Moodle Blog

Review of Moodle For Dummies by Radana Dvorak

Just to be clear: I bought Moodle for Dummies and it arrived in the post today. ( I did ask for a review copy months ago but it hasn’t materialised. If it does, I will give one of them away.) So this is an objective review by a reader who paid her own way:)

Before we start: its big Plus: it is much cheaper than the Packt series of Moodle books and, as with all Dummies books, I presume it will be available in stores in the Real World rather than POD (I bought mine from Amazon where it was not much more than a tenner) Its big Minus: it is written for 1.9 and although as the author says, much of the content is transferable, there are some significant differences and  major additions that it lacks.

If you want to skip to the conclusion: this is a helpful book, written in a easy to read style. The book is divided up into five sections: Getting Started with Moodle where we consider course layout and enrolment; Creating and Managing Course Content , which is mainly static resources including multimedia  and the gradebook; Adding Activities – as you’d expect! followed by Moodle Management and then The Parts of Tens, which fifth section is mainly ideas and suggestions for engaging your learners and keeping them involved.

Each chapter is fully illustrated with clear screenshots and explanatory tables and I cannot praise enough the author’s personable style. Having read and reviewed a fair number of Moodle books now,  it is increasingly apparent to me that it’s difficult to strike a balance between Moodle for admins and Moodle for teachers. If your book IS for Admins or specifically for teachers, then that’s fine – but some books, such as Wm Rice’s E Learning Course Development (which is being revised for 2.0 ) and indeed my own Moodle 2.0 First Look try to cover both aspects, and it’ s not at all straightforward. You have to be careful if you are an admin and also a teacher that you don’t confuse teacher readers by lettting them think they have more admin rights than they actually do (this was a criticism of the Wm Rice book which I think will be redressed) On the other hand, if you are an admin reading the book, then you will want to know about server issues, bulk user upload, site backup/upgrading etc and not feel sidelined by pedagogical discussions. My own criticism of my own Moodle 2.0 book is that it didn’t cover those admin issues in enough detail.  Radana’s balancing act is a good one as she frequently points readers to the section of admin/teacher that applies to them or to the moodle docs. (Actually, the docs have been altered in the last day, so  I presume her links will now redirect to the 2.0 docs) If there is a bias, I feel it is towards the teacher side of Moodle – and that’s no bad thing. While the reader is told how they can get hold of a Moodle, there aren’t detailed instructions on setting up your own  – I reckon, possibly if you are a potential admin with your own server and knowledge of PHP and MySQL, then you probably won’t be reading a Dummies book.  On  the other hand, if you want a quick, no-nonsense intro to Moodle’s many activities then this book is very readable.

The first couple of chapters deal with the definitions of CMS. LMS, VLE, LCMS etc and also – to my interest- how to understand our learners and their generational differences. We’re in the territory of Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants here – and, courtesy of Radana, I now know that  I am a Digital Immigrant Baby Boomer II whereas my children are Digital Natives  Generation Y After busting some Moodle myths, we get on to setting up a course, enrolling users and managing groups. I’d have liked to have metacourses explained here, and also  groupings  as I think groupings  is a very valuable feature especially if you have several groups in one course and you don’t want them to see each other’s work. Chapters 5 to 7 cover creating content  mainly from the “add a resource” drop down, the HMTL editor and also choice and surveys. A section on multimedia is followed by  a handy look in at Moodle’s gradebook, although again, while the reader is shown how to add new scales, they are not introduced to outcomes and yet I am  finding outcomes (criteria/goals/competencies, whatever you call them) are increasingly popular.

The book really comes into its own in the third section where, from chapters 8 to 12 we are taken through Moodle’s many activity modules. Radana makes even the highly complex Lesson module accessible to all. Neither the workshop nor the HotPot module is covered here and I think that was a justifiable decision by Radana because in 1.9 the workshop, while usable, wasn’t really recommended in its previous state. It’s come back with a vengeance in 2.0 though. HotPotatoes was standard in 1.9 but with its eye closed and in 2.0 it has been moved to contrib. (It’s still great!!)

If there was a weak area, I would say it was (similar to mine) in the Moodle Management section, Chapter 13 on admin.  I felt it was an all too brief run through the admin settings with the occasional inaccuracy and confusion.  For instance, if your Moodle front page is your showcase then you need to know more about managing Site Files than you learn here. Additionally, one of the most frequently asked questions on the forums is missing – how to get a space in the middle of  your front page to add images and wording (tick “include a topic section” in front page settings) That said, the emphasis is definitely on the individual course manager and his/her course, and Chapter 14 is a useful resource for those many readers with that role.  The strength of the book lies in its style and the fact that it is written by an educator heavily involved in elearning, keen to link pedagogy to practice.

Not being familiar with the Dummies series, I wasn’t aware until I read it that the final part of the book The Part of Tens is meant to include the little extras that don’t fit in elsewhere. What a good idea! I enjoyed this – ten questions to ask before creating your course and ten ways to keep your learners involved.

In conclusion then -if you are a techie  you might find the book lacking in some areas (which might be filled by  Alex Büchner’s Moodle Admin soon also  available in a 2.o flavour.) However, if you are new to Moodle 1.9 then this book is written in an approachable way, especially if you are  a relatively non -technical person “saddled” with admin but mainly focused on using it with your learners.  Let’s hope there will be a 2.0 version.

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Friday, 03. June 2011 um 19:11 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Moodle abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen. Du hast die Möglichkeit einen Kommentar zu hinterlassen, oder einen Trackback von deinem Weblog zu senden.

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