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Moodle 1.9 Extension Development 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
melbenson writes "Moodle 1.9 Extension Development by Jonathon Moore and Michael Churchward, published by Packt Publishing, 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." Read on for the rest of melbenson's review.
Moodle 1.9 Extension Development
author Jonathan Moore, Michael Churchward
pages 320
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 9/10
reviewer melbenson
ISBN 1847194249
summary Shows you how to build all sorts of Moodle plug-ins: admin plug-ins, Blocks, Activities, Grading components, Reports, Fliters that change the way your site works and looks.
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 covers everything from simply creating a block to integrating the Moodle system with other systems and implementing Single Sign On (SSO). The full table of 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. 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. 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.

You can purchase Moodle 1.9 Extension Development from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Moodle 1.9 Extension Development

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  • Argggggg. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @02:42PM (#34378088)

    The first couple of sentences should explain what the hell "Moodle" is. All I know after reading your introduction is that it's a thing of some kind with plugins....

    • by kriss (4837)

      Damn, good sir. You beat me to posting that very sentiment. Utterly pointless book review.

      • Exactly. I was writing essentially the same thing, and there it was. Even posting it's a "learning management system" is not quite sufficient. So one can use it to learn what it is? Does it understand negative feedback? Where do the electrodes clip-on?
        • by h4rm0ny (722443)
          It's not even a "Learning Management System". An LMS is a tool to provide structured training to recipients. It's not a tightly defined category, but you can expect an LMS to order people's training, track what they've done and tell you they've done it. Moodle is a VLE or "Virtual Learning Environment". That does a lot of the same things as an LMS, but with a different emphasis. It's designed as a replacement or supplement for a physical teaching environment. So for example, Moodle provides a lot of tools f
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by throup (325558)

      It's a learning management system which has a major release, Moodle 2.0, last week...

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by subk (551165)

        It's a learning management system which has a major release, Moodle 2.0, last week...

        Which means this book review for Moodle 1.9 stuff is REALLY worthless.

    • Re:Argggggg. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday November 29, 2010 @02:53PM (#34378250) Homepage Journal

      This review is so generic that Moodle could be nearly anything and the review could be describing it.

    • by improfane (855034) * on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:06PM (#34378438) Journal

      Moodle is a VLE, a virtual learning environment. It's for academic institutions like schools and universities. The institution creates a module for each course that might be taught and in that course is a hierarchy for each year of students and resources used by them. It depends how it is configured but each module has like a portal which has a calendar, where links to uploaded files can be put (Word, powerpoint, excel etc) and you can even run assessments of it.

      With all that said, as a user, it is a horrible piece of software. It's a VLE that just doesn't improve my learning. It might put it all in one place but I regard it more of a CMS than an education system.

      • Thank you to those replying with "what Moodle is" information. This being my first review, it was my understanding (which was not right:) ) that knowledge of Moodle would be a given and people who read a review on a detailed subject would know what the main topic is (just like not having to explain what an LMS is if I referenced that or what PHP is). I will know for next time and if anyone has questions I will be sure to help out with what I can. More from Moodle.org - "Moodle is an Open Source Course Mana
        • This being my first review

          Could I gently suggest in the future you stick to reviewing technical books that you are either in a position to properly evaluate or are actually wanting to learn from. For example saying things like:

          I trust that the technical information given in this book is accurate as I have read several other books from the Packt Publishing company.

          Tells me that (a) you are not expert in what the book is about because you have no idea whether it is correct or not and (b) you are not using the book to learn the material for the first time for some pet project in which case you could usefully comment on how clearly the concepts are explained. Indeed your

        • Thanks for adding the summary. There was another Moodle book review on Slashdot last week [slashdot.org], which also made the same incorrect assumption about its audience, and I was one of several people who ranted about that. I'm curious about how you got asked to write the book review - was it the Moodle organization, or Slashdot's editors, or a publisher?

          It's fairly common to have articles on Slashdot saying that Frobnitz 3.2.4 has just been released, with descriptions of a couple of bugs that got fixed and minor fea

    • by British (51765)

      If I had mod points(remember those?) I would give them to you. I'm tired of these Slashdot reviews that automatically assume you know what obscure thing they are talking about. How about just a little bit of context? And no, please don't excessively hyperlink it. Just give me 1 or 2 sentences.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oldmildog (533046)
      You can pretty much copy & paste your comment to every book review here on Slashdot.
    • Moodle is... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelPenne (605299) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:26PM (#34378744) Homepage
      Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.

      It's also a good example of a successful FOSS project, with an active and growing user community, used by more than 38 million students in 212 countries [moodle.org], translated into 81 languages [moodle.org], and with thriving commercial support community. [moodle.com]
    • by Degro (989442)
      Yeah, somebody needs to update the script that generates these posts... You know, the lighter version of the script that writes these books.
    • by mctee155 (862932)
      Moodle is like a content management system but geared for learning (LMS). It has features such as the ability to give graded quizzes and assignments, has a gradebook to track student's scores, and a repository for course materials. Some other LMSs are Desire2Learn, Blackboard, Sakai, and Instructure.
    • by syousef (465911)

      The first couple of sentences should explain what the hell "Moodle" is. All I know after reading your introduction is that it's a thing of some kind with plugins....

