Mahara ePortfolio Assessments

This year we are using Mahara ePortfolios as the main assessment tool for several  of our modules (- predominantly first year and integrated foundation year modules). Mahara use at this scale hasn’t happened before at the RAU and we have been carrying out a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure a smooth roll out.

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Training  – We have run Mahara training for our staff on the following areas:

  • ePortfolios: What are they and what’s in it for me and my students?
  • Introducing Mahara: a basic introduction to editing
  • Using Mahara: Designing learning activities and assessment, and using groups
  • Advanced Mahara: Using competency frameworks
  • Mahara for Dissertation management
  • Mahara as a CV builder
Mahara digital badge

Mahara digital badge

We plan to also run some training on marking ePortfolios just before the assessments are due in. As a team we have been working to improve our own Mahara skills and recently had Sam Taylor from Catalyst in to help us prepare for the recent upgrade to 19.04. Aurelie has visited the early lecture sessions for the modules using an ePortfolio assessment and has given the students an overview of the system. Students have been encouraged to carry out the induction activity available to all RAU Mahara users – they are awarded with a digital badge for doing so. We will be revisiting the lecture sessions just before the assignment is due to check that there are no issues and the students are happy to submit their assignments.

Batch loading users on to Mahara – In order to set up groups we needed to make sure that the right students were in Mahara. Our system is set up to authenticate through Moodle and users are only created at the moment they access the Mahara site, adding users by CSV file helped us to ensure everyone was already on the site.

Setting up the groups for modules – Groups were set up using admin accounts and students on those modules were batch loaded into the groups.

Designing ePortfolio templates

Designing ePortfolio templates

Creating templates for the assessments – we decided to use templates for all this year’s ePortfolio assessments. This has allowed us to control the layout of the Mahara pages by locking blocks and should help with consistency when marking the assessments. Some of the templates are individual pages while others are collections of pages. The templates were designed in collaboration with the module lead and were created in the relevant group and shared with the existing group members. Comments were turned off for all templates.

Template for ePortfolio assessment for module 1400

Template for ePortfolio assessment for module 1400

Adding assessment points to the relevant modules – this has been done using a Mahoodle link in Mahara assignment. Students will go to their assignment submission portal and will be given the option to submit any of their Mahara ePortfolios – most will only have the templated assessment available. Once an ePortfolio has been submitted it will be locked until it has been marked.

Marking – we intend to use a rubric for marking of the ePotfolios and as mentioned earlier will be training our academics in how to mark to make sure the marking is consistent and fair.

There is still quite a bit of work to do before the end of the semester and assessments are done and dusted. We have agreed that we would like to have a retrospective with the academics once the ePortfolio assessments are all in and marked to see how things have gone and decide if we would like to go full steam ahead with more complex and student-developed ePortfolios for other higher level modules.

Mahara: Improving the RAU ePortfolio system

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.

 

Sam Taylor from Catalyst IT and the RAU Learning Technologists

Sam Taylor from Catalyst IT and the RAU Learning Technologists

Mahara Features

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

Using Templates

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

Deep links

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.

Rubrics

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.

What next?

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.

 

Mahara: designing activities and using groups

A couple of months ago, we posted about Mahara as we were launching a new series of workshops for anyone interested in e-portfolios at the RAU.

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Since then, we have run a practical session about editing portfolio pages. Our six participants ran through on online induction, building their own pages and sharing them. Once completed, they were allocated a digital badge that will now appear in their Gateway profile.

This session will be repeated on the 23rd July for those who missed it.

Last week we were focusing on designing authentic activities for portfolios in Mahara. One of the main advantages of e-portfolios, compared to a Word document for example, is that it can log evidence in a variety of media and reflections whilst showing progress. This means e-portfolios are conducive to students producing authentic original work that can be submitted for assessment.

The sessions produced a lot of questions on alignment to regulations for summative assessment, questions about groups and peer reviewing as well as questions using a portfolio rubric.

