Training for SQL Server. That's all that I see anymore everywhere that I look. From Microsoft's sites (developer resources, TechNet, Channel 9, MSDN blogs) to SQL Saturday, love boats, blogs that list training resources, companies everywhere offering training, national conferences, SQL Lunch, TSQL Tuesday, virtual conferences, SQL Server user groups, videos at sites such as SQLShare or Midnight DBA, even collaborative web sites chock full of blogs and training material. You name it, and there's dozens or hundreds of venues to get training. Everybody is getting into the training game! Why? Because it's fun! These resources are all very good each in their own way no doubt, and many boast some well known "big-name" guys in the SQL community (SQL Server MVPs, MCMs, industry experts, etc.) who put in lots of work and effort to keep new and old SQL Server practitioners up to speed; we're all lucky that the community is vibrant and strong.
One source that is really never mentioned that I offer-up is an alternative place to learn SQL Server - credit courses at your local community college. I'm not sure why it's never in the listing of places to learn, but this is an excellent route to get some really good training while earning college credit at the same time. As the school year is now upon us, I know that places such as the Dallas County Community College District and North Lake College, for instance, are once again offering several SQL Server courses for aspiring students and current SQL Server folks.
With this avenue of learning, forget about the one-hour, two-hour, three or four day time span, because instruction here is either a full 16 weeks, or something less but with 16 weeks of material compressed into a shorter time frame. My first class this Fall, for instance, is 5 weeks in duration on Tuesday-Thursday nights from 6pm to 10pm. On the one hand, yeah, that's a lot of time right after the work day, but on the other, it's a deep-dive...no brushing over concepts or lightly touching material. Full training, hands on, learning SQL Server concepts, at the keyboard working through problems with others, sharing experiences, all in the atmosphere of the "community of learners".
I suppose I should make note of the concept of 'trainer' vs. 'teacher'. You get training at most of the aforementioned outlets. A trainer, however, is much different than a teacher ; a trainer uses his or her work experience and knowledge to share or convey concepts and ideas to an audience that are sometimes market-driven, or driven by a time-specific demand, oftentimes in bullet-list format, while a teacher meticulously creates a learning experience designed to engage and lead the student down an "inspirational" path through contemplation and thought. Usually a trainer has intimate knowledge of a repetitive process or set of steps, while a teacher has instruction in psychology, sociology, and education in addition to the skill-set being conveyed. Two separate concepts, both have their places in learning. I believe college courses at a community college offer each - you get experienced practitioners from the field who share concepts based on industry experience, along with persons with advanced-level degrees who have professional instruction to teach others. I know, because I have experience in both. My dad once said: "College doesn't necessarily teach you a skill, but rather teaches you how to think". Well said, dad.
I suggest that you investigate this option if you are considering SQL Server training, and very soon - the school year is upon us so now is the time. Go check out your local community college, four-year university, or continuing education department for SQL Server training and see what's available. Courses are usually inexpensive and a lot of fun, and the learning experience is rewarding. Find out if this avenue for learning fits into your schedule and budget, and seriously consider it the next time you want to learn SQL Server.