      Agree, but it's easy to Google...
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodle [wikipedia.org]
      http://moodle.com.au/ [moodle.com.au]
      http://download.moodle.org/ [moodle.org]

      It's a real product but this article smacks of being an advertisement.

      • I assure you that this review was NOT an advertisement. I can definitely see the need for a basic overview of what Moodle is and the criticism surrounding that but I don't want this book review to be looked at as "fake". It's sitting by my work desk now with bookmarks and references. It was the best Moodle book I've read so far!
        • by syousef (465911)

          I assure you that this review was NOT an advertisement. I can definitely see the need for a basic overview of what Moodle is and the criticism surrounding that but I don't want this book review to be looked at as "fake". It's sitting by my work desk now with bookmarks and references. It was the best Moodle book I've read so far!

          I didn't say your review was fake. Just that it looked like advertising. My god man, how many have you read?

          • I didn't say your review was fake. Just that it looked like advertising. My god man, how many have you read?

            (WOman ;) ) Oh, I didn't mean to respond to your post with that comment syousef.. Um, about 6ish Moodle books total (we had extra grant money to buy some for our prof dev library :) ). This one was the first one I've read with more of the coding aspect to it. The only documentation I've read on Moodle coding/plugins so far has been online.

    • I appreciate the book reviews posted here. This thread obviously has a problem with this review (good as it is) because they can't figure out what the product does. Moodle isn't alone. Open source projects often fail because they don't explain what their products do. Definitions seem obvious to the skilled, idealistic and insightful engineers who create OS software, but definitions and overviews are NOT obvious to anyone else. Further; The OS engineers who write docs often lack the skills they need to writ
  • Another PHP (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Plug posing as a story !!!

    Slashdot: Ads For PHPers, Software That's Dead

    Yours In AT.S.A. Airport Security Screening Line [youtube.com]
    Kilgore T.

  • couldn't the publishers afford a 10?

    slashdot = stagnated

  • by Degro (989442) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:15PM (#34378546)
    These book reviews are consistently the most useless things posted here. I hope Slashdot is getting a decent chunk of change for it at least.
    • These book reviews are consistently the most useless things posted here.

      In this case the book is probably even more useless than you realize. Moodle just came out with version 2.0 last week and, speaking as a Moodle plugin developer (for a question type which understands algebra), there are enough changes that this book pretty useless.

  • by shish (588640) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:58PM (#34379376) Homepage
    Last I checked, moodle did things like checking to see if the universally abhorred magic quotes were enabled, and if not, it emulated them, to make absolutely sure that all developers had to deal with that crap; is that still the case? :-/
  • On the one hand I appreciate someone bring greater exposure to Moodle, particularly as I've occasionally considered writing a plugin for it myself. On the other hand, I'd love to see this book reviewed by someone who actually has some programming chops. Statements like "I trust that the technical information given in this book is accurate as I have read several other books from the Packt Publishing company" aren't really helpful - the whole point of reading a review of a technical book is to find out thin

    • Moodle 2.0 just came out and there are enough changes that learning to code for the 1.9 interface would be a waste of time. If you are starting out I'd go straight to 2.0 - I'm now having to make the leap in order to update my algebra question plugin.
  • So Moodle 2.0 was finally released about a week ago. Suffice to say, there are massive differences between Moodle 1.x and 2.x - as such I'm not sure of how helpful this book would be to anyone who's already upgraded (or will be any time soon). I'm far from a Moodle expert, but as a newb admin of a Moodle deployment I feel a bit sorry for this book's authors. Hopefully the impact of 2.x isn't so great in the case of extension dev. I don't know.

    (*all the pandas suddenly cried out*)
    • by h4rm0ny (722443)
      I can answer that, having some pretty substantial experience with Moodle pre 2.0 and now starting to develop some plugins for 2.0. The difference is significant. Don't start with Moodle 1.9 books / guides if you're wanting to develope for Moodle 2.0. At least not unless you have to. Some areas of the code are affected more than others of course, but that would be my advice. HOWEVER, I would also follow that advice with don't move to Moodle 2.0 yet. Moodle 1.9 will be around for quite some time and it's stil
  • The Moodle codebase should have been taken out back and shot years ago.

    • Moodle may be horrible...but what are the alternatives for Higher Ed?

      Almost everything else is closed-source, expensive, and just as buggy, if not moreso.

      The college I work for recently ditched Blackboard in favor of Moodle, because all of the 'core' functionality was comparable, but we could extend Moodle's functionality for free, instead of paying Blackboard's ever-increasing fees. We hand-rolled the following, for less overall TCO than we would have been paying Blackboard:
      Integration with our SSO soluti

  • I'd like to have a copy of this book, anyone can recommend this one? We are using Moodle at school, and i want to learn how to develop extension for it. Is this book a really good one? I have programming skills in php and been working with wordpress for some time now. Thanks! -Chin Hospedagem de site [hostguia.com]

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