How To Get the Most Out of Instructional Videos

This weekend was Code School’s Free Weekend, and I tried to take as full advantage of it. The courses are pretty dense, making getting through one of them in a weekend quite a bit of a challenge – especially if you have other responsibilities outside of learning to code (which most of us do!). I’ve struggled with videos in the past – often, they move too quickly, make a lot of assumptions about the viewer knowing jargon and concepts –  but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’ve developed a great algorithm, if you will, for getting the most out of tutorial videos:

  1. Watch the entire video the whole way through, do not pause or write notes.
  2. Watch the video the entire way through, writing down vocab words or jargon that you do not understand.
  3. Look up and write down the meaning of these jargon words in a few lines if possible.
  4. Watch the video through again, this time pausing the video to take notes or write down new concepts. Additionally, write down questions that you have and underline them. Underline concepts that need additional clarifications.
  5. Look up your underlined questions and concepts and write them down.
  6. Watch the video the whole way through again.

This works best with videos under 10 minutes that pack a lot of knowledge into a very short space, such as Code School’s videos. Some steps can be consolidated for longer videos, or if the video has a speed-up function, you can view at 1.5x or 2x speed on the last run.

This varies from person to person, but I retain more when physically writing something down. It my seem archaic to be writing notes about code into a paper notebook, but something about the act of writing helps me to remember the notes better. I’ve also found that writing out the sample code (yes, writing code on paper) also helps me to internalize and demystify what that bit of code is doing. Writing forces you to think about each piece of the puzzle a bit more because it gives you more time with each piece.

How do you learn best?