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Mahara Newsletter January 2013 (Vol. 2 / Issue 4)

We wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2013. May it be a wonderful year for you.

While this newsletter does not sport many different stories, it goes into depth for a few, and you will learn about the use of Mahara at Pace University, Alvernia University, a customization to discuss as well as an ePortfolio event Down Under. Let 2013 begin with a warm welcome to this quarter's newsletter contributors.

The next newsletter will be published on April 1, 2013, and you can send articles to

The Mahara Newsletter is published under the Creative Commons BY-SA license 3.0.

Mahara in use

How Pace University made the 3-version leap to 1.5

Samantha Egan

For too long Pace University participated in Mahara User Group meetings with green eyes as other institutions presented with recent Mahara versions that seemed so far ahead of 1.2, where we remained for over two years.

Not that we didn’t appreciate 1.2. Our 2010 Mahara installation ended ePortfolio Program co-Directors', Linda Anstendig and Beth Gordon Klingner, ten-year search for the “right” ePortfolio platform. Our programming team tailored 1.2 to meet the needs of our faculty, students, and staff, a process which totaled 90 customizations, from small text changes to about 30 more involved enhancements. We understood that upgrading meant that our programmers would have the lengthy task of transferring each customization, so we were content with remaining where we were.

As our program began to grow, however, the need to upgrade became more apparent. We saw common requests from students and faculty, such as the need for creating multiple portfolios and for easier navigation, were addressed in later versions. Our team agreed that we were ready to make the leap, but finding the best time for our programmers to schedule the three-version upgrade was a challenge given their full project list and tight deadlines.

To prepare, the ePortfolio team examined the customizations list in order to narrow it down for an easier upgrade. After looking at what updates and features 1.5 offered and letting go of unnecessary items, we cut our list down to ten customizations. The upgrade happened at the end of August 2012, one week prior to the start of the fall semester, leaving a short window for testing. Nevertheless, we were able to release a brand new Mahara when our students returned in the fall.

Our newly expanded group of seven ePortfolio “eTerns” was an essential part of educating the Pace community about the new version. Before the end of September we were able to revise and repost over thirty tutorials and resources sheets on the Pace website and work with 492 students and faculty members through demonstrations, workshops, and one-on-one appointments.

The reaction to the new Mahara was very positive. One huge change was allowing users to create their own pages, a feature we had limited in 1.2 by using a seven-page template. Both students and faculty love having the ability to create their own pages and collections. We also received many comments on the improved site navigation, particularly the button that allows users to bounce between editing and previewing a page in one click.

One hiccup we’ve experienced is the slow loading times that often occur in workshops with over 15 participants. We’ve learned that staggering logins usually helps. We hope to find out more about this issue by working with the Mahara User Group.

However, in general, 1.5 has enhanced many of our ePortfolio initiatives across campus. Using controlled groups has made the tenure and promotion process run more smoothly by cutting down on the number of faculty we need to hunt down to accept the invitation to their committee’s group. Our students were happy to have more options for displaying their photos with the image gallery, as well as the ability to create various collections tailored to each of their potential employers.

This upgrade has also shown us the importance of adopting a more regular upgrade schedule. Our programmers are committing to a once-a-year-upgrade at the end of each academic year. The continued upgrades will undoubtedly help our ePortfolio program continue to evolve as we discover the exciting new features of Mahara versions to come.

For more information on Pace University's ePortfolio initiative, please go to

Mahara ePortfolios used for training K-12 principals

by Joseph Elder

At Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, USA, K-12 principals in training are required to create Mahara based Leadership ePortfolios as they complete graduate level principal certification courses. These structured ePortfolios are based upon standards developed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) and the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Standards (PILS). This template allows prospective principals to document personal development and professional growth from the first course through the principal internship and certification process.

Use of the ePortfolio as a pedagogical tool provides integration of knowledge between courses, collaboration between students, and on-going assessment and mentoring from university instructors. Instructors of and students in the principal cohorts are able to comment on and critique the developing ePortfolios as reflections and artifacts are uploaded. This interaction promotes development of lasting professional relationships among this group of pre-professional K-12 principals, anticipated to be educational leaders for several decades.

The Alvernia University Leadership ePortfolio initiative has grown considerably since the Fall of 2011 with 44 ePortfolios under development. As the project develops, the integrity of the principal certification program improves and students gain valuable personal and professional knowledge within standards set by national and state accrediting organizations.

Mahara in upcoming events

Developer Meeting January 2013

by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

The 23rd Mahara Developer Meeting will take place on IRC on January 16, 2013, 8:00 a.m. UTC (please check the time zone converter for your local time). You can find the agenda on the wiki and add your own development-related agenda points (your password also works on the wiki). If you are not able to attend, the meeting notes as well as the full log will be posted after the meeting. Join the discussion on the #mahara-dev IRC channel on freenode. If you do not have a chat software installed, you can also use your web browser.

