Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Moodle 2.5 Multimedia Cookbook by Silvina P Hillar

The subtitle on the cover says the book contains “75 recipes to help you integrate different multimedia resources into your Moodle courses to make them more interactive”.  And that is exactly what it does.

The author groups the recipes into nine broad themes.  These cover user experience, maps, charts, interactive documents, audio, video, images (of various sorts) and repositories.  For each theme she walks the reader through a number of external tools (mostly, but not all, freely available) that can be used to create resources that can be integrated into a standard Moodle site.  Each tool is described in just about enough detail to get you started, although I would expect the learning curves to be pretty steep for some of the tools, if the reader is going to get the most out of them.

As with a more conventional cookbook, the reader is likely to skim through the book on first purchase and build up a mental picture of the range of dishes suggested and when faced with a catering challenge (or in this case a teaching one) to flick back through the book looking for the recipe that comes closest to what is actually required.

The book does cover a huge number of different tools (at least 75!), and this means that the examples must, to keep the book to a reasonably length, be pretty simplistic.  If we stretch the cookbook metaphor a bit further, we’ve got a collection of basic recipes which the good cook (or teacher) will extend by adding their own particular specialities.  That said this book does cover everything from starters through to desserts, with a few things that are only going to appeal to a limited audience.

The writing style is very chatty.  I suspect that this will be fine for some readers, but might grate for others. Once I got into the style it didn't distract me from the content and the steps in any recipe (although I haven’t yet tested them all) did seem to work.

My only real concern about the book is how long a shelf-life it might have.   It is tied to lots of specific version numbers.  The title makes it clear that it’s intended to go with Moodle 2.5, but in addition a lot of the descriptions (and the many screen shots) for the various external tools are inevitably specific to the current versions at the time the author was writing.  I suspect that some of these will already be out of date.  The ideas behind the recipes will still hold true once the version numbers change, but the step-by-step details might change.

In all, I think this is a useful addition to the bookshelf (real or virtual) of anyone trying to go a bit beyond the tools that come with standard Moodle. 

My final word of guidance to these users would be not to try and include too many of the recipes in any one course -  variety may be the spice of life, but it is possible to over-spice any dish you are cooking.

Note: Packt Publishing invited me to review this title, and provided an evaluation copy. The Moodle 2.5 Multimedia Cookbook is available from the Packt website.