Review of Moodle Add-ons by Gavin Henrick & Michael de Raadt

Moodle Add Ons is written by two experienced Moodlers and published authors, Gavin Henrick and Michael de Raadt. Gavin is author of Moodle 2 for Business, a prolific blogger and outstanding Moot organiser (or is that organiser of outstanding Moots -or indeed both?) Michael is Development Manager at Moodle HQ and authored Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions, a book I was given to tech review  and which was so well written in its very first draft that I couldn’t find anything to improve on it. If Gavin and Michael’s credentials don’t reassure you enough, then the fact that you open the book to find a foreword by @moodler MD himself should convince you it’s going to be a good read!
Unlike many Moodle books already published, Moodle Add-ons doesn’t come from Packt or O’Reilly. This means that it isn’t written to a recognised formula; rather, the authors share the information in their own style, and one advantage of this is that they are able to provide more detailed background to the content covered. An example of this is in the first chapter where we get an introduction to the concept of add-ons in Moodle (add-ons is the name for contributed modules,ie ones that don’t come pre-packed when you download Moodle) We learn about the history of add-ons and what drives developers to work on these extra plugins.  As most  of the book is concerned with reviewing a number of useful add-ons, Chapter 2 very wisely then takes us through how to install a test Moodle site so you can evaluate them, try before you (don’t) buy – because surely you aren’t going to simply shove them into your production site are you?

Chapter 3 is an extremely useful evaluation guide, covering such essential issues as: Is it easy to install? Does it have good documentation? Would teachers and students understand it? Would it affect performance? By the time we get to start, in Chapter 4, the process of investigating some cool add-ons, Gavin and Michael have ensured that the reader is fully aware of the need for a test site and detailed evaluation plan – no one can say they didn’t tell you :)

So then we’re away! Chapter 4 begins by introducing us to some add-ons for resources and activities. For each review, in this chapter and the others which cover navigation, course tracking, interface , course  and site administration, course formats and virtual classrooms (web conferencing), the authors explore the background behind it, how to install and use it, the  versions offered and documentation and support available. What’s nice here is that not only do you get a thorough overview of each add-on, but you also get personal reflections ” …excellent manuals and guides… the author is a respected developer in the community…it would be good to see the [Docs] page updated as this module has so much to give…” so you get a feel that Gavin and Michael have really done their homework researching these add-ons. Which they have. I also liked how, where there are several  add-ons of a particular type -for example, course formats – they present them in a useful easy to see table.

How to approach this book? Well, I suppose if you are a Moodle admin or developer, or someone planning to install or look after a Moodle site, then this should be required reading to gain an understanding of what else Moodle can offer over and above core. I am none of those people, but I have an interest in what can make learning and teaching more efficient and enjoyable. With that in mind, I  simply  enjoyed reading about all the different possibilities and how I could apply them. If you’re a Moodle teacher, this might give you some ideas and send you off begging to your admin -with some flattery and chocolate biscuits  of course…

My top 5? Picked at random: the whole PoodLL kaboodle, the PDF assignment, the Progress bar, Group choice and Configurable reports. Now go and buy the book and choose yours :)

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