Mahara; it might just be a success

I’ve spent quite some time during this first term of the academic year working to get an e-portfolio pilot up and running. We tried last year and it didn’t get very far. This time around, I’ve taken it upon myself to personally see the project developing into something that can be of great benefit to our learners.

To ensure we have a quick uptake, I’ve been working closely with our Advanced Practitioners in ILT; each has responsibility for developing our use of learning technologies beyond current standards and raising the aspirations and skills of staff to new levels. Both are fantastically enthusiastic about their roles, and one in particular has been a key supporter of establishing e-portfolios as a standard provision.

We’ve setup a supporting web site to collate our Mahara resources, Mahara Guide. At the present time, this includes only a number of screencasts swiftly produced by me in order to help users get started quickly. However, my ambition for the site is to extend the content to include that produced by our students and other staff from within – and perhaps outside – our organisation. Publishing these resources via WordPress and not tucking them away in an Intranet site will, I hope, provide a useful resource for a wider community than ours alone.

In a short space of time, we’ve registered over one hundred users from several subject groups. What I’ve been most surprised by – and pleased about – is the really positive response from students. Mahara really does provide a platform that our students have been entirely comfortable with from the outset. I’ve already seen a couple of admittedly basic examples of this comfort, and equal willing to support each other. Having asked her group of students to watch the screencast that explains how you register your user account in Mahara. One confident student replied ‘why do we have to to watch the video; you could have just told us to register!’, whilst another duly followed the tutorial and commented that without it she would not have understood how to register. In another class, a student was asking me how to change the regional settings associated with their profile; before I had time to answer, another had approached and began to demonstrate how this can be changed.

These early indications of positive adoption and peer support are really encouraging and signs that for us, Mahara might be a really successful e-portfolio platform!

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