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 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.