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Video Tutorial or Interactive SQL Course – Which Is Better?

Are you ready to get started with SQL but unsure which learning method is the most effective? In this post, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of learning SQL from an instructional video vs. an interactive online course.

Are you a chronic Internet-using student who’s planning to learn SQL? Maybe you did some research but still don’t know which kind of training is worth your (limited) time. We all have families, hobbies, and other after-work commitments, and finding the right resource for learning SQL will save you some time.

Clearly, there’s a difference between watching a video and reading instructions, but which of these approaches is better for learning SQL?

How to Learn SQL Online

If you can’t decide between learning with online courses (e.g. SQLBolt, SQLCourse or LearnSQL.com) or videos (e.g. the MySQL Tutorial for Beginners), you should be able to make the decision soon. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between both approaches and tell you what I think is the best way to learn SQL online.

People Love Learning from Video Tutorials... Or Do They?

When I was researching this article, I found that, despite the growing number of video tutorials online, not everyone finds them useful.

dev rant video tutorial hate

On Reddit, people seem more likely to talk about the negatives of learning from videos. Those thoughts gained popularity.

reddithate videos

I’ve read comments of people that, despite liking video tutorials in general, were disappointed with the tutorials made for a particular subject.

video disappointed

Others made fun of video tutorials. (To be honest, I kind of agree with ClassyJacket that many video tutorials have a very similar form.)

reddit video tutorials hate

Then there is YouTuber “alantutorial”, who creates video tutorials that make fun of video tutorials. Some of his videos are funny.

Reading the above comments (and lots of others) led me to conclude that there’s no golden rule for learning skills online. Different people learn in different ways: Some people are more visual learners, others are more text-based. My colleague wrote an article, “How to Study Online: 5 Steps to Becoming an Effective Learner”, where this theory is explained in more detail. Additionally, different skills need a different learning approach. So, what’s the real deal with learning SQL online?

Learning SQL Online: Video Tutorial or Interactive Course?

Video tutorials are easy to find and most of them are free. These two factors greatly contribute to the extreme popularity of instructional videos these days. There’s probably a tutorial for everything: How to thread a sewing machine, how to change the blade in a utility knife, how to create a last-minute Halloween look, etc. Videos are good for learning some physical skills which can’t quickly be explained in words. But will learning SQL this way give you the best possible results?

Theory vs. practice

As with learning a new spoken language, you can’t become fluent in SQL overnight. Scripting, coding, programming–these are processes that require practice. That’s why, when it comes to learning SQL, videos should not be your first choice. Why not?

While watching a video, you need to be focused on the presenter; you have no way to write SQL queries as you go. Of course, learning from a video tutorial doesn’t preclude applying your knowledge. You can always watch the video and then install or open a pgAdmin and start putting what you’ve learned into practice.

However, it’s challenging to remember an hourlong video’s content (like in Learn SQL in 1 Hour - SQL Basics for Beginners by Joey Blue). Plus, you’ll have to modify the presented SQL queries so that they work with your dataset.

Another solution would be having two computer screens and the ability to effectively divide your attention. I know people who learn this way, but I do not recommend it for beginners. It can easily get overwhelming and discouraging. There’s no need to make learning to code any harder.

With an online SQL course, you learn from the instructions and immediately put your newly acquired knowledge into practice. What’s more, good SQL courses won’t let you move on from a subject until you complete the exercise. You have to grasp that concept to be ready for the next one. This is because the exercises are arranged in logical order and the difficulty level increases as you go.

As intimidating as it may sound for a novice, a well-designed curriculum makes learning SQL quick and engaging.

Is this what I’m looking for?

As a heavy Internet user, you know how hard it is to filter out the junk. It’s hard when you know what you’re looking for and it’s extremely hard when you don’t know what you’re looking for. With video-based learning, you can't skip over sections or scan ahead to check if this is what you need. You have to play it and maybe watch the whole clip to know if it’s suitable.

Online courses, on the other hand, usually come with a table of contents. This gives you an idea of what’s being taught. Some come with a free trial, too, which is even better.

I can read faster than you can talk.

In videos, you can't control the speed at which information is presented, meaning that most of the time it's either too fast or too slow. You have to rewind to hear the information again. Or you have to wait until the person finishes explaining an example to move on.

In online courses, you’re the one to control the speed at which you learn.

How did I do?

A great factor – one that will help you quickly progress in learning SQL – is feedback on your work. Constructive criticism helps us improve; knowing where we make mistakes is crucial if we want to avoid them in the future. In this battle, online SQL courses win over video tutorials. Not only do you get feedback on your SQL code, but you also get it in real-time. If your SQL queries are bad, you will be notified. Moreover, you get precise information about what part of your code is wrong. And if you’re still struggling to complete an exercise, there are people dedicated to helping you out.

Do not disturb, please.

Great learners take the opportunity to learn whenever they have a minute. When you decide to learn in a cafe on your lunch break, watching video tutorials can be problematic.

Videos make noise; if you don’t want to be that jerk playing loud stuff on a laptop, you need to carry your headphones. The bad side of using headphones is that they completely cut you off from reality. Your eyes and ears focus on the video.

On the other hand, online courses are silent – there’s no extraneous noise to disturb others, plus you’re able to react if something unexpected happens.

Zoom in, zoom out.

Smartphones are the curse and blessing of our times. Many people have gone absolutely too far with using them, which caused a new form of phobia called “nomophobia” (i.e. ‘no mobile phobia’). For those who managed to stay sane and avoid addiction, smartphones are a blessing: You can use your phone during an emergency, chat with your family at mealtimes, or learn new skills on your subway ride.

When it comes to learning SQL on your mobile, the only answer is video tutorials. Most platforms with SQL courses do not offer mobile versions of their web-based apps. Why? Because writing SQL queries from scratch on your smartphone would be ... painful. Plus, you’d have to zoom in and out a lot. I don’t even want to imagine that!

Pros and Cons of Learning SQL: Video vs. Course

Video TutorialInteractive Course
You need additional equipment (e.g. software, headphones, pgAdmin)YesNo
You can look ahead to see if the program will teach you what you needNoYes
Theory can be put into practiceNoYes
You can learn on the go, e.g. on a mobile deviceYesNo
You can control the speed at which you learnNoYes
You get feedback on your workNoYes
You can get hints when you’re stuckNoYes
Comes with a certificate of completionNeverMost

Video Tutorial or Interactive SQL Course: You Decide

If you’re reading this article, you probably know how hard it is to find a valuable learning resource for SQL. A good resource has a well-designed learning path and clear instructions, and the teaching process is designed to help you gain confidence and experience. An excellent example is LearnSQL.com’s SQL from A to Z course track, which contains everything you need to learn SQL from scratch in one place.

Videos can show you how to thread a sewing machine, but you’ll find it hard to gain skills that require practising your knowledge as you go (like writing SQL queries).

At LearnSQL.com, we design our courses to teach you SQL. We carefully think about each step of your learning path. We don’t want you just to get a certificate of completion and not know how to retrieve data from a database – no, we don’t want that! What we want is you to understand the beauty and variety of SQL and how useful it can be. Remember, learning is more of a marathon than a 100-yard dash.

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