It was very energising to see learning design and creativity in action from our academic colleagues!

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Mahoodle 2019

On Monday we took a Learning Technologist outing to the Mahoodle day held at the University of Gloucestershire.

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All very useful stuff and our notes don’t do it justice. For a more comprehensive overview see Teresa MacKinnon’s Wakelet or the #Mahoodle19 hashtag.

Welcome

We were welcomed on to site by David James,  Dean of Academic Development, Professor of Exercise Science, University of Gloucestershire.

Open Source and Education Technology – Don Christie, Catalyst

Don’s opening talk gave us a some food for thought, covering open knowledge (“the outcome that we are seeking“) and the role Mahara plays in enabling users to “curate knowledge for the future”.

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Supporting teachers across the world with effective use of Moodle – Andrew Field and Liz Duncombe, Cambridge Assessment

Cambridge Assessment have 3 Moodles (including an internal moodle –  bloodle), 2 Mahara and 1 login and are effectively using moodle to demonstrate online stuff that works.

They used the session to have the first public demo of their swipe tool: http://bit.ly/swipe19

Opportunities with Open – building Mahara and ePorrtfolio competencies together – Lisa Donaldson, DCU

While eportfolios (or ‘your learning portfolio’ as a preferred term) are not so popular in Ireland or the UK in the US eportfolios used by >50% of students. Dublin City university have portfolio use for graduate attributes embedded in their strategic plan. They launched Mahara in 2017 and now have 14,500 users across 30 programmes – supported by one person and the eTerns. Lisa has encouraged use through initiatives including portfolios for faculty CPD, work placements and extra-curricular activities; awards for excellent use of portfolios ; and portfolio sharing and feedback activities.

DCU are now working with Catalyst IT  to add bit of “magic” into mahara through the Placeholder block (a template block that does not specify what format is required)

DCU have shared their journey at: https://eportfolioireland.wordpress.com/

Improved Template Support in Mahara – Sam Taylor, Catalyst and Jane Atkinson, Cambridge Assessment

In advance of the session Sam asked for ideas through her Padlet board: https://padlet.com/samtaylorcatalysteu/mahara 

She then talked in more detail about the magic block mentioned by Lisa from DCU, ways to lock blocks and instructions, and plugins that support design like Gridstack.js http://gridstackjs.com/

Sam recommended Kristina Hoeppner’s slides: https://slides.com/anitsirk/scaffolding-eportfolio-use#/

Jane gave an overview of the work Cambridge Assessment are carrying out with portfolios.

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Preparing Your Soil for Growth – Aurelie Soulier, Chantal Schipper and Marieke Guy, RAU

We gave an interactive presentation on the work we have been doing at RAU to increase use of Mahara.

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of SamTaylor

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of Sam Taylor

Competencies and Smart Evidence  – Gavin Henrick, LTS

Gavin explained that Competency Frameworks aren’t just about what a student has done or achieved, or pass or fail. “They’re a way to illustrate progress along the learning journey, their level of understanding at that moment in time”.  However smart evidence is often seen as too complicated for teachers to implement and learners to complete. As one audience member explained – unless you’ve got highly competent technical staff, there is a real barrier to access.

Applying Competencies, A Follow Up – Edd Bolton, Solent University

In a follow up to last year’s Mahoodle talk Edd covered where Solent have got to with competency frameworks. Edd also shared some tips for JSON editing: https://atom.io/packages/atom-json-editor

H5P Workshop (BYOD) – Dan Jefferies – @DevelopWithDan

After lunch we had a H5P training session from Dan Jefferies. It covered similar ares to our recent training session:

https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/h5p-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

Dr Mahoodle: Q&A panel – pedagogy, use and a bit of tech

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The panel comprised of our Aurelie Soulier, Sam Taylor (Catalyst), Marcus Green (Titus learning) and Gavin Henrick

Community User Groups MUA/MUGSE – Aurelie Soulier, RAU

The day concluded with another talk by Aurelie on how the Moodle/Mahara user community can get more involved. Richard Samson, chair of the Moodle Users Association was also on hand to answer questions.

