Thanks to Packt Publishing for a copy of Moodle as a Curriculum and Information Management System by Jason Hollowell to review.
The book starts off with some high level introductions to Moodle and the concepts of the Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Management Systems and Content Management systems. Jason then sets the groundwork as to what extras a CIMS (Curriculum and Information Management System) provides which including things like:
- Monitoring of student attendance records
- Presenting information of course offerings to students in order that they may make decisions about what courses to take
- Delivering and analysing standardized tests to students within a school or other type of educational or training program and various other educational, administrative, and collaboration-type tasks and activities
This first chapter really set the scope for the book very well, and was a great introduction to challenge of Curriculum and Information management. Jason also included information on how to install Moodle 1.9 and ran through adding labels, blocks and themes.
In the second chapter Jason brings the reader into the mix of things immediately, tackling the challenge of creating a structure manually before introducing a custom plugin for bulk creation of courses. Jason provides a thorough overview on how the plugin works and all the options that are available in using it to mass create courses.
In rolling out Moodle for an organisation, authentication and enrolment through user management are areas, and Jason deals with these next in chapter 3. As any who use Moodle will know, doing this one at a time can be time consuming, and as Jason explains there is a nice mechanism for up creating, and enrolling students into courses in one go. He explains the user upload process really clearly, and provides a sample file with 500 students so that the user can test it out even if they donâ€™t have data themselves. This is a nice touch.
In chapter 4 Jason introduces us to education standards, starting with Attendance standards. He walks the user through setting up a template for using the Attendance module by creating sessions and then explains how to import this into other courses which will use the same attendance matrix. This is a very handy approach to building an activity once and replicating it elsewhere as needed. Jason goes on to tackle Grading standards and provides an in-depth discussion on grading scales and a gradebook template.
In chapter 5 things move beyond use of modules and default Moodle into making changes for Moodle code. This is one area which I usually recommend being thought through due to the implications of the management of the customisations. Jason explains simple changes can effectively hide courses from the category page, can force display of the course information in the category and can increase the number of courses shown on a user profile. These types of changes are small but would certainly need to be tracked. He introduces more detailed changes as well using tracker files and customising more areas too.
One of the most fun presentations I have been to at Moodlemoots was Helens presentation on using Roles, and in chapter 6 Jason introduces customising of Moodle Roles. This is so powerful area and Jason explains it clearly taking the reader through making some useful custom roles.
Chapter 7 goes deeper into Moodle, right into the database. Even if you are not intending to install the database reporting tools suggested, itâ€™s a good chapter to read to get an overview of whatâ€™s possible. I had not used Xataface before, so this chapter provided an interesting overview of the tool and itâ€™s potential.
Jason explores the setting up of a Mini SIS in chapter 8 through creating custom user fields and the Xataface application. I have seen custom user fields used by other systems (like ELIS) so it was interesting to get another angle on their usage. The Xataface system does seem quite powerful providing you have the technical skills to implement it.
Chapter 9 was an excellent chapter discussing the use of filtered communication using groupings in a meta course. He also introduced the useful Questionnaire module as a method of providing feedback.
One reason I wanted to review the book was that I had been introduced to a solution for curriculum and information management from using ELIS (Enterprise Learning Intelligence Suite) and having recently been working with Remote-Learner, so I was intrigued to see what different approaches the book recommended. ( I will be reviewing ELIS in an upcoming blog post)
I like Jasonâ€™s approach throughout the book as the information is provided in a clear methodical manner and explained in detail where required. I came across things I hadn’t known before which to me is the litmus test of a good book.
Although this book is not aimed at the normal user at all, and by normal I mean someone who isnâ€™t comfortable editing databases and code, there is a lot of value in the non techie parts which will certainly be useful to a lot of users.
If this is a topic that interests you, and you have good development skills, then Moodle as a Curriculum and Information Management System by Jason Hollowell is certainly a book for your collection.