Review of Moodle 2.5 Multimedia by João Pedro Soares Fernandes

Moodle 2.5 Multimedia Book Cover

It is an unfortunate truth of the online learning milieu that content experts are expected to be experts in the design and delivery of content. Industry vendors might be able to claim different, but K12 and academic institutions most expressly cannot.

This coerced instructional design is responsible for most of the garish online content that I come across on client sites. Quality online instruction has almost no similarities to quality classroom instruction (so much so that the best classroom teachers, if specialized outside of the fields of technology and computing, are likely to have the hardest time making the transition). Yet schools, colleges, and universities feel no compunction at asking teachers and professors to build their own online courses.

It is without a doubt hard for these employees, thrown into a medium with which they have no training and possibly little experience. But it's harder for learners. Inconsistent interfaces, garish fonts and color schemes, and lack of attention to even the most basic principles of proper Web design and accessibility are just a few of the issues which result. If we have any self respect we should, as an industry, stop this practice. Qualified, trained instructional designers should be building online courses. Qualified, trained classroom teachers should be teaching in classrooms. In the interim, qualified classroom instructors recruited, willingly or unwillingly, into online course design have recourse to the second edition of João Pedro Soares Fernandes' Moodle 2.5 Multimedia (Birmingham UK: Packt, 2013).

Moodle 2.5 Multimedia is the perfect companion to the harried instructor become instructional designer. Because the solutions emphasized are inexpensive or free, they will be of use in even the most fiscally-challenged of school districts. Soares Fernandes covers the access, creation, publishing, and dissemination of images, audio, and video. The book also explores various online technologies related to these media, such as Flickr and YouTube. In most cases a full workflow is covered in detail with screenshots and instructions. For example, the text instructs readers in finding an image licensed under Creative Commons on the Internet, editing and exporting the image using GIMP, and uploading the image into Moodle. It's likely that users new to instructional design will have very little knowledge about file formats and codecs, and Soares Fernandes provides appropriate details on these topics without overwhelming the reader with technical details.

The last chapter of Moodle 2.5 Multimedia covers copyright and licensing issues. The chapter also makes passing mention of privacy concerns. Unfortunately, FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act so important to instructors in the US), is not covered. Many readers will be accustomed to protecting student privacy in an academic setting, but have little understanding of how the same concerns apply to online technologies. This is especially important when a given technology is completely new to the instructor. An international approach might lay out legislation related to student privacy in various countries, then explain how the use of a given technology could result in violations.

Soares Fernandes also neglects, despite several opportunities in the chapters on audio and video, to explain file size to the reader. In my experience, content creators who are not familiar with Web design—especially those using software to generate and export content—have no sense of the limitations of media served via direct download. A great many support tickets have been created because an image, a SCORM package, or a video was simply too large to be served via direct download. A few paragraphs to explain the difference between direct download and streaming technologies, explain the simple task of determining the size of a file, and recommend maximum file sizes acceptable for direct download on various bandwidths would be useful to many users. Moodle 2.5 Multimedia does recommend streaming technologies, but the rationale behind these recommendations is not made clear.

It should also be noted that readers with a strong background in English grammar may have some difficulty with the text. Peculiar constructions, verb tense slippage, and genuine grammatical errors can be found throughout. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of genuinely useful information in the book, and the instructions and screenshots are clear and easy to follow.

Soares Fernandes' Moodle 2.5 Multimedia is a solid and highly valuable introductory text. It will be an excellent desktop companion to instructors with little experience in Moodle course design.

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