my blog to read my full reviews of them.) I haven’t had the opportunity to use Inspirtech. Prices can range from a low of $50 to about $850 per training package. Total cost depends on what package(s) you choose.

Upside: It’s self-paced. Take your time on stuff you don’t fully get, blaze through what you already know. You also get to keep revisiting your lessons (videos). Courses tend to be broken out a bit more than the VAR-offered courses.

Downside: If you have a question, the video won’t respond. However, there are plenty of online resources (blogs, forums, Twitter) from which to get the answer. There is something to be said for having a live instructor though.

Do-It-Yourself training: I wouldn’t recommend this. Sure, you can go through the tutorials and YouTube videos, but you’re bound to develop some bad habits and practices. At the very least, if you insist on going this route, buy a book or two. “SolidWorks for Dummies” is a real book, though I’m not sure when it was last updated. There’s the training books by the Planchard’s, Matt Lombard’s Bible series and Alex Ruiz’s upcoming book. Devon Sowell has a new PDM Book out, and Rob Rodriguez has his PhotoWorks training manuals. Prices will vary depending on what the DIY’er chooses to do.

My overall recommendation? Online/Video training(No, not YouTube). I think you get a lot more for your money. Which company to go with? That’s up to you. They all should have samples so you can decide for yourselves which format works for you.

My apologies to any VARs reading this. Some of you really rock, some…not so much.

Thanks to Andrew Paulson for prompting this post.

Once again, I’ve stumbled across something that caused me to come to a screeching halt and write a quick post.

Check this out. This, in my opinion, is friggin’ cool:

solidprofessor

Do you see that? SolidProfessor right there in your Task Pane. Don’t know how to create an extruded cut? Type it into the search field and, voila!, you have a video right there to watch. I went digging around on SolidProfessors website, looking for the info regarding this gem. All I found was a little blurb under “Key Features” on this page. It seems to me that this is something that those guys should be shouting from the rooftops. At the very least, it should be displayed more prominently. This is going to make training for surfaces so much easier for me!

Yes, you have to have purchased SolidProfessor. As I’ve said before, though, I think SolidProfessor is worth the money. This nifty feature only underlines that sentiment.

I know, I know, I’m easily amused. I still think this is friggin’ cool though.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (see this post) the fine folks at SolidProfessor hooked me up with their 2009 suite. Where I already know how to use SolidWorks, and I went through their 2008 stuff not too long ago, I decided to approach their 2009 offering a bit differently. I enlisted my 15 year-old son, Nico, to go through the 3D Skills portion. I figured if he could learn the basics of SolidWorks via SolidProfessor’s tutorials, that would speak pretty well for them. I mean, c’mon, we’re talking about a teenager here! It doesn’t take much to distract one. A pretty girl on TV, some (c)rap song playing, innumerable text messages; you get the idea.

I’ve been watching Nico as he’s been going through the lessons and he hasn’t looked up once. He also hasn’t called me over to explain anything. This, in my opinion, says a lot about how well SolidProfessor explains the lessons. He completed the lessons, and not too badly for a first time user of both SolidWorks and SolidProfessor. It wasn’t perfect, but how could you expect it to be? In talking to him about it, there was some terminology that he didn’t fully understand, but was able to figure out what he needed to do. He’s a gamer, not a CAD jockey. Nonetheless, I think he, and SolidProfessor, did a good job. If I can, I’m going to see if he’s willing to give the Core Concepts section a try.

Next up for me, some of the advanced lessons. First one I’m going to tackle is Advanced Surfacing. I don’t have much experience with surfacing, so I’m hoping to learn a lot.

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