This weeks Focus posting is not going to be very technical. In fact, it is a bit of an editorial.
Over the past five years or so we have seen a lot of companies who use ANSYS, Inc products move away from traditional face-to-face training with instructors in a classroom. There are a lot of reasons for this. The two most common are that 1) the company does not have a travel budget and 2) that training labor hours are considered overhead and managers all have very strict overhead restrictions. On top of these two, many companies are just plain trying to save money on the cost of training or limiting their overall training budgets.
What we have seen is a larger number of users either trying to train themselves from manuals or downloaded training material, or people trying to do web-based training. One can certainly learn how to use an FEA or CFD tool this way, but through our tech support we are starting to see the negative side of this shift: users only understand some of the aspects of the tools and do not have a depth of knowledge that goes beyond the basics. So when they run into a problem that requires a move beyond those basics, or that might require a more nuanced approach, they struggle or they call tech support for on-the-spot training.
Even though we engineers are not the most social sub-species of humans, we can still heavily benefit from face-to-face interaction during training. When PADT teaches a training class we find that a small portion of the time is spent lecturing on and doing workshops for the basics. Most of the time is spent answering questions that occur to students while they take these basics in. Some are industry or user specific, some delve deeper into the tool than the training material does. But they all provide an education to the whole class that never occurs otherwise.
We have taught, and been students in, web based training classes. The interaction is just not the same. There are not as many questions and the instructor is not able to use body language clues to see if the class is really getting what they are saying. In fact, we feel this is the biggest issue. When you are on the phone and sharing a screen you can not even tell if the students are listening. So the instructor pushes on, the students drift further away, and the true benefits of the class are lost.
Make a Case for Classroom Training
The point of all of this is that we feel users out there need to make a case for real classroom training. When your boss says that there is no travel budget, not enough overhead allocation, or just not enough money, argue strongly that the cost differences of online or self training are not that significant when compared to the productivity problem of not having deep, interactive training. If you are a boss, admit it, you know we are right. You should fight a bit harder for the budget because in the long run you will save money.
Another way to look at it is the relative cost of classroom training versus how much you will use the ANSYS tools you are trained on. Even if we assume that the company you work for kind of sucks and most engineers move out of there in five years, one to three week of training is nothing when compared to five years as a user. If your productivity is just 5% higher during that time, the savings are significant.
Do the full classroom training. You will not regret it.
As a full disclosure:
We are partly motivated to express this opinion by the fact that we make money doing such training classes, but in reality very few of you reading this will do training with us (although you could use us if you wanted to… hint, hint). Most of you do your training through other Channel Partners or ANSYS, Inc. So this posting is not entirely self serving.
About the pictures:
I find the stock photographs of what are basically models so contrived and stereotypical that they are hilarious. So I grabbed few of my favorites to share. I love it when they always have someone crossing their arms, looking thoughtful.