Onshape is free, requires no installation, and runs on any computer or mobile device. Thousands of teachers around the world have noticed this and recognized what this means for design and engineering in education. With Onshape, it is now a simple process for students and teachers to get access to professional 3D CAD.

We strive to make teaching Onshape as easy as possible. Here are some of my favorite best practices for using Onshape in the classroom:

1. Set Up Accounts for You and Your Students

Onshape is fully cloud based, meaning you don’t have to install anything – it just runs in your web browser. For this same reason, it works on nearly any device, meaning you can run Onshape on Macs, PCs, even Chromebooks and phones and tablets. To get started, go to our homepage and click “Create Account,” or just click here.

Follow the instructions and then check your inbox for an email from alerts[at]onshape.com. You’ll be told how to set your password (the final step). The whole process should take under two minutes. Now you can go to our homepage and click “Sign In,” which takes you right into Onshape.

If you don’t see the email within a couple of minutes, and it wasn’t sent to your spam folder, please contact us. Sometimes schools have tight email filtering.

To get your students going, just have them repeat the process. It’s that easy. Alternatively, you can use the “Invite Friends” button (once you login) and enter your students’ email addresses separated by commas or spaces.

This will send an email to your students asking them to create an account. Tip: If you have an Excel spreadsheet with all your students’ email addresses, you can just highlight all the cells at once and copy/paste them into the “Invite Friends” dialog.

2. Organize Your Class Into CAD Teams

You will likely want to share Onshape Documents with your students, but it can be painful sharing the same Document with each student one at a time. That’s where Teams come in. By creating an Onshape Team, you can share your Document with your entire class at once. This simplifies permissions and means you don’t have to repeatedly type in the same email addresses. Learn more about teams and how to create them here.

3. Efficiently Assign Work to Your Students

Here’s how a teacher might assign work to students within an Onshape Team.

Let’s take a look at how you should assign work and how students should submit work. Let’s say I am teaching a CAD 101 class and I have prepared a half-finished model of a claw. I’d like each student to finish the model and submit it back to me. Here’s what I would do:

  • Come up with a standard naming convention. This step is very important as I will soon have many Documents in my Document list and if I can’t tell who they belong to, it’s going to be a mess. Something like “CAD 101 – HW1: Claw – Flaherty, Noa” will do.

  • Once it’s ready, click Share and share it with my team of students (in this case, CAD 101). Here I give them view-only privileges so that they cannot alter my original model and in the personal message, I make note of the due date and time.

4. Establish How Students Should Turn In Their Work

How a student should copy the workspace and change the name to his/her own, as well as make the Document public.

To submit their work, students should:

  • Make a copy of the workspace. To make a copy, click the "Document menu" button and then “Copy workspace.” If desired, the student can remove herself from being shared in on the original document to avoid clutter and confusion.

  • Rename the Document to follow the standard naming convention using the student’s own name.

  • Once the assignment is completed, it can be shared with the teacher using the Share button, with view-and-comment access. This allows teachers to leave feedback and comments without changing the student’s work.

The end result is that each student has view-only access to the original half-made model that you shared with them as well as full access to their own copy that they can work on and revise. Once your students turn in their work, you will have view-and-comment access and can identify everyone’s assignments by the names of the Documents.

5. Preventing Plagiarism

You might think that with Documents being so easy to share, students can plagiarize each other’s work. You’d be right – preventing cheating directly isn’t easy. Fortunately, determining if someone has plagiarized another’s work is very simple. Onshape keeps a history of every action and change ever made in a Document, as well as who performed that action and when. To view a Document’s history, click the "Workspace history" button. Whenever a Document is copied, the history is wiped. This means that if a student makes a copy of another student’s work and calls it his own, that history will be empty. This is a quick and easy check if you suspect fraud.

Empty history on the left, edited history on the right showing who made each feature and when.

Another concern might be that your students will try to do additional work (after the due date) on a Document that they’ve already submitted to you. If you suspect this might be an issue, you can require your students to create a version and call it something like “Final Submission.” To do this, they can click the "Manage versions" button, then “Save Version.”

A version tree showing where a student would go to save a version, as well as what that version would look like in the tree.