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Book Reviews

+ - Book Review: Moodle 2.0 First Look

Submitted by melbenson
melbenson (1871902) writes "The open-source software, Moodle, has become one of the most popular Learning Management Systems around the world and in November 2010 Moodle 2.0 was released. The release came with hundreds of changes, new features and even completely rewritten features. Because of these major changes and potential issues when upgrading from Moodle 1.9, there has been a lot of fear and uncertainty among Moodle admins in the Moodle Community when it comes to Moodle 2.0. I am one of those admins and that is why I chose to read Mary Cooch's book, "Moodle 2.0 First Look".

Moodle is a free and open-source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) that was created by Martin Dougiamas. There are currently 50,000+ registered Moodle sites with over 1 million registered users in the moodle.org community, which creates a lot of discussion and debate especially around the topic of Moodle 2.0 . The long awaited release came after several delays resulting in a much later release date than expected. Perhaps the reason for the all of the delays was because of the scope and amount of changes in Moodle 2.0. I am currently a Moodle admin in a K-12 school district and I plan to upgrade our Moodle 1.9 site to 2.0 in the summer of 2011. I read this book hoping to learn about the new features, relieve any fear and to gain confidence in upgrading. In Mary Cooch’s book, “Moodle 2.0 First Look”, published by Packt Publishing, the cover accurately describes the book “Discover what’s new in Moodle 2.0, how the new features work, and how it will impact you”.

First, this book is for both admins and non-admins, although not all chapters will pertain to a non-admin user. Readers should have intermediate level knowledge of Moodle features and how they work. Throughout the entire book the author describes what’s new and changed in Moodle 2.0 by comparing it with version 1.9. Second, I believe it to be most useful for readers who are currently using 1.9 and will be upgrading to 2.0. However, it can be somewhat helpful for Moodle users just starting off with 2.0 because it does describe Moodle 2.0 and it’s features (although it could get distracting when the author mentions 1.9). Finally, although it’s not required, I highly suggest having a Moodle 2.0 site to work with when going through the book. I found the book’s examples easy to follow which consisted of step by step directions and illustrations for each example. Moodle is a free software which an be downloaded at moodle.org and can be installed on a host or your local computer (Mac, Windows or Linux).

Chapter 1 acts as a teaser to the rest of the book, giving a brief overview of Moodle 2.0 and the new features which will be discussed in the the following chapters. Chapter 2 jumps right into the quite significant changes in Navigation and Blocks. To help the reader get an idea of different perspectives the author introduces 3 characters which you will follow throughout the book — a student, teacher and administrator. Being able to see a Moodle page at 3 different permission levels lets the reader see which blocks and settings are available depending on the user, which gives the reader a better understanding of the big picture. In the Navigation and Blocks chapter the author shows the differences of navigating between the Moodle Front Page, My Moodle and a Course page along with how the new Blocks and block settings integrate with the process of navigating throughout Moodle.

Chapter 3 tackles another big change which is the new WYSIWYG Editor and File Management. I highly recommend paying close attention and following along on an actual Moodle site in the chapter. There are some big changes in file management and the book does a good job of showing the reader how the new File Picker works and looks. The book covers a new concept when uploading and storing files that users will need to know and the book provides nice screenshots and examples allowing the reader to follow along on their own site. File management in Moodle 2.0 works totally different than in 1.9 and could cause confusion for users. The author gives some tips and advice on how to make the transition of this change easier for your users. New integrations with services like YouTube, Flickr and Google Docs are examined and explained. As an admin I will definitely need to do more research when it comes to the back-end, file structure concept issues and changes. The book covers the how-tos and interface changes

Chapters 4 and 5 cover what’s new in Activities and Resources. These two chapters cover the changes and small new features nicely, but it’s an easy read as there is nothing too complicated in the differences. The Resource names in 2.0 are different and some have been combined. A nice image comparing 1.9 to 2.0 is shown to the reader. One notable feature rewrite is the Workshop Activity and improvements have been made to the Wiki and Quiz.

For me, the most complex section was Chapter 6 “Managing the Learning Path” which introduced the powerful new feature of conditional activities. The author dedicated a large section to this topic and it is imperative that the reader follows along on their own Moodle site. The author goes through a few real life examples to test your knowledge. Chapter 7 eases up and describes the significant improvements in Blogs and Commenting. The final chapter named “Admin Issues” covered a lot of essential and commonly used material. The author goes over each item in the Admin Block on the front page. The topics of users, permissions and plugins were covered most extensively. A must read for all Moodle admins to show what to expect in Moodle 2.0, but as the author points out at the beginning of the chapter, it is in no way meant to be a complete administration guide.

I believe the book delivered exactly what it said it would — a “First Look”. As expected, the book was an overview of Moodle 2.0 that introduced but only touched on the new and changed features. However, as mentioned in my review some features were discussed in more depth than others. The book does a good job of comparing version Moodle 1.9 to 2.0 to show the differences and how it could potentially impact me and my Moodle site. Although there is still fear and much more research needed before an upgrade it did give that “first look” and I’m much more comfortable with how Moodle 2.0 works — the hurdle for me and other admins will be the upgrade process. I believe this book is a great first step in a long journey to moving to Moodle 2.0.