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

e-portfolios: What are they and what’s in it for me and my students?

MaharaLogo2017_300x95While the RAU has had Mahara for sometime we have unfortunately not been using it effectively as an assessment tool. Hopefully this will change soon and there are plans to use e-portfolios extensively on the new Catalyst blended-learning courses.

In order to get our academics up to speed we have launched a series of group workshops aimed at anyone interested in using an e-portfolio for student assessment. The sessions are led by Aurelie Soulier with additional support from the Learning Technology team.

Yesterday was our first session entitled e-portfolios: What are they and what’s in it for me and my students? There was some useful discussion on people’s previous experiences of using e-portfolios (not always good!) and possible uses of the tool.

Aurelie introducing ePortfolios

Aurelie introducing ePortfolios

The next sessions will be more hands on and start looking at our own e-portfolio tool in more detail.

  1. Introducing Mahara: a basic introduction to editing
    Wednesday 29th May, 3-4:30pm, Glass room, EJ
  2. Using Mahara: Designing learning activities and assessment, and using groups
    Wednesday 3rd July, 3-4:30pm, Glass room, EJ
  3. Advanced Mahara: Using competency frameworks
    Wednesday 24th July, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ
    You will have had to attend previous workshops, or be familiar with Mahara, to attend this session
  4. Mahara for Dissertation management
    Wednesday 4th September, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ
  5. Mahara as a CV builder
    Wednesday 18th September, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ

All resources from the session will be available from the Mahara support page on Gateway.

Introduction to Mahara page - on Mahara

Introduction to Mahara page – on Mahara

Mahoodle for digital assessment

Today Rachael Foy (senior lecturer, RAU) and I attended the Mahoodle for digital assessment one-day conference at Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS), part of Cranfield University, based at the Ministry of Defence establishment at Shrivenham.

Cranfield University, along with Southampton Solent University, have been a little like RAU’s big sibling in our VLE transformation process. They have been metaphorically holding our hand, inspiring us and offering us support and guidance throughout – for which we are very grateful. This one-day event looking at moodle and Mahara, both open-source tools that we use at RAU, was something weren’t going to miss.

The day comprised of a good mix of plenaries, show and tells and workshops.

Keynote: Overview of the Erasmus-funded Academic Integrity project

Dr Mark Glynn (Dublin City University) gave us an overview of the 12 principles that they have established as part of their Academic integrity project. The principles will lead in to development of a toolkit which will include Case studies, self-assessment checklist, collation of resources.

Dr Mark Glynn, DCU

Mark also shared a whole heap of ‘giveaways’ including a rubric giveaway and an ebook on eportfolios.

Show and Tell Session 1

Aimee Helliker (Lecturer in Military Engineering Weapon & Vehicle Systems, Cranfield University) explained how she has managed to get students engaged prior to the start of their module using a few minor tweaks. She has change the term ‘pre-reading’ to ‘pre-work’ and explains that the student needs to dedicate time to the module before they start. She has also been more explicit about the reading required and gives clearly directed reading which involves identification of chapters considered using formative assessment consisting of a pre-work quiz and pre-work reflective question given within the opening lecture.

Roger Emery (Head of Learning Technologies, Southampton Solent University) and Edd Bolton (Learning Technologist, Southampton Solent University) provided an overview of their recent work on their myportfolio Mahara system. SmartEvidence allows you to work with competency frameworks in Mahara and associate them automatically with an evidence map for a visualisation of the competencies already gained, in progress, and not yet started. At Solent they have created templates for Competency based frameworks developed with JSON files.

