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3 tips to learning from online tutorial videos

If you're anything like me, you've probably been stuck on an impossible homework problem at some point in your life. The lecture notes are indecipherable and your teacher isn't answering your desperate e-mails. Luckily, the internet is crammed full of helpful people who have created tutorial videos explaining everything from quadratic equations to quantum field theory. 

Whether you are getting help from giants like Khan Academy or some obscure YouTube channel, here are 3 tips that will help you maximize your learning from online tutorial videos!

Number 1: Write it down!

Whenever you watch an online tutorial, you should always have pen and paper ready. Copying down every single step shown in the guide by hand is extremely important.

But why bother with something so tedious? Aren't "education experts" constantly talking about the importance of "creative/intuitive learning" and criticizing repetitive classroom activities? Yes they are, and they're wrong.

Professional athletes have managed to become professionals because they have spent countless, gritty hours repeating basic actions. The only way to get good at pole vaulting is to condition your body to copy the motions that expert pole vaulters have developed. In the same sense, painstakingly copying down every equation and diagram you see on the screen helps condition your brain to working with math, manipulating symbols etc.   

Trust me, it works!

Number 2: Say it out loud!

So, you're watching a video tutorial and copying down every step. Great! Another helpful tip is to sit

down and explain to yourself out loud what is going on:

"I am trying to learn how to solve 'quadratic equations'. Basically these are equations where there is an x^2 somewhere (x is multiplied with itself). For example 3*x^2-16*x+2=0. I have to find some number, like -3 or 2 or whatever that I can plug in to x's place so that adding everything up gives me zero in the end."

Talking to yourself may feel a bit strange, but it is an extremely effective way to figure out what exactly it is that you don't understand. If you are at a loss for words then there must be a gap in your understanding. Filling out these gaps is a lot easier, when you know exactly where they are!

Number 3: Take notes!

Have you ever used OneNote before? Well, you better start right now! It's basically a piece of software that allows you to organize notes for all of your courses. You make a notebook, create a tab for each course and pages for each topic. You can insert equations, link to web pages and even link between pages inside the notebook.

My favorite feature is pressing  Windows key + shift + S to take screenshots. By pressing Ctrl+V you can paste these directly into the notebook. This is super helpful when following video tutorials.

Here is an example:

And by the way, Microsoft isn't paying me to say this. OneNote is just an extremely helpful program (but Bill, if you're reading this, can you send over like 50 bucks or something?) 

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