Lately, there has been quite a gold rush for online training providers. It’s not even just for jewellery CAD. Just about every subject you can imagine, including some subjects you never would have expected to see, now boasts at least one online training course.
Since I started this blog, I’ve tried to keep up with major trends in jewellery as they appear. But because of my own conflict of interest as a jewellery CAD trainer (as well as the need to gather more information), the rise of online training has been one trend I’ve been intentionally avoiding discussing here…
Experiment 1 – Online Delivery
Several years ago, I went on a long business trip through several cities in the American Jewellery market in an effort to liaise with my business contacts and expand my client base. However, even as I travelled I my academy still needed me to deliver regular training sessions back in London at the time. As Star Trek’s transporter technology had not yet become practical for people of my salary, I was forced to rely on online training solutions to deliver remote training for students.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was beginning a comparative experiment in training delivery methods. In the end, I would discover the answer to the question: “In practice, what are the differences in delivery between online and offline training?”
The year before, I had trained just over 50 students in face-to-face private CAD masterclasses in my classroom in London. That year during my travels, I trained another 50 students remotely using Skype’s video and screen sharing technologies.
Experiment 2 – Video Tutorials
After I returned to the UK, I ran into a problem with some of my in-person short courses. If students missed a single day of a 14-day course, they would miss 7% of the course. In a 4-day course, they would miss 25%. If students had learning difficulties or personal problems, they would miss nearly as much even during lessons they attended. Dealing with this problem is something higher education professionals refer to as “differentiation”. In brief: since every student learns differently, and at a different pace, you must deliver your training using as many different media as possible. In order to ensure these students had a fighting chance of completing the course, I started drastically building up the quality of all my support materials. My notes grew from 25 pages into 110+ pages, and I created a set of video tutorials to supplement the courses.
Later on, as I received my first students who missed entire months of class, I found my improved learning materials and online delivery being put to the test on students who were missing most of the class, and only showing up for the beginning and end of the course. (I later learned this matched the GIA distance learning model, coincidentally.)
Experiment 3 – My Own Sampling
It was clear I was experiencing the new world of learning I kept reading about in technology trends articles. So I could understand better, I decided to go back to school. I attended three different types of course: online in-person training, distance learning courses (where we corresponded online through apps like Canvas and Adobe Connect), and a course entirely consisting of online video training with minimal tutor interaction in streaming sessions and social media.
In all three cases, I tried both small and large courses in subjects relating to my expertise. If you like, send me a message and I can provide for you a specific list of the courses I tried.
The Comparative Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Course Delivery Method
The unique characteristics I found for each of the course types were evident almost immediately, but the more time I spent with them the clearer these characteristics became.
I’ll discuss each of the course options from least to most expensive:
Online Video Tutorials
It seems every week now we see new companies looking to sell online video tutorials (and even a growing number of services offering to help companies set up and sell video tutorials). At first glance, video tutorials provide a clear advantage of being able to take the course on your time. The problem, however, comes from the fact it’s far too easy to let the rest of your own life get in the way. While I can imagine if you were isolated and determined enough you could find such a video tutorial course to be quite useful. However, in practice I do wonder exactly how many students ever manage to finish any of these online courses. In my case, while I like to think of myself as a fast learner and well-versed in my chosen subjects of study, I’ve never actually managed to completely finish any video course in which I enroled.
Another problem with these courses comes from the lack of instruction. Not everyone learns the same way. When you choose to learn from online video tutorials, you’re assuming you can understand how the tutor thinks and communicates without any further explanation. This means if you miss one detail in the pre-recorded instructions, you can spend hours or longer trying to figure out what you did wrong. For those tutorials which come with support from a real person, this problem goes away, but you will still have to wait for their attention.
Online Training – Short Courses and Bespoke Online Training
Virtual training addressed many of the problems with online video courses. You’d benefit from the expertise of an instructor, and have the chance to get your questions answered in real time. A living person would be checking your work, and providing invaluable tailored feedback.