You can purchase this book on barnesandnoble.com buy book here

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. They placed no restrictions on what I could say and left me to be as critical as I wanted so the above review is my own honest opinion."
Book Reviews

+ - Book Review: Moodle 2.0 First Look

Submitted by melbenson
melbenson (1871902) writes "The open-source software, Moodle, has become one of the most popular Learning Management Systems around the world and in November 2010 Moodle 2.0 was released. The release came with hundreds of changes, new features and even completely rewritten features. Because of the major changes and the seemingly difficulties of upgrading from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2.0, there has been a lot of fear and uncertainty among Moodle admins in the Moodle Community when it comes to Moodle 2.0. I am one of those admins and that is why I chose to read Mary Cooch’s book, “Moodle 2.0 First Look”."
Books

+ - Moodle 1.9 Extension Development book Review

Submitted by melbenson
melbenson (1871902) writes "“Moodle 1.9 Extension Development” [https://www.packtpub.com/toc/moodle-19-extension-development-table-contents] by Jonathon Moore and Michael Churchward, published by Packt Publishing [http://www.packtpub.com/], definitely delivers what it says on the book cover — “Customize and extend Moodle by using its robust plugin systems”. This book, intended for users with a solid knowledge of the Moodle software and Moodle technologies, does a great job of opening the doors to creative and useful ideas to take your Moodle site to the next level. The book takes the reader through many examples of customizing and editing the Moodle code in an easy to understand, user-friendly way but also presents the reader with challenging and advanced concepts.

I’ve been working with the free open-source software, Moodle, for the past 3 years as an admin in a school district and consulting, which includes experience with Moodle themes, the Moodle database, admin tasks, user technology support and the end-user interface and functionality. I also have knowledge in CSS, web development and a basic understanding of PHP and server topics. I work with Moodle, read several Moodle-related books, attend Moodle user groups and participate in the online Moodle community but amuch of the information covered and talked about is the basic tech support and technology integration (which is great!) but I’ve been craving to learn more of the “geeky” code topics in Moodle. When I saw the title of the book I was expecting material on coding, development and more technical topics compared to the other Moodle books and that is exactly what I got.

In the beginning of the book the author goes over basic, but powerful tasks like creating and modifying blocks and activities. Later on, the book discusses more advanced topics like integrating Moodle with other systems, pagelib and formslib and web services.
The “Customize and extend Moodle by using its robust plugin systems” phrase from the book cover describes this book very well. It discussed and showed just how much you can customize your Moodle site to fit your needs and create integrations between other systems. this book coverseverything from simply creating a block to integrating the Moodle system with other systems and implementing Single Sign On (SSO). The full table of contents [https://www.packtpub.com/toc/moodle-19-extension-development-table-contents] can be seen on the Packt Publishing website. The book involved heavy discussion about PHP, which was expected since Moodle is written in PHP and the book was basically all about editing the code. I’m a newbie with PHP so some of the examples were over my head but I know I will be able to go back and reference things I didn’t fully understand the first time.

After reading this book I think this book is for any programmers, database and web development people and tech savvy Moodle admins, which is what I was expecting and the reason why I was so excited to read it. I don’t think this book is intended for newbies to Moodle or Moodle technologies (PHP, MySQL, CSS/HTML) however, like myself, you don’t have to be an expert in all of those subjects. I would say this book is for intermediate to advanced Moodle users and programmers.

I trust that the technical information given in this book is accurate as I have read several other books from the Packt Publishing company. The author also does a good job of informing the reader of the date of publication and alerts the reader of possible changes in future versions. Although the topics in the book were technical, the author does a good job of using language that was easy to read and follow along with. The only hardware that readers will need to follow along is a computer using any type of operating system. To follow along with the examples readers will also need an installation of Moodle, which is an open-source free software. Readers can install the free software locally on their computer or install it on a hosting service.

Throughout the entire book there were real-life examples and screenshot images. The only issue with the screenshots was that they were not in color which I think could have enhanced the experience of following along. To go along with the examples there was sample code presented in the book and the full source code is available for download. The example code for download will be great for future reference and it will be useful when I go through the examples again and try to do the tasks myself and experiment on my own.

The book covered and accomplished pretty much what I had expected. I can’t think of anything that I thought the book was missing, besides going into more detail about the specific topics I was personally interested in. However, this book was not written specifically for me! One reason I was so excited to begin reading this book is because I’ve read about a half dozen Moodle books and this one, I felt, was going to contain by far the most “technical” and “back-end” related material compared to all of the others. I have no knowledge of any other Moodle books that are similar in subject to this one, although I have a feeling that more books like this one will be coming.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this book and it is personally, my favorite Moodle-related book I have read thus far. Not because I thought it was better written, better quality or contained the most information but because it covered exactly what I was hoping it would. I personally think the best parts about this book were the coding and advanced technical topics covered, the real life examples covered and the provided full source code for download for future experimentation and reference.

“Moodle 1.9 Extension Development” is available for purchase at www.packtpub.com, Barnes & Noble and www.amazon.com.

Melissa Benson

www.Moodlerific.org

mebenson@gmail.com"

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