Teaching with Moodle

Moodle Books or PDFs?

 
Picture of pgmoodle dundee
Moodle Books or PDFs?
 

Hi Moodle friends : )


At the moment in our courses/modules for content we use Moodle books, which work fine at the moment.  It's nice to have content broken down into pages, with a menu on the left.  


However how would you compare this to PDFs? The menu with table of content can be displayed.  Also more accessible maybe?  Furthermore easier for students to download (instead of downloading books with funny formatting). 


Can you provide your thoughts on the following questions please? 

  • What do you use - books, pdfs or something else? 
  • Do you think it's better to move from books to pdfs? 
 
Average of ratings: Useful (1)
Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Moving to Teaching with Moodle forum...

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Have had students in the past giving the opinion that they prefer the content direct on the web, ie in pages or moodle books or similar, because pdfs are not responsive on smaller devices, they are not always fully accessible to screen readers (depends how they are produced). PDFs also cannot hold videos the way Moodle books can.

One solution I've used in the past is to create both - create the Moodle book, so I have all the content as I want it, then export it and reformat it so it looks good as a download and save that as a PDF available for download from within the book.


UK Govt advice on accessible pdfs

PDFs are bad for accessibility. Users can’t customise them for ease of reading, and they don’t work so well with assistive technologies like screen readers.
Wherever possible, create content in HTML formats. If you can’t avoid publishing a PDF, it should be in addition to an HTML version.
As a minimum, any PDF you publish must meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-publish-on-gov-uk/accessible-pdfs


 
Average of ratings: Useful (8)
Picture of AL Rachels
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Along with all the points made by Richard, if you need to make a "quick update or change" it only take a moment with a book. Not so with a PDF.

 
Average of ratings: Useful (1)
Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Particularly helpful Moodlers
Fully agree with Richard. Since I am uncertain whether the general crowd talk of the same thing, let me take a step back.

The fact is, there are more than two things:
1. (printed and bound) books
These were very common in the analog world, so much so that the word 'book' stood for them. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book. Now in the digital (virtual) world we need to say analog books, I suppose.

2. Electronically prepared documents
2.a Optimized to be printed and bound
The universal format used to be PostScript, now PDF is the most common.

2.b Made for the computer screen
There are tons of formats almost always described in a mark-up or mark-down language https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markup_language - "HTML" in a wider sense. The Moodle activity Book also belongs to this category, together with Wiki, Blog, etc.

2.c E-books
Also mark-up combined with other web technologies to get "paper-like" formatting, still able to adjust for the variing display sizes.

Now to the original question:
> At the moment in our courses/modules for content we use Moodle books, which work fine at the moment. It's nice to have content broken down into pages, with a menu on the left.

So you are happy with 2.b.

> However how would you compare this to PDFs? The menu with table of content can be displayed. Also more accessible maybe? Furthermore easier for students to download (instead of downloading books with funny formatting).

Obviously. The 2.a and 2.b are two different worlds. Web is not paper!

> Can you provide your thoughts on the following questions please?
> What do you use - books, pdfs or something else?

If you need both, you need to adapt new techniques. One of mine, now abandoned, is documented here https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=276119.

P.S. I am taken aback hearing that "quick to update" is a main criteria for the selection of technology. I never had to lead students towards moving targets!
 
Average of ratings: Useful (1)
moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Good points Visvanath, worth thinking about.

My own was that the difficulty of editing PDFs was the reason for me learning TeX, using TeX tools to create PDFs, using TeX in Moodle to present Maths, etc. The issue is now that PDFs are almost as easy to edit as Word docs, so I have reduced my emphasis on using PDFs and just sticking to electronic formats. 

It also means that students will have to learn how to respond using spreadsheets, Calc, Sheets, Excel and so on to get some work done and again, returning to the pen and paper to get a lot of more advanced maths done as MatLab is not a desirable tool for secondary schools to use, apparently.

Duh...   

 
Average of ratings: Useful (2)
Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Colin

It was the shift to the screen accompanied with BYOD which stopped me using LaTeX. The brilliant typesetting in TeX was suddenly not a requirement for the (HTML-based) screen. My teaching material do not need demanding mathematics so the shift to the screen was not a problem. But that might change again. The screen-only documents stay "virtual" (in the web). The students need something to take home!

Ultimately I come to the same conclusion "using PDFs and just sticking to electronic formats" with the option of getting printouts.

I agree with "returning to the pen and paper to get a lot of more advanced maths", just watch the creator of TeX musing over maths on pen and paper!
 
Average of ratings: -
My Idol - Elon Musk
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
 

Can we do it like the Scribd Format. I have seen Scrbd down loader and the Format is just fine if I look at it from the Reader's Perspective.

 
Average of ratings: -
Kim
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersParticularly helpful MoodlersTesters

Hi pgmoodle

I use the Book resource for my course content. It is easy to update and easy for the learner to print the entire book or a specific chapter of the book (using the gear icon or admin menu (depends on version) when in the book). It is also much better for mobile devices and media content.

 
Average of ratings: -
Matt Bury
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Hi pgmoodle and other fellow Moodlers,

Some good points have been covered well here so I'll come at this from a different angle.

In terms of students learning from the reading materials they're given, as far as I understand the growing body of research on screen vs. print formats, printed formats tend to work better than screens, especially for longer and/or more challenging texts. Here's a short, recent summary of the research so far: http://theconversation.com/the-enduring-power-of-print-for-learning-in-a-digital-world-84352

I think a good strategy is to provide PDF versions of longer/challenging readings so that students can easily print them out, or to provide a textbook with the necessary readings in, e.g. the Open University offers print versions of some of their courses to enrolled students for purchase.

Another important feature of traditional printed pages relates to cognitive load theory (See: John Sweller, Richard E Mayer, Paul Kirschner et al.), more specifically the benefits of reducing extraneous load, i.e. information that is not directly related to the current learning objectives and other "distractions" such as navigation menus, hyperlinks in the text body (even the decision of whether or not to click on a body text link creates extraneous load), logos, to do lists, reminders, and Moodle blocks. In short, if students are reading on a screen, it should be as free from clutter and unrelated information as a printed page, i.e. none. I think there are plugins for Moodle that make collapsing navigation menus and other blocks simple and easy. Having the option to go full screen, i.e. the reading text only, would be ideal.

I hope this helps! smile

Matt

 
Average of ratings: Useful (4)
moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Quite right Matt, but the issue I see is that fewer and fewer High School students are reading like their older siblings did who didn't read as much as their older siblings did and so on. Reading requires a great deal of effort expended in memory use, and so many students are so used to using their devices, their phones as an expandable memory system, they don't bother to remember things. This includes word definitions, grammar, letter formation in the more advanced cases. This is why, for me anyway, I have slowly, and more than a little reluctantly, come around to the idea of flipping my classes. Moodle is a great tool for that, makes things seriously easier to set up and for students to use. Believe it or not, I have been getting better results, particularly from formerly disengaged students, Still not great outcomes, but there are definite signs of improvement that are really encouraging. 

Gotta try something that works. 

 
Average of ratings: Useful (2)
Picture of Melanie Scott
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Particularly helpful Moodlers

Does it have to be either/or?  Build your book.  "Print" it to Word (or preferred word processing program), fix the funny formatting.  "print" it to PDF.  Provide a pdf download as an option.  When you update the book, update the Word version, reprint to PDF, update the option.  A few more steps, but possibly worth it?

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle Books or PDFs?
Particularly helpful Moodlers
Here is yet another work flow: "Moodle and Wordpress + Pressbooks Integration"
Christopher Kenniburg, October 2017
 
Average of ratings: -