Think3's thinkcare Web site (<a href=http://care.think3.com) has six sections with different types of training. The site can be switched to languages that include French, Spanish, Italian, German, Indian, and Japanese." width="300" height="209">
Think3's thinkcare Web site (http://care.think3.com) has six sections with different types of training. The site can be switched to languages that include French, Spanish, Italian, German, Indian, and Japanese.
 
The Design Techniques section provides several lessons on using the workplane most effectively.
The Design Techniques section provides several lessons on using the workplane most effectively.
 
The MyTraining: All Contents section lists all lessons with difficulty levels and approximates time to complete. To track your training progress, pick on the lesson's done tab when finished.
The MyTraining: All Contents section lists all lessons with difficulty levels and approximates time to complete. To track your training progress, pick on the "lesson's done" tab when finished.
 
A section on Booleans shows how to create threads in thinkdesign even though there are no thread functions in the program.
A section on Booleans shows how to create threads in thinkdesign even though there are no thread functions in the program.

The expensive stuff -- formal, out-of-town classes -- probably go only to a few people. So what about the rest of the staff?

The answer comes from the Web site of think3 Inc., a developer of engineering and product-data-management software. The MyTraining section is specific to think3 software, but the online teaching format makes good sense because users need not resort to a static, possibly out-of-date manual when they encounter difficulties.

The site holds a range of instructions including simple text files, e-seminars, and more-complex lessons that involve interactive modules. The text files, mostly how-to instructions with diagrams, are easy to read and comprehend, a refreshing change from the stiff and stilted wording common to user manuals. Some might argue you could get the same from a book, but the online lessons are full of hypertext with links to where student interest takes them.

E-seminars are instructor-led sessions for which students must sign up. But these have the most potential because students can guide the lesson right to their problems. Students can download the interactive modules and work through them at their own pace in their copy of thinkdesign, the developer's design software.

Users access online classes at http://care.think3.com, where they find topics under categories for Design Techniques, Using Legacy Data, The Thinkdesign Approach, Hardware and OS, and Learning thinkdesign. Each of these is further subdivided. For instance, Design Techniques includes a discussion on the workplane under about nine subheadings. They are short lessons that take 15 to 20 min to work through.

The section on Boolean operation includes about 13 lessons. Each includes a general how-to section and a few specific examples. For instance, although there is no helical-thread generator in the software, there are methods to generate such threads, and the website outlines them.

On the MyTraining: All Content screen, the company rates the content from essential, important, advanced, to custom. There are 70 lessons on the MyTraining Industrial page alone, and they take from 15 min to an hour to complete. The company says there are over 200 lessons in all and more go online with each release. Furthermore, e-seminars can be customized for unusual company tasks, such as designing wheel wells for vehicles. An engineering manager could also pick the lessons he wants his group to complete, place them on a separate site, and monitor their progress.

MyTraining Web site comes from think3, Cincinnati, Ohio.