Back to School with HowToMoodle’s Course Creation Guide (review)

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Following this week’s “back to school” theme here’s a great resource for getting teachers primed for a Moodle-laden school term.
Tim Dalton is a contributing writer and drafted this review of HowtoMoodle’s Course Creation Guide.  His overall impression was very positive and he gave the book at 4 out of 5 rating (5 being the highest).  As a special treat, Moodlenews readers can obtain a 25% discount on ebooks until the end of September 2010 using the coupon code: moodlenews. This offer can’t be used with other discounts.
HowToMoodle website: Print and ebooks –
This week I was asked to have a read of the HowtoMoodle Course Creation Guide and write a review of what I found. The short version for those that don’t tend to read beyond the first couple of sentences is this is a very detailed and incredibly thorough reference manual, ideal for anybody who is involved with creating content on Moodle. As an eBook it’s just the right side of £10 (double for print), so if you ever sit looking at a Moodle page wondering what an option means I’d say this is definitely worth a look. Get it here.

The book is written very much as a course creation manual, taking you through every part of the process step by step. We start at creating a course, work our way through blocks, resources, activities and admin functions. When I say it is thorough I really mean it- coming in at 266 pages you’re certainly getting all the detail you would ever need. I’m not sure I would recommend you read from cover to cover as I did, but keep it somewhere close by when working on the site.

Each section works through what you would encounter if you were creating it, using screenshots to match up with what you would see on screen. Every option is explored, and it also takes care to describe how students would experience your course as well. For example, the assignments section shows you how to set the activity up but also goes through how a student would submit too. Seeing this side of things isn’t always immediately obvious to the teacher creating the resource so it’s a nice inclusion here.

The detail provided also makes this guide something of interest to more advanced Moodlers. I’ve been helping staff create courses for some time now so would consider myself pretty competent, but I found working through resources and activities there were little functions and tips that hadn’t occurred to me before. I’d never seen the Quiz Results block before, didn’t know that when creating a course I could choose to hide hidden topics completely, or that if I chose the ‘number of news items to be displayed’ to be zero then it wouldn’t create the news forum at the top of a new course. For me, these little things carried on throughout the text and made it really worthwhile.

I think the greatest strength of the book is their work on the Activities. This is always the harder part for people to get in to as there are so many more possibilities and many of the options can seem initially daunting. Certainly in my experience I find people struggle with the lesson activity, and the book goes to nearly 30 pages to take you through this. That kind of detail isn’t unusual either, the quiz (another one people seem to find hard) comes in at nearly 20. Another area that I felt was strong was the detail on question types, and the table explaining which activities work with the groups functionality is one I should print and keep somewhere on my desk.

Couple of things I would maybe suggest for updates. While most of the text was clear and concise, I found the descriptions of metacourses a little harder going. Admittedly this is a more complex option in course creation, but I felt it could be easier to follow. My other minor gripe was beyond the cover there isn’t any colour in the book. I think some of this in the screenshots could help with the presentation- particularly in eBook form I don’t think there’s any real need for it all to be black and white. The very last page that contains information about the book and author is beautifully presented (and in Moodle style), would love to see this format throughout. Could even go further and offer other media along with the guide- videos, etc? The additional content that comes with the ProBlogger 31 days book would be an example I would recommend looking at for a successful offering. Final thought for improvements is whether a ‘Quick Start’ section on a couple of pages at the start would be of use to readers new to Moodle. As a reference document this is excellent, but I wondered if a quick explanation of how to get going would appeal to new users without impacting on the detailed content further in.

As I said at the start of my review, this is an excellent reference document for all involved in Moodle course creation. £9.99 is only a few beers less on your next evening out, worth it for the definitive answer to the ‘what does this do?’ question that you usually have to find somebody in your IT department to ask!

Don’t forget:  Moodlenews readers can obtain a 25% discount on ebooks until the end of September 2010 using the coupon code: moodlenews. This offer can’t be used with other discounts.

HowToMoodle website: Print and ebooks –
For more of Tim’s posts, visit his blog or catch him on Twitter: @timdalton

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