Book Review: Moodle by William H. Rice IV

Moodle Book This is a review of the book – Moodle: E-Learning Course Development by William H. Rice IV. Click on the cover image to see the publisher page for the book. The book is published by PACKT Publishing – an active supporter of open-source projects.

Disclaimers / Disclosures

  1. This review represents my independent opinion.
  2. No one has solicited this review. Specifically, I have not been paid by the author or Moodle for this review.
  3. The publisher has provided me with a free copy of the book for writing this review.

Approach

This review does not attempt to provide information about Moodle outside the context of the book. The review focuses on what the book offers, what it does well, and where it could have done better. Content outline and information about the author is present on the publisher’s page for the book.

Review

Earlier this year, I was searching for a free tool for creating and publishing quizzes or tests online. At that time I tried several tools and finally settled on Question Tools for my simple need (Question Tools is a full-featured suite but I only needed to use the core functionality). Later when I encountered Moodle I was very impressed with what it had to offer. A little bit later I learned about this book and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It is almost becoming a habit now – if I read a book I want to share a review with others.

The book uses version 1.4.4 (the current stable release is 1.8.3) but most of the information in the book is still relevant. Certainly the wisdom shared in the book about using the features is not tied to a particular version!

I would describe this book in one sentence as a handy guide filled with illustrations and practical advice that reflects the author’s experience both with teaching/learning and with writing (he has also authored couple of other books). It is pertinent to mention what this book is not – it is not a regurgitation of the online manual and documentation so you would be ill-advised to ignore the product documentation when implementing Moodle.

The stated goal of the book is to help the reader enhance teaching using Moodle as a tool. It also aims to help the reader make the most of Moodle features for creating an engaging online learning experience. The book emphasizes creating “learning experiences” rather than “courses”. The chapters in the book are stitched together using a common thread of sample content about foraging and wilderness skills (obvious personal interests of the author).

The book starts with an outline for planning and implementing a Moodle solution. This outline provides a good perspective since it is easy to get lost in the details of the product features. Then he shares the Moodle experience from an end user’s perspective using a sample site. Next follows advice on installation and configuration options. Once the site is ready categories and courses can be created. The meat of the book is about creating course material, which is explained over three chapters – Static Course Material, Interactive Course Material, and Social Course Material. The social features are really the strength of Moodle for creating a unique learning experience; these features include chat, forum, glossary, wiki, and workshop. The last three chapters offer valuable advice that goes well beyond the description of feature capabilities. Welcoming You Students provides advice on options for creating first impressions and customizing the look and feel depending on your needs and the purpose of your site. Features for Teachers covers the features that are most used by teachers and are most relevant to them. The final chapter addresses managing modules for additional features and discusses some of the key administration tasks. The book concludes with a handy checklist for planning and implementing a Moodle site.

So what do I think of this book? In my opinion, this is a great book for various reasons – it offers valuable advice about implementing Moodle which goes well beyond describing what the product can do. It has a friendly tone and is richly illustrated. When 236 pages contain all those illustrations, it won’t be a burden to run through the book. One way to make good use of the book is to breeze through it, focusing on the implementation advice. Then come back and use it as a reference when you are ready to get your hands dirty.

In a book review, I always try to include suggestions that could improve the book but I struggled in this case and I will leave it at that.

Conclusion

This is a great book packed with practical advice about creating a learning experience with Moodle. Use the book early to plan out your site implementation. Use the book in conjunction with the product documentation when setting up your Moodle site. Finally, use this book to make suitable configuration choices for your needs since, with Moodle, choices you have aplenty!

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