Mahara ePortfolio System

Features

by Mahara ePortfolio System

An Introduction to Mahara (5 mins)

What makes Mahara different from other ePortfolio systems is that you control which items and what information (Artefacts) within your portfolio other users see.
 
In order to facilitate this access control, all Artefacts you wish to show to other users need to be bundled up and placed into one area. Within Mahara this compilation of selected Artefacts is called a View.
 
You can have as many Views as you like, each with a different collection of Artefacts, and intended purpose and audience. Your audience, or the people you wish to give access to your View, can be added as individuals or as a member of a Group or Community.
 
ePortfolio owners create Views using a 4 step process and Views have the following features:
 

  • ePortfolio owners can receive public or private feedback on their View and Artefacts within that View.
  • Users accessing a View can report any objectionable material directly to the Site Administrator.
  • Users can add Views and Artefacts within a View to their Watchlist and receive automated notifications of any changes or updates.
  • ePortfolio owners can Submit a View for Assessment by a tutor or teacher allowing for a snapshot of the View and associated Artefacts on a certain date.

Other Features of Mahara

File Repository

Mahara includes a file repository which allows users to:
 

  • Create folder and sub folders structures
  • Upload multiple files quickly and efficiently
  • Give each file a Name and Description
  • Manage their file allocation Quota
  • When uploading a file users must agree to a configurable Copyright disclaimer.
  • Can extract .zip, .tar.gz and .tar.bz2 from within the files area

Blogs

 
A comprehensive blogging tool is provided in Mahara, where blogs and blog postings are considered Artefacts and may be added to a View.
 
The blogging tool allows users to:
 

  • Create blog posts using a WYSIWYG editor
  • Attach files to posts
  • Embed images into postings
  • Configure whether or not Comments may be received on their blog
  • Create draft postings for later publishing

Social Networking

 
Mahara provides a social networking facility where users can create and maintain a list of Friends within the system. ePortfolio owners choose whether other users can add them to their Friends list automatically or by request and approval.
An ePortfolio owner's Friends lists shows those Views to which they have been assigned access.

Resumé Builder

 
Mahara includes a resumé builder which allows users to create digital CV’s by entering information into a variety of optional fields including:
 

  • Contact and personal information
  • Employment and education history
  • Certifications, accreditations and awards
  • Books and publications, professional memberships
  • Personal, academic and work skills and
  • Personal, academic and career goals

Profile Information

 
Within Mahara users are able to share details through a variety of optional profile information fields including:
 

  • Preferred Name
  • Student ID
  • Postal address and contact phone numbers
  • Skype, MSN, Yahoo & Jabber name
  • Introduction
  • Profile Icons images

Administration

 
Administrators are able to customise Mahara via a number of configuration settings which include:
 

  • Language packages and themes
  • Virus protocol
  • Session and account lifetimes
  • Authentication methods
  • Institution setup
  • Core page editor
  • Main Menu editor

 
In addition with the Modular plugin structure of Mahara, Artefact and Block types may be configured, disabled or enabled, according to the organisation’s requirements.

Interface with Moodle

 
Mahara provides a single-sign on capability that allows users, at the option of the administrator, to be automatically logged in to both their Mahara and Moodle accounts by providing a username and password at only one of these sites.
 
The user can sign on at Mahara, and click on a link to her Moodle account, or sign on at Moodle, and click on a link to her Mahara account.
 
The single-sign-on feature runs over an encrypted transport, and the user's passwords do not have to be shared between sites.

This product includes software developed by the OpenSSL Project for use in the OpenSSL Toolkit.

Scalability

 
Mahara has been designed as a web application with a plug-in architecture. This means it is possible to scale the application up by separating hardware for search, database, file storage and web servers.
 
It is also possible to replicate each of these operational components to further scale the system upwards. In addition Mahara is designed to:
 

  • be load balanced across several web servers
  • have a share file data from a centralised file server
  • and have a separate database server.

 
This hosting set-up has proven scalability for similar systems like Moodle.

Security

 

  • Mahara automatically detects system settings that a pose a security threat.
  • Session key handling code has been tightly integrated with the core form/request APIs.
  • Provides database abstraction that prevents any database injection attacks and input validation that prevents script injection attacks.
  • User authentication can be tied to external systems such as student management systems or other databases such as their Student ID number.

Interoperability

 

  • Mahara includes an Import/Export system with Leap2A suport, and static HTML export.
  • Users can place their views under any of the Creative Commons licenses.
  • Mahara is built using PHP web scripting language and leverages PHP5's OO features.
  • All plug-ins follow a consistent structure and inherit from a common base class (core functions of plug-ins are implemented once)
  • Mahara currently supports plug-ins for Artefacts, Authentication and Search. Therefore interoperating with an existing product simply requires the development of a plug-in.