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Book Review: Moodle 2.0 First Look 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
melbenson writes "The open-source software Moodle has become one of the most popular Learning Management Systems around the world. The release of Moodle 2.0 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. Keep reading for the rest of Melissa's review.
Moodle 2.0 First Look
author Mary Cooch
pages 255
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 9/10
reviewer Melissa Benson
ISBN 978-1-849511-94-0
summary Discover what's new in Moodle 2.0, how the new features work, and how it will impact you
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 this summer. 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, 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 everyone, 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.

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.

You can purchase Moodle 2.0 First Look 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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Book Review: Moodle 2.0 First Look

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  • did anybody else read the subject as noodle 2.0? sounds like a trendy pho place in palo alto.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:38PM (#36636298) Journal
    Mary is very active on the Moodle message boards, and has helped many people with Moodle issues. Just told my boss to order a copy of this book for me, we plan to upgrade to Moodle 2.0 this summer as well.
  • 2.1 comes out today (Score:4, Informative)

    by melbenson (1871902) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:50PM (#36636400) Homepage
    Hi guys, I just wanted to make a comment on the latest with Moodle 2.x. I submitted this review on March 25th and in those few months there has been a lot of activity and progress made regarding performance issues, patches and bugs. Moodle 2.1 comes out today and the biggest (most important) improvement is the ability to import 1.9 courses into 2.1. Other updates include the ability to clone activities and resources and a question engine rewrite. I highly recommend admins to use http://tracker.moodle.org/ [moodle.org] . See 2.1 release notes here: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Moodle_2.1_release_notes [moodle.org] I hope this will help ease the transition/upgrade and if you have any questions I'd be happy to discuss and help out.
    • Sorry, I forgot to mention that you should research into the files that are "lost" if they are not attached to a resource when you import a 1.9 course into 2.1.
  • Does Moodle 2.x suck less from an administration and content creation standpoint than Moodle 1.x?

    I have to administer and do class creation on Moodle at work and from my experience with it, it's farking awful.

    • I'm not sure what you mean by "course creation" - what you can do IN a course or the actual creation? If you're talking about mass creation you can already do that by importing files. We have all of our staff automatically assigned the Course Creator role so they can do it by themselves. Something that may be of interest is "cohorts" or site-wide groups and the ability to enroll an entire cohort into a class. Ex: make a staff cohort and enroll them in staff dev courses. Most notable improvements in course
  • The last time I looked at moodle was in 2008, and here's what my notes say: "Looking at the log of debian bug reports, it seems that it's extremely poorly maintained and packaged. There are major outstanding bugs, including security-related bugs. Some of the bugs in the serious categories go back for over a year." Still true? No longer true?

    I teach at a community college, and our district pays big bucks to run a similar system using proprietary software. The thing is, the main cost isn't software, it's hard

    • Good question. From what I can remember I do not believe the book covered much of this. I know throughout the version updates they specify the security risks that have been fixed, most notably implementing salting the password (not a security/server expert). I don't want to give out bad information, the moodle.org forums would be a great place to start if you're seriously looking into this.
    • by millia (35740)

      If I can assay a guess, being a Deb user, I would say that that was probably for a version based on 1.6, or even God forbid, 1.7. 1.8 brought things along nicely, and 1.9 is very solid. It's like all php based apps, though: there are probably ways into it. Php-based apps on Debian do tend to be older, and so I almost always have to install and maintain them out of the main debian process.

  • Is this a statistical aberration or did all the other publishers go out of business?
  • by rueger (210566) *
    I've been at schools using both Moodle and Blackboard [blackboard.com] (the commercial variant), and my experience as a student suggests that they're fairly interchangeable.

    The most important thing with both of them is an a instructor who's willing to take the time and effort to learn and use them effectively. Really engaged teachers can make excellent use of these systems, and make life - and learning - easier for students. If your teacher is the kind who's just pulling a paycheque, these systems are a waste of money.
  • I actually had a faculty member ask me about Moodle yesterday. I'd never heard of it, so I did a quick google search - followed by a sans.org search. It appears Moodle doesn't have the best security track record... and since it doesn't seem to offer anything beyond what our university's Catalyst system does, there's no good reason to add yet another piece of software to the mix (note that I don't have to manage Catalyst, but I would have to manage Moodle - so I'm not completely impartial here).

    • by n-baxley (103975)

      I haven't used sans before, but going there and searching for Moodle brought up a list of issues. The most recent was just over a year ago. There were only two in all of 2010, and 4 in 2009. You've got some pretty high standards there dude.

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