Jane Watts and Mike Wadley from the Defence Academy elearning team talked about some of the security challenges of working in the MOD in relation to their Virtual Learning Environment. So for example they can’t allow upload of materials by students or marking online and assessments need to be locked down. The site also needs to pass penetration tests. This year’s approach has been implementation of an assessor role which will ensure that all assignments are classified officially.

Steve Powell (e-learning team leader, Lancaster University) presented their new approved policy of 100% online submission and paperless feedback. The policy is supported by a move to Moodle assignments away from use of Turnitin.

Steve Powell, Lancaster University

Steve Powell, Lancaster University

Bob Ridge-Stearn (head of e-learning, Newman University) gave an overview of how Newman have applied a lock down approach to their moodle assignments – they all have the same settings. Academics can flag that they would like assignments to be set up different but this is controlled centrally by elearning.

Portfolio Assessment Workshop

Portfolio Assessment Workshop

After lunch and an amazing tour of the Technology School (think big tanks, helicopters and guns!) Aurélie Soulier and Sam Taylor (Learning Technologists, Cranfield University) ran their Portfolio Assessment Workshop. They had us designing an assessment that could be used to road test their Evaluation Checklist.

Assessment toolkit

Joey Murison (Catalyst IT Europe) then gave a demonstration of the key new features in moodle 3.5 and Mahara 18.04. He wins the award for the best analogy of the day: “open source is free, like a puppy – it needs food and water and love”. Joey’s main suggestion was that we aim to go for Long Term Stable Releases (LTSR) if possible, these versions are designed to be supported for a longer than normal period. The next LTSR of moodle is 3.5, which is out fairly soon. The recent versions of moodle have had relatively few additions due to the main focus being on GDPR compliance.

Show and Tell Session 2

Richard Oelmann (Senior System Developer, University of Gloucestershire) demonstrated their progress in SITS and moodle integration and Submission from Mahara into moodle.

Dan Jefferies (Improve International) gave a whirlwind demo of user tours, which allows administrators to create visual and positional step by step guides of moodle. He also showed us snippets, a plugin which allows administrators to add text, layouts, buttons and other content from templates directly into moodle HTML areas.

Andrew Field (e-learning manager, Cambridge Assessment International Education) talked about rubrics, badges and their custom plugin team project which allows team submissions. They will be releasing later on in the year.

Gill Ritchie (Learning Technologist, Queen Mary University of London) gave an honest account of her experiences in using Mahoodle for assessment. They have been using it on the PGCAP they run which is attended by Learning Technologists. They’ve had mixed results and many people have found Mahara hardgoing. The single column view use (see below) being a good example of a fail.

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Gill Ritchie, QM

Brett Lucas (e-learning Policy and Change Manager, Queen Mary University of London) and Rumi Begum (Learning Technologist, Queen Mary University of London) shared their QMUL Model which is an initiative to broaden opportunities for Queen Mary undergraduates within by allowing them to study modules outside of their main curriculum. The model is built around networking; multi- and inter-disciplinarity; international/global perspectives and enterprising perspectives. They are using Mahara as the main portfolio tool.

The final session of the day was the Mahoodle Clinic facilitated by Roger Emery (Southampton Solent University). The questions are all available on Padlet.

A great day with lots of ideas to keep us busy!

E-Portfolios with Mahara

Mahara is an e-portfolio tool that allows users (staff and students) to create a record or portfolio of their learning. This record is likely to comprise of various electronic artefacts such as files, images and videos. Think of it as an electronic pinboard or journal in which to record your learner journey.

Mahara began in New Zealand in 2006. The Mahara project team chose the name Mahara because in Te Reo Māori, “mahara” means “to think, thinking, thought”. E-portfolios allow users to reflect on their studies and share their thoughts with their selected user community.

mahara-example

Mahara is available at RAU and those involved in learning and teaching are starting to think about how it can be utilised as an assessment mechanism. You can access Mahara through Gateway – see a link in the top menu bar. if you are interested in finding out more take a look at this introduction page.

We will be sharing our Mahara stories on the blog.