Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moodle 2.0 Multimedia Cookbook: A Review

Packt Publishing's Moodle 2.0 Multimedia Cookbook solves a number of problems that Moodle users often encounter, especially online programs (graduate and undergraduate) that foreground collaborative, interactive learning environments.

The multimedia cookbook addresses two core challenges. The first challenge is that of creating relevent, effective, nicely-sized and ready-to-use multimedia. The other has to do with the integratability of the learning objects.

To step back a moment, let's take a look at Moodle's core contributions to the learning management arena. Moodle's discussion-based approach to learning fosters a dynamic, interactive elearning space, which is one of Moodle's huge drawing points. Another is the fact that it is a friendly environment for incorporating other Open Source embeds and elements. This means that you can plug in, for example, elements you've built with Wordle or smooth slide presentations from Xerte. There are also opportunities to incorporate multimedia elements -- providing, of course, you're able to build the multimedia elements.

One of the frustrating things about using Open Source software is that it often feels that you're constrained to a single template or approach, and it's all too easy to break the template when you try to make alterations. To overcome the limitations, it's tempting to become a template collector, but that is often like hammering pieces from five different jigsaw puzzles together to make a single puzzle.

What is needed is an object-oriented approach that allows you to build and customize objects that fit together seemlessly.

The nice thing about the cookbook approach is that it's completely seamless and it allows you to develop reusable components and building blocks that are unique, customizable, and imminently functional.

Here are my responses to a few of the chapters and their contents.

Chapter 1: Creating Interactive User eXperiences
I like the fact that there are opportunities to learn how to create True and False quizzes and integrate them in Moodle. I'm not a big fan of T-F quizzes, but I suppose they do have their place. There are also mazes and ways to match activities with scenes and opportunities to link external 2D and 3D interactive activities. These are, in essence, mashups (integrated apps). Like all mashups, if one app dies, the whole thing dies, so you might need to proceed with caution.

Chapter 2: Working with 2D and 3D Maps
This chapter gives you a way to use resources like Google maps in a very interactive and meaningful way (far beyond simply linking to a location or embedding a screenshot). Using Google maps to locate European bridges is one example that makes one think of military applications and/or emergency preparedness courses. At any rate, what I like about this chapter is that it encourages the designer to think of ways learners can situate their learning / knowledge.

Chapter 4: Integrating Interactive Documents
The heavy reliance of this chapter on Open Office documents creates a very big caveat in my mind, since Open Office is not always the easiest, most compatible solution for all users. The other caveat I have is that using Google Docs is great for collaboration (and is often used in conjunction with LMS's like the University of Delaware is using Google Docs with Sakai). That said, there are inherent security risks, so be sure to talk to your IT team before jumping into this solution.

Chapter 5: Working with Audio, Sound, Music, and Podcasts
This chapter has great tips for building mp3 files using open source software and also incorporating existing audio. It's a great tool and very useful for people who want to have material they can play on multiple devices and to have a truly mobile solution.

Chapter 6: Creating and Integrating Screencasts and Videos
In the last two years, YouTube has become an incredibly robust solution for creating educational videos which are also compliant with regulations that ask for subtitles and annotations. I'm not sure I'm as convinced about using Dailymotion videos -- I'm not sure how permanent the files are. Like any solution, the more you rely on outside websites, the more likely it is that you'll have to update content and links on a regular basis. That said, these "recipes" are easy to use.

Chapter 9: Designing and Integrating E-portfolios
This chapter brings together many of the learning objects and integrates them under the umbrella of the e-portfolio. I have just one quibble here. While I really like the idea of using Googld Docs for the portfolio, I'm not sure about using a portfolio. is not open source, and while there is a free version, it's very light and I'm not sure it's good for the purposes intended. How is it different than, say, and other cloud storage options? Rackspace is one that's not free, but trusted.

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