Sam Taylor, eLearning Specialist at Catalyst IT, visited the Learning Technologists at the RAU on Thursday. Sam is known worldwide for her knowledge of Mahara and her positive pedagogical approaches to e-portfolios.
Mahara will play a large part of the reflective work on the newly-developed Catalyst programmes: some of the formative and summative assessment will be undertaken on Mahara. We therefore want the platform to be setup in an optimal way for all users.
The aim of the day was to get professional advice on how what is best for our Mahara platform, in terms of both technical specifications and regarding how to best structure our help and support for staff and student users.
Thanks to Sam, we established that we might not be making full use of our current Mahara platform (18.04) due to not being familiar with the variety of features available.
As a summary, our current Mahara platform has functions such as:
- Automatically sending notifications for changes in Terms & Conditions
- Copying a page from other portfolio
- Linking to another page from the user’s portfolios
- Rotating images within Mahara
- Linking to ‘Help’ (user manual for current version) in context (for each page)
- Customising assessment status for Smart Evidence (competency framework)
As we discussed the options and technical support, we agreed that we would move to the latest version (19.04) of Mahara this summer, ready for the new Catalyst courses starting in October, which require Mahara for reflective activities and assessment.
This means we will benefit form a plethora of very useful new functionalities that will help us better support and manage groups and templates in Mahara. Here are some of the key improvements:
- Timeline feature to see progress in portfolio development
- Improved navigation
- Improved editor for Smart Evidence (competency framework)
- Pushing templates to groups and institutions
- Adding a navigation block to all pages in a collection
- Opening links in a new tab or window
- Instructions block in pages
- Locking blocks and stopping accidental page deletion
- Copying blocks in context (e.g.: Journal)
- Peer assessment (block for peers to review external activity)
- Revoking access to page(s) in case the page is reported
- Setting up institutional tags
- Populating pages automatically with tag content
- Updating a Plan directly in a page
- Open badges
All templates are found under your ‘Pages and Collections’ with other portfolio pages. There are three types of templates in Mahara:
- A page made copy-able from a user
- Group templates – pushed to students or copied from a user
- Institution templates that can be pushed to all users in an institution
During the session, we found out how to create links between Gateway and Mahara so that students and staff are not forced to re-login or navigate via their dashboard to a page, from a link in Gateway.
We also discussed the benefits of e-portfolio rubrics for assessment and we will build a set of resources in Gateway to support our staff using rubrics.
We will carry on running workshops for staff and we will upgrade to Mahara version 19.04 this summer.
We are also planning to re-design the Mahara Support page in Gateway to include user support, academic guidance, workshops summary and notes and a series of portfolios to demonstrate good practice and the variety of uses of e-portfolios.
We would love to hear about any ideas you have for improving e-portfolio usage.