Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AECMentor: The Next Generation of CAD Training?

What do you get when you take great training material and make it directly available to everyone for an affordable price?  AECMentor.com
Sound like a commercial?  Well it is - kind of.  Bear with me and read on.

A few years ago I worked full time for Engineered Efficiency and during that time helped to develop online training materials for EE customers.  I still maintain close ties to EE and work on EE projects as a consultant, but have not worked directly on the training materials for some time.  Recently Mark Scacco introduced me to what he’s done with EE’s online training offerings since my involvement and I must say that I’m very excited about it.  He has managed to wrap a totally new concept for CAD training around the best content available (in my opinion) and make it affordable for everyone.

What’s new about the concept? 

Two things:

  1. It is available to users directly.  You don’t have to work through a reseller or Autodesk.  You can pull out your credit card and sign up right now if you want.  Why is this such a big deal?  Because it makes training “not such a big deal”.  Typically the mention of CAD training within a firm causes dread in the hearts of everyone.  Big money, long meetings with resellers about training plans, finding a location ,finding time, etc.  Now, if you're sitting at your desk and realize that you need some training, you can sign up and expense it without any fanfare or approval from the Board of Directors.  The cost is totally reasonable, $75 for the first month, and $15/month after that.  I’ll admit, this isn’t a totally new concept but there’s not a ton of it out there and I haven’t seen a better price.
  2. The affiliate program - Anyone can sign up and become an AECMentor partner.  If you check out the site and you believe in what it has to offer, you can receive cash for getting others to sign up.  Why is this such a big deal?  It gives the site great potential, in fact the potential to go viral with more people signing up, leading to more affiliates, leading to revenue growth, leading to bigger and better training, leading to more people signing up, more affiliates, and on and on.  When I saw what the site had to offer, I became an affiliate right away.
What you get
AECMentor.com serves up classes in AutoCAD, Civil 3D, and Revit that range from introductory to advanced.  The $15/month fee gives you access to everything.  

Training is served up as videos, downloadable exercise files, and downloadable course manuals.  Video transcripts are searchable meaning that you can continue to use them after the training as an alternate help system.  

Exams are available to accompany the training materials.  These can be used for self-assessment or to assess your employees to make sure they’re completing the training and retaining it.
Be advised, though, AECMentor is in its infancy.  The content is delivered via an open source LMS called Moodle which can be a little tough to navigate at times.  Also, not all of the content is the most recent 2012 version.  This is offset however by the depth and quality of the material.  For example, I can personally speak to the depth and quality of the advanced Civil 3D classes because I wrote the original 2009 material.  Since then, EE has updated it but all of the content is still there, and even though it is not done in release 2012, 99% of it still applies.

So I'll admit, if you read this, click the AECMentor link, and sign up, I'll get my cut through the affiliate program.  Aside from that, because of what I know about EE and what I know about the content that AECMentor contains, I really think Mark's got something here and I would love to see it grow into something great for all of us.
AECMentor is a great concept that has the potential to liberate all of us from the overpriced reseller training model.  If looked at as a community, the affiliate program is a great way for us to spread the word about something good and make a little cash in the process.  The initial content is there and with some interest and participation, it is a great foundation to build something great upon.  My advice, at least check out the site.  While you’re there, consider where it is and how long it’s been out there, and decide for yourself whether you want to partake of the training, become an affiliate, or both.