By: Laura Orozco
Wellington, New Zealand
Instead of carrying messy binders around or making paper copies of your work, Mahara, which integrates perfectly with Moodle, is an open source and social learning web application that allows you to set up your digital identity and show it to others.
When Mahara started out in 2006, it was a joint venture between a number of universities in New Zealand who wanted to create a personal learning environment that integrates with their base LMS. Led by Catalyst IT (http://catalyst.net.nz), it has grown into an electronic portfolio in which students and professionals can place their learning evidence and demonstrate work experience.
“Learners can create a portfolio to demonstrate their progress in a learning area over time and also create a portfolio to complement their job search, as they can include real evidence of their achievements. They can upload files from their devices, create reflections in learning journals directly in Mahara, and embed content from other websites, such as audio and video sharing services, animation generators, presentation services and cloud storage. In that way, they can curate all their learning in one place and make it available to different audiences”, explains Kristina Hoeppner, Mahara Project Lead and Community Facilitator at Catalyst IT.
Mahara is perfect for those who need to keep a record of their professional development, such as nurses, social workers, hairdressers, teachers, artists, and many others. Portfolios can be accessed and updated anywhere, at any time. Along with all these benefits, Mahara also functions as a social network and allows people to discuss various topics in one safe, secure place.
According to Hoeppner, “Mahara is not just used by learners to create their individual portfolios. They also engage in social learning practices. Learners can collaborate on portfolios with others and work on group projects. They engage with viewers of their portfolios through the commenting functionality and gain further insight into what they have done well or could improve”.
Mahara and Moodle complement each other in many ways. While Moodle does a great job providing teachers with tools and helping them guide their students through different resources, Mahara, on the other hand, is for learners. This means it is the learners, who decide what content to include in their portfolios and what not to. For example, by exporting learning content from Moodle to Mahara, learners can keep that information safe in their ePortfolio, even if the teacher deletes it from Moodle.
“Because Moodle and Mahara are closely integrated, an educational institution can offer its learners and teaching staff a single sign-on for the two applications, as well as allow learners to send their learning evidence from Moodle, such as submitted assignment files, forum posts, and glossary entries, straight to Mahara”.
Mahara is not just used by learners to create their individual portfolios. They also engage in social learning practices. Learners can collaborate on portfolios with others and work on group projects.
The Mahara Partner Programme, managed by Catalyst, gives its members the opportunity to work more closely with the Mahara core project team, be informed about new initiatives early, and receive advance notification about upcoming releases so they can schedule updates and be featured on Mahara’s website. All of this is without paying any kind of base-fee and, instead, being active contributors to the Mahara project.
Recently, in early April 2016, Blackboard became a business partner with Mahara and showed its commitment to the Mahara project. Knowing that many of their clients use Mahara as part of their Moodlerooms operations, Blackboard is planning to support the community via issue resolution and feature development.
*Kristina Hoeppner, Mahara Project Lead and Community Facilitator at Catalyst IT.
*AFP Marty Melville