So I have to teach Autodesk AutoCAD to undergrad students (It's a 4 years Honours degree equivalent to a masters and this is their 4th semester). I am concerned about what kind of approach I should have.

Should I show them everything that every tool does, how is it used (which I feel is like spoon feeding) or should I help them explore on their own?

The approach I had adopted in the beginning was to give them small assignments. For example, the first assignment was to find 10 tools in the Draw menu and find out what they are used for.

I feel this way the fear of the software can be minimized. I have shown them my work in the said software from student projects to professional ones. My major concern is at university level should I be explaining to them the tasks by doing them myself in every lecture? (I have tried that before with other students and it made them depend on me more to solve the smallest of issues such as not being able to find out where turn the hidden layer back to being visible again.)

I am also concerned about one of the students thinking that I may not know the software myself (which is very disrespectful because I have already shown them my work and having to prove my credibility is absolutely irreverent) and he keeps on asking ME to show how the tools are used in the class using a projector. The students requested me and the department head to take their course. I also give hints to students if they encounter any problem when using a tool which leads them to a solution rather than giving them a straight answer or solving it for them.

I need advise on how should I handle this matter? At university level should I be teaching the students a software as I would teach at elementary level? Please help. As a teacher it is very important for me that my students trust me.

  • Probably this question is for academia.stackexchange.com
    – Rafael
    Nov 14, 2016 at 2:26
  • 1
    @Rafael academia will most likely consider this offtopic.
    – joojaa
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:14
  • @joojaa: Not exactly off-topic, but it will probably be closed as too broad or depending on individual factors (read: depends on your university / goals). That being said, there are some aspects here that can be turned into good Academia questions – if a goal of the course is established.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 15, 2016 at 8:31
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about software didactics and not about graphic design.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 15, 2016 at 8:32
  • I like the question and the approche of thinking but it is out of topic here. but I can advise you to give the student the way that any software think first and then go through the commands by grouping them (Drawing, Editing ...etc.) and what sanptool you have while executing any command in AutoCAD and then let them draw without giving them any instructions on drawing tools. They will explore the Software easily. I tried it myself and guess what?! with AutoCAD too :)
    – hsawires
    Dec 22, 2016 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


This is a bit off topic, but let us assume the software is not AutoCAD, but any graphic project.

  1. Make it FUN.

  2. Make it practical.

  3. Make it so they can see results.

  4. Make it modular.


I was teaching Excel to my 9 and 14 year old kids... Boring... You know what we did? an animated PacMan using conditional formating... Pixel art + Excel.

enter image description here

Practical + results

AutodCAD is for me one of the most boring programs ever. I have never learned it n_n. But how about making a simple room instead of an auditorium and making 3D previews right away?

How about modeling their own home's bathroom? And now re-model it? And then their dream house using the exact same dimensions as their home? Or having some fun modeling the school itself?


Forget interiors at first, forget electrical instalations. Just a fast and quick solid modules representing the school. Another day you could do windows, etc. Progressive enhancing?

The point is: No one wants to know a tool if you do not know what it is for. It is better to set objetives, and learn one basic tool to achive that. The second step is to know other ways to solve the same problem, and the third step is optimizing thoose tools and processes.

  • Thank you so much. I did have a plan of asking them to draw their own room or house. Setting objectives for one tool is a good idea.
    – Sara Rubab
    Nov 14, 2016 at 13:14

Im going to answer this even tough its wildly off topic on this site.

You are not teaching them AutoCAD!

Simply put, you are teaching them something that you do with AutoCAD, not AutoCAD itself. So you are teaching how to do drafting, floor plans, layout, die cuts etc. At bare minimum you are teaching to solve geometric problems.

Start by figuring out what the students really are studying is architecture, civil engineering, furniture design, mechanical design etc. Then teach them tasks related to that. Also teach them to read drawings and annotations, understanding a floor plan for example is not self evident (try it, go ask what a complete floor plan is to say the biology department and you will soon see how incomprehensible it can be).

One can not effectively figure it out

Making drawings in AutoCAD is about precision. This precision is attained by one of three methods:

  • Numeric input from a keyboard
  • Snapping
  • Parametric tools

These are all non obvious things that have to be taught first, from scratch to ensure everybody is on the same page. You can not just say here is the line tool. Oh no, the humble line tool has quite literally a million uses, some obvious ones, some not so obvious. So you could easily teach them just the line tool for one semester if you wanted to.

Teach them to think

You are teaching them to think geometrically so invariably you have to do geometry. Spoon feeding how to do a thing actually teaches them the thing in some way. See we humans have special brain cells dedicated to the task of learning by doing, this works especially well for visual things. But there are more utilitarian reasons for this. See you can never teach them complexity if they do not encounter complexity. So for example they can not understand layers until they have used something where layers become useful.

After they have sufficient number of examples done then let them solve problems. This teaches them that going from problem to drawing is not entirely trivial and puts them into a mindset of thinking why they did what they did in the first exercises.

Then let them do a fully autonomous final work that is supposed to be challenging and maybe fun (don't worry university students are weird, whatever you can think of as fun will not be fun for somebody), that requires them to spend a longer time on one project than they have spent before. So that they get to practically understand that complexity grows out of simple actions and need to be handled at some point.

Don't expect much

In essence its better to teach them less than you think is necessary, but well, than go to the essence of everything. I mean I have encountered people who use AutoCAD daily, and have for the past 20 years, that have never progressed beyond the two first lessons I had in AutoCAD. So make those lessons count, and repeat the understanding. You can do incredible feats with just knowing the line and circle tools and a basic annotation tool.

  • Thank you so much. "Simply put, you are teaching them something that you do with AutoCAD, not AutoCAD itself." This answered my questions. I have been trying to make the students understand that. Unless they themselves use the software they cannot become better at it. I can show them by doing it myself but I cannot take their hand and make them use it. It is very difficult to convince them on this point. I have asked them to use the basic line and circle tool to draw a pattern I gave them as an assignment because these are the students of BS Graphic Design.
    – Sara Rubab
    Nov 14, 2016 at 13:13
  • @SaraRubab you should most probably write down the spoon fed exercises on paper so that they can follow things in their own pace. So just say that the task XXX will be marked complete when you have done the exercise, not before. Then your job is to answer questions they have about the exercises at hand. Keep adding freedoms into the exercises the further you go.
    – joojaa
    Nov 14, 2016 at 13:25

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