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So you’ve convinced your boss to let you go to Autodesk University and you’ve registered for the event. You’ve got your hotel set, booked your flights, and are probably feeling pretty good about yourself. Unfortunately, now comes the hardest, most stressful part of the AU “experience”…picking your classes!

I despise picking classes. I actually get a sick feeling in my stomach. 650 classes to choose from, seriously AU? How do I know I’ve picked the right class? What am I missing out on? Should I do a lab, a class, or a round table? Should I sign up for Fusion 360 CAM (PD17417) or Ask Inventor Developers (PD19537-R) as they are both at 4:45 Tuesday afternoon? Oh the dilemmas!

This is going to be my sixth Autodesk University and I’m here to share my process on how I pick classes. After all these years, it’s still a nerve racking experience, but at least I no longer feel like I’m going to throw up!

Pick a theme

Before I even start wading through the classes, I pick a theme or 2. The theme is the area I want to focus my week on. I try to pick a theme that will help me and the company I work for immediately, and 1 that is more future-looking. I always want something that I know we will be moving into or something that I want to learn more about to determine if we should move into.

For example, my first AU was all about data management. I wanted us to get bigger, stronger, and more efficient with Vault. The next year was all about PLM, with a side of data management. We weren’t using PLM (yet), so I wanted to learn as much as possible to see if it was a fit, talk to others using it, and get tips on implementation.

So before you start picking classes, take a step back and think about your company. Where are you now? What do you need to get better at, and what do you think you will need to get better at in the future? Also, don’t forget about your own personal growth, it can’t be all about your company.

Filter by topic


Now, with the themes in mind I start with the Course Catalog. First step…filter by the day. It feels way less overwhelming seeing just the classes for 1 specific day.

I don’t like limiting my learning to a particular product. In this day and age of product suites, industry collections, 360 services, and term software rentals, I don’t want to be blind to any products and services that might bring big benefit to myself and my organization.

So instead of the Products filter I use the Topics filter, as this gets me into the area of learning where I want to be. Take Civil Feature Workflows as an example—for me it doesn’t fit into my wheelhouse nor does it benefit my company, so it’s off the list.

I will do this twice, once with the topics I deem as primary and then again with the fringe topics. For us, as a large mining equipment manufacturer, Structural Engineering doesn’t provide a direct benefit, but may offer a refreshing take or approach on problems we encounter all the time. Again, I don’t want to be blind or limit myself to just the industry where I spend most of my time.



Another great feature is the Tracks view. Tracks are a group of classes put together towards 1 common goal. Last year I attended classes for the Simulation track, which started with the basics and moved towards more advanced topics—great use of your time if your “theme” melds with the track topic.

Now with the topics (or tracks) selected, I start at the top and as I scroll down, I pick the classes I find interesting or that meet my theme for the year. After picking a class for the time slot, I add all other classes in that time slot as favorites.



I also use a suggestion from Carl Bass’s keynote a few years back: I always pick 1 class completely outside my “norm.” For example, 2 years ago I took a class on photorealistic rendering with 3ds Max, focused on architectural…and it was phenomenal!

Review your schedule

With your classes picked, switch over to your schedule (calendar). Look for openings in your schedule and click on that spot to load a list of classes specifically for that time slot. (Big shout out to Kate M. for pointing out this feature!) I am not one for down time, I want a full schedule to get the biggest bang for the buck.



With your schedule full, show your favorites.


I like to get the favorites down to 1 or 2 for each time slot. So why do I keep favorites? I want to have alternatives so in case a class is cancelled or doesn’t meet my expectations, I know which class I’m going to skip over to. I also always want an alternative in case I change my mind some time before the event.


A couple weeks later, after the dust has settled and I’ve let my selections sink in, I go through the process again. This is a gut-check to make sure the classes I’ve picked make sense and were not selected in the heat of the moment. I do the same thing a week before, to both verify and confirm my schedule.

In review

This is obviously my own process, but it works very well for me. After 6 years using it, I don’t feel overwhelmed by the unbelievable number of classes available at AU. It’s still very nerve-racking for me, but at least it’s manageable.

I’d love to hear your process, so track me down on Twitter (@aurbis) or at AU this year. A final suggestion—you can always start your class selection with “The Interoperable Inventor” (PD19377), Thursday, November 17, at 1:00 p.m., and then schedule the rest around it. 😉



This post was written by AU Advisory Council member Mike Thomas. As the technical services manager at Prairie Machine & Parts Mfg, Mike oversees technical operations and growth, plus support for both software and hardware. Learn more about the AU Advisory Council and what they do.

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