Friday, March 23, 2012

Special Interest Groups for Focused Vectorworks Training

A few months ago, archoncad changed the structure for the subscription meetings to have workshop meetings one week, with special-interest group meetings the following week.

Each month, we have a series of workshop meetings. These meetings follow the structure of the PDF manual closely, but still allow time for Q&A based on the workshop topic. These are working extremely well, allowing users to question topics from the workshop (following along the PDF manual) or ask questions when more clarification is required.  the PDF manual has links to movies. This allows the user to read the manual, click on the link and watch a movie that covers that part of the manual.

Unlike the workshop meetings, the special-interest group meetings do not have a PDF manual, therefore we not limited to the topic. This allows users to choose the topic for the meeting, allowing them to focus on the most important areas of Vectorworks that they need to resolve. Users are responding well to these special interest groups. They are enjoying the ability to ask questions on a range of topics, but focused on their industry group.  These sessions are recorded, allowing users that were unable to attend to still learn from the sessions. After each special interest group session, I get several users sending me e-mails or messages, telling me how much they got out of the session, such as this email.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is the Value of Free Information?

I was reading a blog recently about the value of free things. I thought this was an interesting blog because the questions the concept of free and whether we should give away free information.

A few years ago, I used to give away a lot of information on my free blog. In fact,I used to provide about 10% of the paid manual for free.  When the manuals were 10 or 15 pages long,this ended up with a blog about a page long.  When the manuals were much longer, say, 40 or 50 pages long, this ended up with a blog four or five pages long.  I am sure they felt that I was giving away all the information that I had.  In reality, I was only giving away about 5 or 10%. So the question was, " how much do the readers value this free information?"

If you are disappointed with the amount of free information I give away, I understand.  However, the information I have is valuable.  Since that information has a value, I feel justified in giving away a very small amount for free, but allowing users to subscribe to a service that has all the information for a small charge.

My feeling, is that if you pay nothing for  information, it is probably worth what you paid for. I often give information freely on the Vectorworks tech board and on the Vectorworks e-mail list. Recently, a user posted a question on the Vectorworks e-mail list. Only part of the information was given. The user then complained that the free information he received back was somehow substandard. Had the user posted the complete and full information we needed, I certainly could have given a better answer. However, what surprised me, was that the user complained that the free information should have been better. This has caused me to rethink my contributions to these areas.

There is a theory that says information should be freely given to anyone who needs it. The challenge I see with this, is that it does take me time to give that information to another person, and also took me time to learn that information. That means this information was not acquired freely, so why should it be given freely?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Introduction to 3D Modeling in Vectorworks 2012 [Kindle Edition]

I have just completed my new Kindle book: 027-2012 Introduction to 3D Modeling (Short Sharp Manuals) [Kindle Edition]. This Kindle ebook is based on the Vector-workout Subscription manual for February 2012. 

In Vectorworks you can use different ways to create 3D work, but for all of them there are basic principles that you have to understand. Working planes are the basis to start a 3D object, whilst extrusions are the primary tool to create a 3D object. Once you understand this it all gets much easier.

You can find more information about this ebook at the Kindle Store.

Repetition is Important When Learning Vectorworks

Prior to running my Vectorworks courses online, I used to run them in a classroom. At the time it seemed like the best thing that I could do. I was aware at the time that repetition was important, and the way the courses were structured, it allowed time for the attendees to practice, while I would circulate the room, helping any users that were struggling.

For a long time this worked well. I did notice though, that after a few days of training, the users could follow instructions, but the instructions were not sinking in. The users could not remember the instructions they had been give ten minutes ago. One user said to me that he was suffering from "brain-fade".

I know that the human attention span is 60-90 minutes. After this, it is hard to keep concentrating. So, stopping my lessons for a break every 90 minutes would be the answer, but the feed back from the users was that they want to learn, and they do not want too many breaks in the day.

When I was able to use online training with GoToMeeting, it gave me the change to completely I change my training system. I was able to shorten the lessons to 60-90 minutes, and I was able to get users to practice at least once a day. This has had a huge impact to the success of the course. I am now finding that when users have completed the course, they are able to retain more information, and understand more about the concepts in the course.

