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Five Essential Features of a Good SQL Course: What to Look for When Choosing a Course for You

There are many different platforms offering SQL courses. If you’re a beginner, it may be difficult to choose the right one for you. Find out what we think are the essential features of a good SQL course. Remember, if you make a poor choice at the beginning, you may get discouraged or get into bad habits that will impact your work down the line.

What Is SQL?

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a programming language you use to talk to databases. It allows you to find data in a database, perform computations, and create reports. SQL is a standard language to work with data, used in a variety of data processing technologies. Every person who works with data should know SQL.

To find out more, watch this clip on the "We Learn SQL" channel on YouTube. Remember to give a thumbs-up and to subscribe!

Many SQL Courses to Choose From

Today, there are many different platforms offering online coding courses, and in particular online SQL courses. Why has online learning become so popular? It has many advantages: you learn in the comfort of your home and at your own pace, and you don’t have to waste time commuting to the course location.

At LearnSQL.com, we offer over 30 different SQL courses at various levels of proficiency. We have been developing SQL courses for individuals and organizations for over 5 years. Here’s what we think is important in a good SQL course.

A Good SQL Course Makes you Write SQL

What is the one skill that a SQL course should teach you? Yes, it should teach you to write SQL! Writing SQL is a practical skill. You will use SQL to write queries to get data from your database, so writing SQL while taking your course is essential.

Yet there are many SQL courses out there that don’t make you write code. Instead, they make you take multiple choice quizzes or watch videos. SQL courses that only make you take multiple choice quizzes are not realistic, because you do not write code in real life by picking the right answer from a set of four—you have to write SQL yourself. Video-only courses are not adequate either; they can only give you the theory. You’ll become familiar with the concepts, but a video course needs to be packed with practical exercises to be helpful in learning SQL.

A good SQL course is interactive with practical, hands-on exercises. Of course, you need a little theory to get started, but you should start writing code as soon as possible. Start by writing simple pieces of code, then go to more complex ones. As you write each piece of SQL code, you gain more confidence in your skill. When you complete the course, you know you can write SQL, because you’ve been writing it all along throughout the course.

All LearnSQL.com courses are interactive. In each exercise, you first do a little reading, then you see an example, and you get a task to complete by writing your own SQL code. It’s important that the exercises make you think about how to solve the problem. The correct solution should be similar to the example but different enough so that you can’t just copy the example.

Exercise

There are 129 exercises in our beginner’s SQL Basics course alone That means that, by the time you finish the course, you’ll have solved over 100 exercises. You’ll have written over 100 SQL queries on your own. Talk about a confidence boost!

A Good SQL Course Runs on a Real Database

A good SQL course should run your query against a real database. That way, you get to see the actual results of your query, and you understand how a database displays results.

By working with a real database, you get to see real error messages issued by the database. The truth is that these messages are often not very helpful; they don’t tell you how to fix your code. For example, if you misspell the name of a table, the database will tell you “the table does not exist.” You have to guess the reason for the error; if you indeed misspelled the table name, you have to fix the spelling and run the code again. You learn how to fix your SQL code, which is just as important as learning how to write SQL.

Error

All LearnSQL.com courses run on a real database. You get to see real database results and real database errors. Pick our standard SQL courses if you don’t know which SQL dialect you’re going to use in the future. We also have a dedicated set of courses for PostgreSQL and SQL Server, if you’re interested in working exclusively with either of these dialects.

A Good SQL Course Uses a Variety of Real-World Examples

The databases in a good SQL course should look like real-world data. They cannot be abstract examples like “table A” and “table B”; they need to resemble data you might come across in a real business. Of course, the data sets can be simplified or even made up, because working with complete, detailed data sets from actual applications can be especially overwhelming for beginners.

The SQL problems in the course should also look like real problems you might come across in real life, if a little simplified. That way, when you start really working with SQL, you’ll see familiar problems that you have solved before, albeit just a little more complex.

The course should present a wide variety of data sets. You should work with a lot of different data sets. This way, you learn how to get around a new database quickly, and the course becomes more fun and engaging.

At LearnSQL.com, we pay a lot of attention to make sure that our problems and data sets are realistic. We design our courses to include typical business use cases and typical usage of SQL in the real world. In our basic SQL courses, we switch the data set for each part of a course after 20-40 exercises. While some advanced courses work with the same data set from start to finish, we ensure in those cases that the data sets are more complex so they can be adapted to a lot of different business use cases and scenarios.

A Good SQL Course Is Complete

A good SQL course should be complete. SQL is a broad topic. It has many features, some of which are easy to understand, and some are more challenging. It’s often tempting to avoid difficult topics in an online course to make users happy and to boost course completion rates.

For example, SQL has a JOIN keyword that is used to combine results from two tables. There are different types of JOIN in SQL: the most frequently used is (INNER) JOIN, but there are also less frequently used LEFT JOIN, RIGHT JOIN, FULL JOIN, CROSS JOIN, and others, which are a bit more difficult to learn. Many SQL courses teach only the INNER JOIN. The students are happy: they have completed the course without much effort. The course authors are happy: the students have completed the course. The students then go to a job interview, only to fail because the interviewer assumes “basic SQL” means familiarity with different types of JOIN, but the course didn’t cover them. Another SQL feature GROUP BY, which is used to compute metrics in reports, is often considered an advanced topic in online SQL courses.

LearnSQL.com’s SQL Basics course teaches you all basic features of SQL-92: all different types of JOIN, GROUP BY, set operations, and subqueries, including correlated subqueries. No other basic SQL course is this comprehensive.

LearnSQL.com has the most complete SQL course offer. In addition to SQL Basics, we offer over 30 SQL courses in standard SQL as well as in SQL Server and in PostgreSQL dialects at various levels of proficiency. The courses are organized into learning tracks to help you decide which courses are the right ones for you.

A Good SQL Course Offers Feedback and Help

Even with complete and easy-to-understand explanations, you might still get stuck. Maybe you misread the explanations, maybe you do not understand the examples, or maybe you have more questions on the topic. A good SQL course should offer you feedback on your progress and the option to contact the instructor and ask more questions if need be.

At LearnSQL.com, there are multiple ways to get feedback and help. Each exercise is evaluated right after you submit your response, so you get feedback and verification immediately. The exercises contain hints that can help you move forward if you don’t know how to start. If you can’t figure out the answer on your own, you can look at the correct solution in the Answer tab. Finally, you can ask questions via the Discuss tab. Our moderators will be happy to help with any questions you might have. We are always there for you.

A SQL Course That Is Right for you

A good SQL course should give you a broad knowledge of SQL, make you write tons of SQL on a variety of realistic and fun examples, and give you the confidence in your SQL skills after you complete the course. LearnSQL.com checks all those boxes. You don't have to take our word for it. Check out the positive feedback from our users. We are so confident in the quality of our SQL courses that we even give you a chance for a refund if they are not right for you. Sign up and start learning SQL today!

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