How to Learn Programming From Videos
7 min read
Are you watching another programming tutorial and still learning nothing? Let me help you.
I’m sure you know that feeling. You’ve just spent four hours watching video tutorials about programming and learned a lot. It’s time to code! But your mind is blank; you can’t remember anything. Did you just waste 4 hours?
I’m sorry, but that’s probably correct. Binge-watching videos about programming will not help to code better. You might as well spend this time watching Netflix. Or even better, taking a walk.
Drawbacks of watching tutorials
Why is watching tutorials so ineffective? Your mind always tries to save energy. Focusing on an elaborate tutorial is hard work, so your brain doesn’t want to do it for prolonged periods. Its coping strategy is to wander.
Still not sure about that? Try to recall the last time when you’ve watched a longer tutorial. Do you think you paid attention? Did you take notes or could repeat the material a few minutes after the video was over? Haven’t you changed tabs in your browser or read a text message during a video?
If you believe you always learn a lot by watching tutorials, you don’t need to keep reading. But if you feel you can be more productive, let’s see what we can do about that.
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels
How to watch video courses better
Let’s say you’ve bought an online course. It lasts six hours, split into fifteen minute-long videos, and the final effect is a beautiful app. What is the best approach for making the most of the course?
Skim the course
I bet you feel the urge to finish the course in a day or two. It’s only six hours, so what’s the problem? By all means, do it. Watch the class rapidly, jump from video to video, and set the playback speed to 1.5x.
The first thing you need to do with any course is to decide if it’s worth your time. Maybe the class doesn’t learn the things you’re interested in. Perhaps you don’t appreciate the teacher’s style or course structure. Resign and apply for a refund if you don’t like it for whatever reason.
Your time is precious, so start learning only when you’re sure the course meets your expectations.
Take it slow
You’ve skimmed the course, and you’re happy with its contents. Now you need to slow down. Watching thirty to sixty minutes of videos a day is a lot. Learning to code is a long game; steady progress is a more reliable way to success than occasional bursts of energy.
For the six-hours long course, it will take you a week or two to finish, but you’ll learn much more if you take your time instead of binge-watching.
Don’t code along with the teacher
Usually, teachers ask you to code along with them. That’s understandable. Coding with the teacher is a significantly better way to learn than just watching a video inattentively. But’s it’s still suboptimal.
If you watch and code simultaneously, it’s hard to maintain focus. You’ll have to switch contexts all the time. Also, you’ll often need to stop the video just to keep up. These minor interruptions will impede maintaining focus.
To make the most of the video, you want to be as concentrated as possible. Close all other browser tabs, and turn silent mode on your phone. The video should capture all of your attention. It’s just fifteen minutes; you can do it. Don’t focus on the syntax, but on the problems your teacher is trying to solve and the concepts she uses.
When you finish, try to write this same code as the teacher from memory. Recalling information is a proven active learning technique. If you’re sure you can’t remember some part of the code, try to find the answer online. Only if you’ve exhausted other options get back to the video.
You worked hard, watched four videos, and coded everything from memory. Well done! But one day of great learning is not enough. To achieve a long-lasting effect, you need to work daily.
On the second day, you’ll forget a lot and crave to rewatch the videos. Don’t do it. Look at your code, try to understand it, and recall what you’ve done the day before.
When you get a good understanding of the app, you won’t need to rewatch anything; you’ll be ready to continue with the course.
Many courses offer simple tests you can do to solidify your learning. Never pass on them! Testing is a great way to remember information better. You can also look for free tests online, to fathom the subject even better.
Also, look for a friend or coworker who may be interested in the course. Try to explain to her what you’ve learned. Teaching others lets you deepen understanding of the subject, structure mental models better, and unravel the parts you don’t fully grasp.
The internet is packed with tutorials, learn how to pick the good ones. Look for respected teachers, compare their learning styles, and the way they structure content. It doesn’t matter if a particular teacher is the best in the world if you hate listening to her. Find the ones you like and stick to them.
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