Potential MUG January 2013 meeting

by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

The next virtual MUG meeting will potentially take place on January 31, 3:00 p.m. Eastern time (please check the time zone converter for your local time). Please watch for an announcement in the Mahara User Group. Every Mahara user is invited to participate online.

Moodle-Mahara Meetup – Lowering the barriers to learning online

by Allison Miller

The “Moodle-Mahara Meetup” will be held in Adelaide, Australia, on 8 May 2013, and will showcase the use of Moodle and Mahara in vocational and workplace education and training.

The “Moodle-Mahara Meetup” aims to attract educators, educational designers, and learning and development managers interested in lowering the barriers to online learning through better integration with Moodle and Mahara. It will raise the profile of the connection between Moodle and Mahara, also known as Mahoodle. Other technical integrations, such as Google Apps, and using mobile devices for accessing and uploading of information, will also be showcased.

Call for proposals will be announced early in 2013. Registrations to attend this event will open shortly thereafter.

Receive updates about the Moodle-Mahara Meetup by registering at or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Read the full press release.

Mahara in past events

Fall MUG Meeting Discusses ePortfolio Integration and Sharing of Ideas

by Michelle Birch

In October, the Mahara User Group (MUG) hosted a virtual meeting to discuss statewide ePortfolio integration, group collaboration for possible papers and presentations, as well as the sharing of pedagogy and information (coding).

Our global MUG has been successful in connecting and collaborating on ePortfolio ideas and integration since its inception in 2011. Pace University, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase, SUNY Empire State, Albertus Magnus College, and the University of Education in Freiburg, Germany, are just a few of the institutions that are part of our global ePortfolio network. Keith Landa (SUNY Purchase) and Ellen Marie Murphy (SUNY Empire State College) described SUNY’s ePortfolio task force across its campuses. The goal is to eventually have all 64 campuses running on the same open source, ePortfolio network. SUNY is analyzing ePortfolios in a number of stages: K-12, higher education, and career development beyond higher education.

Other members of the group were interested in sharing recordings of the MUG meetings, and showcasing student ePortfolios, from various institutions. Last spring, we hosted another virtual MUG meeting in which we shared students ePortfolios from a few colleges and universities in the U.S. and in Germany (view the recording).

The group also discussed collaboration for papers and presentations. Some of the members already have papers in the works but would like to work in conjunction with other staff and faculty at other institutions. One of the ideas discussed for a possible paper was, “How a user group can affect education globally.” Conferences like the Sloan Consortium on Online Learning, Educause, and The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL) were mentioned for potential opportunities for collaboration.

Many of the members were very interested in using the group and specifically the MUG Facebook page or the Mahara wiki to generate discussions on pedagogy, badges, technical issues and information or code sharing.

We hope that our MUG will continue to populate and allow for more ePortfolio information sharing. For more Mahara resources visit the Mahara wiki. We will continue to collaborate via our MUG virtual meetings as well as our Facebook page and the MUG space on

View the recording of the 6th MUG meeting.

Mahara in development

Mahara navigation changes

by Dirk Meyer

Portfoliocommunities has been playing with the Mahara menu system a little bit and implemented a few changes to their system. Although not extensive by any means, little things sometimes can have big results. Not being a final version at all, we are showing some things we did and try to explain why we did them.

With the help of a competent and motivated developer and using funds generated by my small companies' LMS and CMS hosting and consulting activities, we started this endeavour by providing individual tabs for Plans, Résumé, Files, and Journals. Each tab is individually styled to provide features such as colour coding, possibly a larger 'Portfolio' tab for example or substitute text with icons etc. Direct access to what is available all the time is really what I am after and I am hoping to encourage users to explore and use the system more readily.

Head over to Portfoliocommunities for more information and a demo login to trial the changes. You are welcome to discuss them in this forum post on

Mahara 1.7: Feature freeze

by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

In April 2012, the Mahara release team adopted an ambitious 6-monthly release cycle to make the release of Mahara more predictable, offer regular releases twice a year and thus allow users to take advantage of new features and bug fixes more quickly. We are now well into the release cycle for Mahara 1.7.

If you are developing features for Mahara and wish to have them considered for the next release, please submit them to the review system now. Feature freeze for Mahara 1.7 will be in the first week of February 2013. After that only bug fixes will be accepted.

Please jump on #mahara-dev on Freenode, ask you question in the developer forum or come to the next developer meeting on January 16, 2013, to discuss your features (see above for more information) or if you have a problem submitting your patch.

Mahara 1.7 feature testing

by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

For the Mahara 1.7 release we are focusing our attention on fixing the issues when users have JavaScript turned off.

A large number of the non-JavaScript fixes are ready for testing, and we welcome everyone to participate in the QA process. You will need a local installation of Mahara on which you can apply the individual patches to test. Instructions on setting up this environment are available for Linux users (can be installed in a virtual machine if you don't have a full-fledged Linux computer). You can get a quick introduction to Gerrit, the review system we use, in the presentation "Gerrit for everyone" (incl. audio recording) and examples from Mahara.