Monday, 21 June 2010

Book Review: Moodle 1.9 Theme Design: Beginner's Guide

I am delighted to have the opportunity to review the recently published Moodle 1.9 Theme Design:Beginner's Guide. The book is written by Paul James Gadston and it is published by Packt Publishing.

Moodle stands for Modular Object-Orientated Dynamic Learning Environment and it is a free open-source e-learning software platform, also known as a Virtual Learning Platform or Learning Management System (LMS). Moodle is the fastest growing VLE in the world and it is used successfully by educators and universities around the globe. It is a platform to be reckoned with and hence there is a growing need for books such as Moodle 1.9 Theme Design:Beginner's Guide, which is designed specifically to educate teachers, ICT technical personnel and Moodle administrators about the many features involved in creating a theme design effectively and with ease.

As I still consider myself a relatively inexperienced Moodle user, I was intrigued to find out if this book actually delivers what it says ie "This is a Beginner's Guide, with plenty of worked examples, step-by-step visual guides, and explanations". Namely, at the end of reading Moodle 1.9 Theme Design: Beginner's Guide, would I be confident enough to create, design and then install a Moodle theme to my own particular specifications?

The book is divided into 2 main parts, with the first five chapters giving a very clear outline of the Moodle VLE and its features, including the software that is necessary for effective use. There are 4 Multiple Choice Pop Quizzes in the first 5 chapters of the book. These are effective for reviewing what you have learned. The second part, chapters 6 to 10, deals with showing you how to create a moodle theme from scratch, how to customise it and then implement it successfully.

Does Moodle 1.9 Theme Design: Beginner's Guide deliver its promise?

I believe it does so in a very thorough and practical, no-nonsense manner. The whole process of theme design is in fact quite detailed and rather technical, with a lot of HTML code involved. I personally tend to struggle with such code. However, the constant reinforcement of the whole process is something I appreciate in this book, and I personally found the numerous examples of screenshots to be particularly helpful and an essential feature to help my understanding. There is a brief outline of the contents at the beginning of each chapter, which serves as a practical checklist. The "What just happened?" heading consists of a quick review after each chunk of information is explained. This is a nice feature and is good for highlighting the material the reader has to take in. The "Have a go hero" heading challenges the reader to try out the lesson tips. The summary at the end of each chapter allows for consolidation of information taught.

The frequent bold "Time for action" headings in each chapter give excellent instructions for tasks to be completed by the reader. This heading is used very frequently and makes it very clear that specific "Hands on" practice is necessary. The tasks are based on getting to grips with manageable chunks of information at a time.

The Glossary of useful terms, and the section on acronyms included at the back of the book are very good to facilitate the understanding of a lot of terminology, which maybe is not commonly known. For example, I had never heard of the term "skinning" before, and I found out it is interchangeable with "theming", which refers to the look and feel of a web application. I also learned about CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets. Most key words are written in bold in the main text to make them stand out more, and I liked this particular style.

Would I recommend you go out and buy this book? If theme design is of paramount importance to you, and I believe this undoubtedly is a vital element of any Moodle course, then I would honestly say yes. Moodle 1.9 Theme Design:Beginner's Guide gives you a whole array of practical and very thorough sound advice and guidance to help you create your special and unique theme. As a general book to read on this particular aspect of Moodle, it is also well worth reading to gain a more in-depth analysis.

If you want to create your own Moodle theme design from scratch in the future, this book would definitely be well worth buying as it covers all you need to know in a very clearly explained, in-depth and easily understood format. Have a look at a free sample of the book, Chapter 3 "Customizing the Header and Footer".

Happy reading!

I have received a free e-copy of the book for me to write a review, which is based purely from my personal and honest perspective. I hope the review will give you some insight into the essence of the book.


wer said...

Thanks Janet

Nice review

Paul James Gadsdon

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Paul

My pleasure entirely. I enjoyed reading your book and learned a huge amount.