If you are looking to extend or `stretch' Moodle's core capabilities with safety and certainty then this is the book for you - whether you are an exploratory, novice or experienced `Moodler' there is something for each of you.
At my last look I counted over 700 contributed modules and plug-ins on the MOODLE.ORG download page - this is a fantastic resource. But how do you find the best ones? Which ones work well? What if you have an e-learning need or problem you know Moodle cannot tackle in its base version - has anyone produced a module that addresses this? This book covers these bases....and some.
When I first started using Moodle, about a year and a half ago, I soon realised that I needed to add some features to my base LMS - so I started trawling the Moodle plug-in database for answers. It was difficult - not all contributors give the same level of information or instruction with their creations so I was never sure what I was going to get, whether the plug-in would really meet my need and if I could install and set it up easily. I wish Michael de Raadt's Cookbook had been available then. It would have saved me a lot of time - both for research and setting up my customisations.
There are two things I really liked about the book.
1. Each of the 60+ modules is treated in the same simple, consistent manner. In most cases each module is covered in about 3-4 pages. The power of this approach is that I can research, understand and deploy any chosen module really quickly.
2. The way Michael has organised his material allows me to access it in two distinctly different ways.
First - If I want to find more about a particular known module then I can go straight to it via the contents or index pages - and I get quick assessment of this module without having to download and install it, possibly jeopardising my Moodle site in the process.
Second, if I have a particular practical e-learning application, problem or need I can just browse the modules available within Michael's pre-categorised `topic' chapters. It's very much like a real recipe book where you would find chapters on Soups, starters, vegetable dishes, meat and poultry, cakes, desserts etc. Michael's recipe chapters are: Adding Content, Connecting to the Outside World, Getting Around In Moodle, Effective Use of Space, Assessing Students, Organizing Students, Encouraging Student Interaction, Informing Students, Handy Tools for Teachers, and Just for Fun. The book could so easily have been just a `catalogue' of modules with little reference to `purpose' - but thankfully it's not.
In addition Michael does an excellent job of introducing the concept of module types: how to find, install and remove different extension types is covered in the first chapter.
In here too is fantastic guidance on how to customise the language base of your Moodle - whether this means a foreign language or changing localised terms. So, once you have used the later chapters to install any specific modules Michael has detailed you can with confidence go on the hunt for your own!
The real value Michael has provided is twofold - he has reduced the majority of my research effort by pre-selecting the best modules and highlighting the `features' of each very succinctly and, he has reduced or removed risk for me by checking the compliance, documentation and known-errors for every module in his book.
Could it be improved? Well a little. The section dealing with installing modules could be a little more specific for the for the various module types, and I think there should be a warning preceding the 'assignment and question' module section that talks about these module's removal - some detailed Moodle database knowledge is allegedly needed to do this - might be beyond access skills. But these are both very minor things.
It really lives up to its subtitle "Over 60 simple and incredibly effective recipes for harnessing the power of the best Moodle modules to create effective online learning sites"