However, from what I could see, three major problems arose with these types of courses. First, time was always a problem. Since instructors and students were often far away, it was not uncommon to be forced into a very odd time schedule for the classes (such as late at night or early morning).
Second, you were always aware of the limitations of computer software and hardware. Between the limitations of your own internet connection and the tutor’s connection, it was inevitable there would be bottlenecks. The more people in the class, the more you’d struggle to get video working or to sometimes even hear or use audio. All of this slows down communication, and also increases how quickly you can become fatigued in a training session.
Third, the classes always felt impersonal. Even with one to one classes, the ability to build rapport between tutor and student was always limited. I recall even after multiple online sessions, I never had the same good will I could build with a student from an in-person class, even if we only did one or two days.
Face to Face Training – Short Courses and Bespoke Training
Which brings me to face to face training. I’ve broken this into two sections – Short Courses, and Bespoke One-To-One Training.
Considering how much of my career revolves around working with online technology, I find it interesting how no virtual communication in the world can replace the efficiency of face to face interaction. The difference in training speed can be quite extreme as well. I’ve quite often found that a concept which might take a week of watching training videos to learn could be covered in a day of face to face teaching, or half a day of bespoke training. (Yes, it’s true. After delivering hundreds of one to one bespoke training sessions to students over the past 13 years, I’ve found students learn literally twice as fast in one to one training as they would in group courses. In some cases, when there are certain obstacles to learning such as learning difficulties or lack of confidence in computer skills, the difference can be even greater.)
Now I do understand why so many people won’t find face to face training a good option. Offline training frequently costs more than video or virtual learning. Students also need to travel to wherever the course is being held, which can prove prohibitive if the student starts out in a different country from where the training is held. If they picked a course scheduled over a series of weeks or longer, then visiting from overseas is outright untenable for anyone except the most dedicated who come to live in a country for a time.
Conclusion – Which Style of Training is Right for You?
Based on my own experiences with all the different training methods (both as tutor and student), as well as the feedback from my own students over the years, I can confidently say the efficiency of one to one bespoke training is unmatched by anything other training method.
You will learn more material, faster, and with greater retention through one to one in person training than you will by any other method. Bespoke online training is the next best thing, but you will inevitably be limited by myriad technical issues, time zone differences, and sheer exhaustion from interacting with another human via computer screen for too long.
I am aware, of course, that everyone’s circumstances are different. Each of us must balance the cost and time commitment of each option versus how quickly we need to gain this knowledge.
Having said that, with regards to finding training for myself, I have discovered through this experiment that limited amounts of time remains my single biggest problem, especially where I am keen to start using this knowledge to move onto other things in my career. Bearing that in mind, the efficiency of face to face training will always be worth the additional cost. Conversely, when you see a course is available online for cheaper, consider the time investment in with the monetary cost. Adding all the additional time to wade through recorded videos, is it really that much of a time savings in the end?
In the name of good sportsmanship, I’ve provided a list of some jewellery specific online training resources here. Explore them as you like. All of these are paid tutorials, and so guarantee a minimum standard of quality a bit better than your average public YouTube tutorial.
Having said that, I haven’t checked every tutorial on all these sites, so I cannot vouch for the overall value for money of any of these.
Paid Video Tutorials
These only offer a selection of training videos for your money, along with perhaps a few downloadable handouts.
- 3Design Training Lounge
- Gemvision’s Online Training (for MatrixGold, Matrix, Countersketch, Clayoo, and RhinoGold)
- CAD Wax Online Tutorials
- CAD Jewellery School – RhinoGold Tutorials
- Goldsmith CAD/CAM Online Tutorials
- PJ Chen Design’s Rhino Video Tutorials
Online CAD Training Courses, and Face to Face Training and Masterclasses
For these two areas, I cannot pretend to not have a conflict of interest. Therefore, I offer my own jewellery CAD training services for your consideration. I offer regular online and offline short courses for all different types of jewellery CAD, as well as online and offline bespoke masterclasses.
If there is something specific you’re looking to learn, you can contact me directly.