Yes it’s that time of year again folks where the Mahara Community comes together for the annual Mahara Hui UK where we share practice and explore the latest developments in the Mahara software that powers our e-portfolio systems (MyFolio here at Kent). However, this year’s Hui very nearly didn’t happen…

MaharaHuiUK2016 logoA few days before I received word from the fine folks at the University of Sunderland, our hosts, and Catalyst IT (Mahara project maintainers) that the event had been cancelled after registrations fell significantly short of expectation. However, and as all communities do, the Mahara alumni rallied round and a half-day webinar was hastily organised and sincere thanks must go to Joey and the guys at Catalyst IT; the keynote speakers who were able to condense presentations to better fit the online environment; and especially Mark Glynn and Lisa Donaldson (Dublin City University) who graciously hosted us all in their virtual space at very short notice.

This ‘can do’ spirit was also epitomised by Kristina Hoeppner (Catalyst IT Mahara Project Lead) who delivered an interesting presentation on Smart Evidence (Competency Frameworks and Evidence Mapping which finally  made it into the recent 16.10 release) in between aftershocks following the recent earthquake in New Zealand; while Mark Glynn and Lisa Donaldson’s presentation proved that you really can create an e-portfolio system (including support materials) from scratch and evangelise it to both staff and students in an eye-watering 28 days!

An image depicting a model of digital pedagogy surrounding the use of Mahara
A model of digital pedagogy surrounding use of Mahara (courtesy of Jaye Ryan – Brimingham City University)

Of particular interest was Jaye Ryan’s (Birmingham City University) presentation that explored use of Mahara as a learning strategy and not just a digital repository within the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Here Jaye looked to align the learning outcomes to activities in Mahara and was keen for students to identify for themselves the benefits of using Mahara and to encourage self-regulated learning.

Through her work advocating the usability of Mahara, Jaye has become Captain of the Mahara LearningWheel – a model of digital pedagogy designed to enhance learning while also developing digital literacy skills. The model focusses upon four modes of engagement: Learning Content, Assessment, Communication and Collaboration and Jaye has sought contributions from the Community under these headings in support of the question ‘How do you use Mahara to engage your students in learning?’ I think that this will continue to evolve and become a fantastic collaborative resource within the Community and am pleased to see that it is looking likely that it will be published within the Mahara User Manual.

Anecdotally, Jaye reported that she believes approximately 75% of nursing and midwifery students at Birmingham City engage with Mahara from a surface learning standpoint (regarding it more as a tick box exercise), while the other 25% engaged in deeper learning by focussing on their own personal development planning, lifelong learning and revalidation.

This prompted much debate surrounding how students then take e-portfolios into the work environment and what provision institutions could/are making in support of obligations to alumni and the lifelong learning agenda in the ongoing hosting and maintenance of student data to enable students to continue to have access to update their portfolio for life.

As always these events provide much food for thought and I am particularly keen to explore the Smart Evidence feature as we look to implement the 16.10 release as I think it could be of real benefit in a number of areas including those subjects where students need to follow a competency framework in order to be accredited.

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