What are the best Design and CAD Software Used In Schools And Why 2021?

The advent of technology has inevitably branched out a plethora of career pathways for the oncoming generations to tread on. The integration of modern technology in the school curriculum as an essential subject thus becomes very crucial. Not only does this design knowledge help in proliferating the career prospects of the students, but it also provides them with a holistic understanding of software application design and development. Despite recognizing the underlying significance of CAD software in the Key Stage 2 curriculum at schools, it is still not being employed as effective teaching material to its full potential at various institutions owing to a lack of initiatives. Educators and students should start tapping into the benefits of using the best design software in schools.

Steps to incorporate CAD software into curricula

  • Deciding the ideal design and CAD software for schools

Plenty of design software is available to ensure imparting and implementing this design knowledge. When it comes to picking up the ideal software, it is natural to have doubts about finding what best suits the students’ needs as your design becomes the face value of your project. Furthermore, with the range of free and paid design software available, it might become difficult to decipher the best software for schools.

However, the pros and cons of each software, when weighed against another over multiple facets, tell us the best design software commonly used at different levels of designing. These factors are usually relevant and depend upon the subject’s needs.

Therefore, the best teaching tools must be employed for optimum lesson planning to occur.

  • Bringing CAD software to schools

Incorporating CAD software into school curricula is a step-by-step process. Once a school identifies the ideal software that aligns with its requirements, educators have to familiarise themselves with the software and the tools in it. Schools can organize workshops and training sessions for teachers who are not familiar with design software and the benefits of incorporating design software into curricula. Once the teaching staff is familiarised with the software, they could slowly start incorporating these into theory lessons to make their students familiar with the software. Once the students have familiarised themselves with the software, theoretically, they can be given practical training to use the software.

Commonly used designing software at schools

We have got you covered at this front. If you are looking for the ideal software to use in your school or as a beginner designing student, we have here listed the best software commonly used in schools and other educational institutions. 

  • AutoCAD

AutoCAD by Autodesk is among the most popular CAD software used in schools. Autodesk is considered to be the global leader in 3D design in engineering and entertainment. AutoCAD features tools and functions that professionals in the field use to create precise 2D and 3D drawings. The software features toolsets for applications in various fields. There are dedicated toolsets for mechanical designs, electrical designs, Map designs, and several other fields. Users can draft, annotate and design 2D geometry and 3D models with solids, surfaces, and mesh objects.


  •  Dedicated toolsets for application in multiple fields.
  •  Seamless connection between the PC version, Mac version mobile apps, and the web app.
  • Used by professionals
  • Students and educators can get free access to Autodesk products. This can be renewed annually as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.


  • Steep learning curve
  • Complex tools
  • Computers with high processing power are required.
  • SelfCAD

SelfCAD is a free CAD software for kids with intuitive and user-friendly tools. This is primarily browser-based software, but it is also available on Windows and macOS to download. SelfCAD offers free interactive tutorials that help users familiarise themselves with the tools and how they can be used to create robust 3D designs and prepare them for 3D printing. Users can create 3D sketches from scratch or convert existing images to 3D. Basic features of SelfCAD are free, however, subscribed users can access more advanced features. SelfCAD offers two paid plans; the SelfCAD Pro License which costs $14.99 per month or $11.99 per month if billed annually. The second plan is the SelfCAD Perpetual License which offers lifetime access to advanced features for a single payment of $599.00.


  • User-friendly, intuitive tools
  • Interactive tutorials that make the steep learning curve easier to scale.
  • Available on multiple platforms.
  • Additional 3D printing software is not required.


  • Advanced features are locked behind subscription plans
  • A lower degree of design capabilities when compared to software such as AutoCAD.
  • TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD by Autodesk is a free and easy-to-use 3D design software that is ideal for school students, teachers, and hobbyists. TinkerCAD uses a very simple function of dragging and dropping editable shapes to create 3D designs with any level of detail. Tinker is a fully web-based software that requires no downloads or installations. In TinkerCAD students can learn to create 3D designs through tutorials, teachers can use preloaded free teaching plans to teach 3D designing to their students. An added advantage of this software is that users can learn the coding aspect of 3D designing.


  • Easy to use, easy to learn, and free.
  • Pre-loaded teaching plans. 
  • Ideal for schools.
  • No downloads or installation.
  • Can be accessed from mobile devices as well.
  • Users can learn the coding aspect of design


  • Cannot be directly linked to 3D printers
  • Not for professional design jobs
  • Onshape

Onshape offers fully capable CAD tools free of any cost to users of any skill level. This software is web-based and can be accessed from any device and it never loses data. Onshape is ideal for hobbyists, makers, and others who are willing to freely share their designs. These features make it ideal for collaborative work. Onshape offers a powerful modern CAD platform free from the hassles of old CAD platforms. Onshape also offers rich self-paced training content. The active community on Onscape makes learning easy, practical, and joyful for beginners and experienced designers alike.


  • Free, open-source
  • Web-based software. No downloads or installartions
  • Powerful CAD platform based on Parametric Modelling 2.0
  • Data management, design, collaborative, and business analytic tools combined into one platform
  • Self-paced tutorial
  • Help from community


  • Private designs cannot be created on the free version.
  • Fusion 360

This integrated CAD/CAM/CAE from Autodesk is the ideal tool for teachers to teach 3D design to students. It is a design and educational tool in one. Teachers can manage student assignments and review student progress on the software. The software was built to support remote collaboration, this makes it ideal for teaching 3D design and CAD online. The AnyCAD feature integrated into fusion 360 allows CAD designs from other apps to be imported and used within Fusion360. This software is available on Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Android, and iOS.


  • Autodesk offers all its design tools free of cost for students and educators. This free access can be renewed annually as long as they remain eligible
  • Tools for collaboration and sharing makes it ideal as a teaching tool
  • Cross-platform support allows easy access at any time.


  • Steep learning curve
  • Complex tools

CATIA by Dassault Systems is a powerful CAD software used by leading organizations in multiple fields. CATIA offers the unique function of modeling a product in the context of its real-life behavior in the integrated simulation module.CATIA is powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, also developed by Dassault Systems. CATIA is the leading global solution for product design and experience.


  • Fast, responsive, and extremely powerful.
  • Extremely developed surface modeling module
  • Highly specific modifications can be done, without affecting adjacent parts.
  • A highly optimized design process is made possible with specific design modules for various design aspects.
  • Modeling can be done following production requirements.


  • Extremely heavy software requires powerful and expensive computers to handle the requirements of the software.
  • Steep learning curve.
  • Not free; extremely expensive for private or home use.
  • The interface is not user-friendly.

Defining and deciding the best design software

Before delving into the employment of any design software as a designing tool in a classroom, it becomes vital for the stakeholders at schools to first determine their end goal. The ample amount of means to enrich and develop the designing knowledge among students can reach its fruition only when the goals are decided in the beginning. The design software that best suits the objective of your teaching becomes the best software for your students.

However, some of the common aspects to be kept in mind for finding the best design software at your school are as follows-

  • The design software used should be feasible and accessible to all the students concerning the OS compatibility across different devices.
  • If the school cannot make provisions for premium features of applications such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Sketchup, etc., then the free and open-source software applications should be employed in the classroom. 
  • However, it should be kept in mind that free applications can only facilitate designing beginner projects as they tend to get bogged down with heavy tasks.

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