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Community access to course groups

Keith Landa's profile picture
Posts: 20

04 September 2010, 9:05

I've set up some Course: Controlled Membership groups and set them not to be publically viewable, for use in our faculty review process.  Membership on these committees is not supposed to be known to the faculty under review or anyone else on campus (don't get me started, it's not how I would set up a review process.....).

Should logged in members of our community be able to see these private, controlled membership groups?  If I log in as someone who is not in one of these groups, and go to Groups -> FInd Groups, I see all of these review committee groups, including the list of members for each group.

If this is the way that controlled membership groups are supposed to function, then we won't be able to use them for our faculty review process.  Also, since class rosters are not supposed to be available to anyone outside of class for FERPA regulations and privacy concerns, we wouldn't be able to use Course groups for courses on campus either.

Thanks for any advice.

Keith Landa
SUNY Purchase

anonymous profile picture
Account deleted
Posts: 52

04 September 2010, 13:21

I also noticed this visibility of Course Controlled (private) groups and would echo the desire to have these not be visible within the site groups lis; unless of course, there's some specific reason to do so I've not appreciated.

anonymous profile picture
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Posts: 808

05 September 2010, 17:03

Hi Keith (& Tim),

Unfortunately it sounds like Mahara groups won't be suitable for your faculty review process or for your courses.

This is probably a bug in the language pack more than anything else. 'Publicly viewable groups' only exist for people who want to let logged-out users browse the group forums.  For example, this is how these forums on are set up: the 'Mahara Community' group is a publicly viewable group so that anyone can read the forums without having to register.

There is no especially good reason why we couldn't implement 'hidden groups' in a future version of Mahara -- I guess we just haven't had any serious requests for that feature yet.


Keith Landa's profile picture
Posts: 20

06 September 2010, 23:54

Thanks for the feedback Richard.

I'll copy the faculty review portfolios to my account, and then share them individually with the review committee members.  Not ideal, but should be workable enough to allow our pilot to go forward.

I don't have access to the code or database tables here at home.  Is there a group type ID that we can use to easily identify Course: Controlled Membership groups, to supress their display on the group search page and on profile pages, assuming we decide to go in and hack the code base to make Mahara suitable for our review needs?  Any other obvious places where lists of groups show up that we would have to remember to hide the private groups on?

I think most colleges in the US would consider a listing of student enrollments in specific classes to be non-directory educational records, and therefore be considred private information under federal law that can't be released without written consent of the students involved.  Therefore having course group membership available to anyone beyond the students and faculty of the class involved would be a problem.  Even without the federal regulations, high profile stalking cases have made colleges leary about releasing information about who is enrolled in specific courses.  Does Mahara have a feature/bug tracker system where feature requests can be voted up, similar to what Moodle has?


Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4381

07 September 2010, 3:09

Hello Keith,

Thank you very much for explaining the background of invisible groups a bit. I just found a somewhat similar feature request at

Your feature proposal is a very useful one that should not be accomplished by hacking the code in Mahara, but having a proper procedure for it. It will be helpful to have that information on the bug / feature tracker. You can submit it at

As you can see, we use Launchpad to keep track of bugs and features alike. A bug / feature can be "voted up" Launchpad's calculation of "bug heat". Thus, if somebody also subscribes to your bug and says "This bug / feature affects me", the more heat will the item get. There are some other things taken into consideration as well.

I can't help you with the database table question. Richard or another developer will have to answer that.



Keith Landa's profile picture
Posts: 20

07 September 2010, 7:19

Thanks Kristina - we'll follow up with the launchpad track for promoting this feature.  I'd prefer not to hack the code on our Mahara installation, but we would plan it to be a short term, local modification to allow us to move forward with this project, until the Mahara community determines that adding hidden groups is a feature that is needed to be implemented (if that is the case).  keith

anonymous profile picture
Account deleted
Posts: 13

10 September 2010, 7:38

Keith, were you sucessful in hacking the code for group lists? We are also very concerend about users being able to see who is a member of a course group. If you were successful, would you mind sharing your hacks with us? Thanks!


anonymous profile picture
Account deleted
Posts: 6

13 September 2010, 3:29


We are also very interested in this hack if you figure one out.



Keith Landa's profile picture
Posts: 20

13 September 2010, 7:08

HI Melinda, Alex - given the schedule for the faculty review process, there really wasn't time to implement and test a hack for the faculty portfolio review groups.  I've bypassed the groups structure altogether for our pilot and have used my account to share the faculty portfolios to the individual review members, in order to maintain the needed anonymity between reviewers and reviewees.

Once we evaluate the partial pilot, and get feedback from the reviewers on whether or not the e-portfolio format met review needs, we can determine whether or not we'll use Mahara for faculty reviews.  If so, we'll definitely need to modify Mahara to provide anonymous review, and we'll share back any hack that we develop.  Currently though our development efforts are focused on start of the semester Moodle projects.

It certainly seems that there is interest in the Mahara community for private course groups and the ability to submit portfolio views to anonymous reviewer groups, which I think are related but somewhat different feature requests.  I hope that these features would get some priority for development, because I don't see how current course groups in Mahara meet US federal regulations on privacy of educational records.


anonymous profile picture
Account deleted
Posts: 13

13 September 2010, 9:08

I agree, Keith, that FERPA compliance is an issue. I am sure I can track down the code that displays the list of users next to the group names, but if anyone out there can point me in the right direction, I'd really appreciate it.

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