CAD has grown to the point of industry-wide standardization in its almost 50-years of development. With this amount of time, perhaps any invention with industrial potential can grow into a discipline, but CAD was a discipline from the very start. Hence, it is no surprise that we have courses, diplomas, degrees and specialization academic courses that target commonly available software packages as well as industrial aspects of the discipline. Either ways, if you're thinking of getting an online education for CADing, read on further for our pick of courses from professionals and giants of the CAD arena.
Free CAD Course Programs
CADTutor has been growing since 1995, having started from CAD handouts for students of AutoCAD R12 for DOS. Since then, everything on the website has been free of charge with added video tutorials. All of the material is downloadable and shareable, with a wide range of topics covered in single article listings. All of the material is chronological/hierarchical meaning if you start with the first tutorial and go through them in order, you won't need anything else to guide you through the whole training session.
Much like CADTutor, MyCADSite has been in existence since 1999. It also offers free content and all of the helping material/notes/resources are coupled with examples and explanation videos. None of the material is charged for, going from setting up AutoCAD to rendering and mastering digital effects, post production. Lastly, it offers quizzes along with downloads to aid the reader in every way possible.
Lynda has around 11,000 hours of tutorial videos for CAD with most of the basic content free of charge. The best thing about Lynda's program is that the instructors tend to follow everything down to the last letter, so in the case you're studying macro development, you can be sure that the instructor is going to (fingers crossed) grind you with code. The advanced video lectures are available for prices varying with the content you choose for yourself.
Paid CAD Course Programs
Autodesk has been around for quite sometime now and when it comes to CAD development it is the ultimate grand-daddy. It has a host of products, hence the training available has a lot of diversity when it comes to content. It's best to first understand what CAD is and what part of CAD would you like to try out before you make the final choice of a career (which basically means committing to a full-time program). Autodesk has the added advantage of industry-wide, unanimity of all key-players in the form of sponsorship, product/service based deals, educational associations and much more. All of this means you can get the most bang for your buck, something not possible with the free listings up top.
Having conceived the Autodesk CAD suite, with AutoCAD as the crown jewel, Autodesk has successfully made it's mark in the professional as well as academic realm. The courses offered vary in length, content as well as the previous level of experience required since the diversity of the disciplinary practices makes a one-size-fits-all technique useless.
Even though the CMU offers CADing programs, the online versions do not earn you extra credit. But instead allow you to pace your own way through a handful of resources focusing on a few facets of CADing. First, is 2D. Then, comes 3D. And following this, the university offers courses meant for animations in 3D Studio Max. Again, focusing on Autodesk products, CMU provides unprecedented insight into CAD developments, on-going research as well as professional practices when CADing.
The institutes knowledge base does not readily segment the disciplines that require CAD, for example architecture, or simulation-based-analysis hence does not offer individual course content or help for such practices or extensions. Instead, the content focuses on key issues, fundamental concepts and areas of interest in terms of the evolving nature of CAD.
Highly accredited by national programs and institutes, this center is perhaps unpopular solely because it focuses on CAD only. With pre-planned training courses, the choice of tailoring your own course, and a healthy supply of industry experts, this is perhaps the best investment that a serious CADer can make for his/her future.
Like it's predecessors, this institute also focuses on Autodesk products but also manages to focus primarily on CADing principles and fundamental basics, both which are essential for you as a CADer, to be able to shift from software package to package when required (although this will only happen when you change jobs or the like).
Choosing a career path can be a daunting task, so choosing an academic path that would end you up able to take up that career choice is just as grand in its impact. Hence, choose wisely before committing. Take a good look at the course contents, talk to alumni or industry experts, especially the ones that deliver talks in workshops and technology fests, since they are either in charge of development (hence they are presenting the material) or are otherwise knowledgeable and meant to offer guidance to people looking for answers and support. Either ways, an online course is not something to be taken lightly so take into account all the factors before saying yes. And as always, happy CADing.