I have recently started reading a book called Smart Thinking: How to Think Big, Innovate and Outperform Your Rivals [Kindle Edition] by Art Markman. This is a great book and it sets out how the brain works and how we learn. And, repetition is vital to learning. It turns out that the brain likes to work on auto-pilot as much as possible. For example, if you learn the keyboard shortcut for the Selection tool (x) then every time you need it, you can hit the x key without thinking about it. This will make it easier to use Vectorworks, and it makes it easier on your brain, because it doesn't have to think too much. Repeating exercises allows the brain to remember the instructions and understand them.

It appears from reading this book, that the online structure for the course has a big advantage. Each session is short, just 60 mins. The user then has at least two days before the next session, allowing time for repetition. The user can put in as much effort as they want, and every time they repeat the lesson, they get better at it. This allows the user to build their skill incrementally, building each session on the foundations of the last one.

Upskill yourself, join a course now.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Happy Vectorworks User says "Wow!" About Subscription...

All of my subscribers are happy with the Vector-workout Subscription service. It is the best way to get productive with Vectorworks, but this email arrived the other day from a subscriber who wanted others to know how valuable the service is. This is an unsolicited recommendation...


Just a note to follow up on my last post regarding ideas for the subscription groups and the Landmark Special Interest Group.  I’m not including any additional topics exactly, but I wanted to add a few points:

1.       I think the online subscription group works very well for a lot of Vectorworks users at all levels of experience and expertise, but especially in my case where I’m switching from hand drafting and had very little real-world CAD experience.  I think a multi-pronged approach to learning is critical, but I wish I had included the subscription service right away, since I would be much further along now.  Here’s the thing:  There’s a huge amount of information to sort through just to get started.  Prioritizing what to focus on, then working with the program enough to start learning even a fraction of its full potential is a daunting task.    I did work through the Getting Started guide for Landmark 2010 and followed that up with your Landmark Manual which was a good start and did point me in the right direction.  I also attended the various official Vectorworks webinars as I could which were also helpful.  But for me your subscription service has proven critical on an entirely different level.  Here are some things I’ve appreciated:

  • You emphasize Workflow and Productivity in your live sessions, and this overall philosophy is reflected consistently across all your training materials.   This is nearly impossible to convey in a help menu.
  • On a similar theme, you share learning tools  that help organize Vectorworks concepts and put them into perspective.  For example, your 3 rules for managing classes to control visibility, graphic style or to schedule information; your 4 rules for layers;  or your analogy of a group as a container object.  I think you should collect these together and have Vectorworks publish them as an expansion of the “cheat sheet” they already provide on keyboard shortcuts. 
  • The sessions are truly interactive, giving the group members a chance to ask questions and clarify things in real time as your presenting them. 
  • It’s usually equally as valuable to me when someone else in the group asks a question, because It’s usually one I also need answered, or more likely, one I never thought to ask. 
  • You clearly work hard to stay current in the latest Vectorworks Program features, but still have the depth to answer questions from someone in an older version.
  • The session times and dates are very accommodating for my schedule (which works better late at night)
  • You record the sessions and make them available for download, complete with supporting material.
  • And perhaps for me the most important thing; the regular schedule of 2 different sessions per month was vital to keep me actively using the program even during the busy summer months when I abandoned the Computer for hand drawing.

2.       This is a bit redundant, but I purchased Vectorworks Landmark in the fall of 2010, and even that first winter when I would have had time to focus on learning the program, I never truly engaged or committed enough time to bring my skills up to a useful level, so that following spring and summer, I resorted to hand drafting for most of my work.  That was clearly a lack of discipline (and planning) on my part, but for some reason, the subscription group turned all that around.

3.       Now that I’ve had a little experience with actually creating drawings, I noticed I’m no longer turning to the drafting table for new projects.  That’s a very big change for me.  As you recommended in one of your blog posts, I have created a set of goals for my Vectorworks learning, so I thought I’d share them with you, as added incentive to get to work on them.  They are in two categories; setting up systems, and ongoing learning goals.  I have downloaded and saved most of your previous SST manuals, and I know they contain the information I need to reach most of these goals.

In case I didn’t say it directly, above, thanks for all your help and advice!    

John M.

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