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How to Practice SQL After a Video Course

When you're just starting to learn coding, the most obvious first step is to watch online video courses. They're one of the most popular ways to learn the basics of a new technology without investing a lot of time and money. But you need to do more than that to master the topic. What should be your next step?

When someone asks me about how to start learning to code, I often recommend trying video tutorials first. They're usually short and therefore easy to watch anytime and anywhere, even while commuting on the bus or on the metro. The majority of the online video courses are free, so all you need are a web browser or an app on your phone and some headphones.

If the video courses are that good, why should you ever try anything else? What exactly can you learn from video lessons? Are they enough to master a new technology? When you're just beginning to learn, you'll need answers to these and many more questions. This article will help you choose the best option for your goal.

What Can Video Courses Teach You?

To be honest, I have never been a big fan of video courses myself, but I know coding newbies love them. And even I have to admit that they can be very helpful at the beginning of your coding adventure.

Video courses are perfect for certain types of learning. They're a great first step towards learning to code, as they can often help you with the basic concepts and ideas. For SQL training, there is a very good YouTube channel We Learn SQL, good for the very basics of SQL (what is a database? what is SQL itself?) and for examples of simple SQL queries. This is the reason I recommend video lessons as the first step in learning–you can find the information you need quickly by watching a 5-minute video.

There are thousands of video lessons about SQL just on YouTube, from “Learn SQL in 10 minutes” (seriously?) to much more complex “SQL in 4 hours” tutorials. There are thousands more on platforms like Udemy and Lynda. If you already know what you're looking for, you're ready to go.

How Do You Choose the Best SQL Video Course?

As I mentioned, there are numerous opportunities to learn SQL by watching videos; that said, it is not necessarily easy to find a good, quality tutorial. This is not that important when you're just looking for a short explanation of a specific problem, but it matters much more when you're a beginner just shaping your good practices in coding.

If you don't know SQL yet, you may not be able to evaluate the content of the course, but you should pay attention to a few things. First, note when the video was created–the newer, the better. Technologies are rapidly changing, and materials (not just videos) from 2010 can be seriously obsolete or even inaccurate.

Second, choose professional courses over ad hoc video tutorials. The sound and image qualities are likely higher, and of course, the content is more reliable.

Channels such as We Learn SQL mentioned earlier and Programming with Mosh seem to be good choices. You can find a more extensive list of video resources on Vertabelo Academy blog. I also like the tutorials from the Free Code Camp community–they cover multiple topics, not only SQL, but it's a good source of programming knowledge in general.

Why Do You Need More Than Videos to Learn SQL?

Videos are a great, easy, and fun way to pick up the basics of SQL (and any other technology for that matter), but real-life experience is essential in mastery. You need to practice SQL by writing queries yourself, not just by watching somebody else do it. I am focusing on SQL here, but these tips are also valid for other coding skills.

Many–or even most–video tutorials are designed for complete beginners to facilitate entering the tech industry. If this is your first contact with learning SQL online, you’ll probably end up going around in circles at some point, watching another “SQL for Beginners” tutorial. You need to move forward, and you cannot do it if you don’t practice SQL hands on.

What Should You Do Next to Practice SQL?

The very best way to practice SQL is to do your own project. However, this is easier said than done when you’re new to coding. What exactly do you need, if there are many options for learning SQL? There is a nice comparison of the different approaches on this LearnSQL blog–take a close look at the table toward the end of that blog.

What worked the best for me was to combine video courses with other tutorials that included exercises. There are multiple platforms with online coding courses, and I tried many of them in search of the best online courses when I was just beginning to learn. I started with Codecademy which seemed easy at first, I still did not feel confident dealing with real-life coding tasks even after completing some courses. I also felt really frustrated when I got stuck–it’s entirely natural to get stuck from time to time when you are learning–because there was no one I could ask for help except Uncle Google and StackOverflow.

How Do You Choose the Best SQL Course?

Just like learning anything in IT, learning SQL will be much easier with a good online course. What should you take into consideration when choosing one for yourself?

First, it should not be limited to just the basics; it should allow you to master more advanced SQL when you are already comfortable with the basics. Second, there should be plenty of exercises that let you write your own code and practice SQL queries with real-life examples. Third, you want a community behind the course, so that you can turn to somebody more experienced when you get stuck.

The LearnSQL.com platform checked all these boxes for me. It’s subscription-based, so you can try all of their SQL tutorials: not just the standard SQL, but also MS SQL and PostgreSQL. Constant support is available from the mentors and from the community on the forum; you can ask questions about your tasks or read about the kinds of problems other users have had. An entry-level course, SQL Basics, is a good place to start; here, you will practice WHERE conditions, JOINs, and how to work with multiple tables.

Another course on LearnSQL.com worth mentioning is SQL Practice. As I’ve emphasized before, working with real-life examples is crucial in building your confidence in coding. The purpose of this course is exactly that, with practical examples instead of theoretical academic exercises.

In addition, there are tracks on LearnSQL.com, so you can move from the basics to the advanced level, like in the 84-hour A to Z track. It is designed for people who are new to IT; it starts with simple SQL queries like JOINs and ends with recursive SQL queries and complex data structures.

How Do You Practice SQL and Keep on Learning Effectively?

The bottom line is that you need a good way to learn and practice SQL based on where you are in your SQL journey. I moved on from short video coding lessons some time ago, but when I get stuck and need a quick solution to my problem, such as “how to use INNER JOIN in SQL,” I go back to short videos. To me, that is their main purpose–to help on an ad hoc basis. For long-term learning, I prefer learning platforms with real-life exercises, since they will prepare you for your first project. And working on projects, even if they are small and simple at first, is absolutely the best way to practice SQL and other coding skills.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you need to finish all possible online courses before moving forward to your first project. It’s also always helpful to review the materials again, to rewatch the video lessons that you need, or to retry the exercises related to problems that are causing you headaches. Be patient, though; SQL training, like all coding-related training, is a process. If you are curious how long it will take to learn, a quick look at this article might help. Don’t give up when you’re stuck and keep learning.

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