Forums | Mahara Community
How isolated / flexible will Isolated Institutions be?
10 June 2011, 8:57 PM
I am not advocatig for running multiple Maharas. Professionally, I look after one Mahara for 37schools with users frm
10 June 2011, 9:41 PM
Edit-I could not see the cursor unless I saved the post first. Once I saved and then completed it I got timed out. Luckily, I copy-pasted what I wrote before saving it the second time. Not surprisingly, I got an 'Access denied' with all text lost. As I can not edit my incomplete original post, I have to write another one. A regular user would have walked away by now.
I am not advocating for running multiple Maharas, quite the contraray. Professionally, I look after one Mahara for 37 schools with users from grade 4 all the way to the superintendent and everyone in between. We are doing this within one institution only. What we are finding is that the existing access control features of Mahara are perfectly adequate, at least for our purposes.
In the context of one national mahara system, I do see your point. You probably want more fine grained control via a role based system.
My personal oppinion is that before funding, energy and time go into developing a system that is geared towards the needs of very large scale projects, I woud much rather see improvements that benefit the ordinary user first.
For example, if the system would allow for regular users to be able to import a LEAP file without any admin action required, just as they can export a LEAP file, then users could move their portfolios between maharas as they move through the grades themselves. I loose more teachers' enthusiasm when they realize that they can not rezise a text box or insert a picture into a blog post then telling them that little Johnny could receive a questionable post on their wall. Several other little improvements come to mind that-collectively- could improve user experience dramatically.
As for the effort of running a Mahara: Once installed, only occasional updates are required. Our server was reboot yesterday for the first time in 286 days-because its physical location needed to change. Adding more user control features will only increase administrative tasks in my oppionion, be it one mahara or many.
I don't think a system is going to become very popular and gain staying power because of the various access right management features it has. Its part of it but not key. It will be because of ease of use, flexibility and ability to 'hook' into other systems.
10 June 2011, 11:25 PM
Thank you for taking the time to re-write you post. The cursor problem was solved for 1.3, but it pops up again, a TinyMCE issue for which a permanent solution could not yet be found.
The usability improvements you mention are important and there is probably a wishlist item on the tracker for most of them. It would help greatly to put more weight behind them if others who are interested in seeing these features implemented used the "This bug affects me" link in Launchpad to give these items more "heat" and push them up on the list of features that should be looked into. A large number of improvements, however, cannot be made without funding. You and your schools are a good example of contributing funds to get such things into Mahara.
I think both sides - users and administrators - should be taken into account. Of course, if a user doesn't want to play with Mahara because it does not appeal to him, you don't need an admin, but also if an institution finds it too difficult to deal with it from its end, it may not encourage its use and leave it aside which doesn't help a user who may want to use it, but doesn't get the support he needs and improvements aren't made.
I certainly see the administrative side more often and receive more questions around administrative tasks, managing institutions, managing groups etc. than the text box being too small, buttons too big etc. That's the nature of the questions that I see, which of course, isn't representative of all questions that are asked in Mahara communities.
Therefore, I read feedback from other Mahara users with interest. Daniel and Teo from Robert Gordon University summarized their findings from their university nicely and also provide suggestions for improvements that are discussed. They are then hopefully at some point also implemented.
12 June 2011, 9:05 AM
First, thank you for the discussion. Second, thanks to the continued development that is being done. Occassionally, I visit https://reviews.mahara.org and am very impressed with the amount of work that gets completed.
I know its about balance and that is ok. I can imagine that a rewrite or focus on the permission system would take tremendous amount of work-not the least because you can't have any bugs there ;)
I wont drags this on forever but I see the following as priorities: 1) make the user experience fantastic 2) make tutor experience fantastic 3) improve admin experience. I say this for the following reasons:
I work extensively with the Google apps educational tools. There, 'a user is a user'-admin tools are rather primitive. You setup all the services you want and then all users within a group have the same permissions (more or less). Facebook is announcing plans to allow account for users of 8 years and older. I bet it will be done using very primitive admin capabilities ie. you are either between 8-18 or you are not. If you are you get everything that everyone else gets in that group. Apple's icloud and iTunes university are next. What all these systems have in common is their increadible user experience.
No doubt, once this will happen, you will see even more eportfolio experts advocate for the use of facebook and itunes, just as some do now heavily with google apps. You can probably tell that I am writting from a North American perspective and as such may have a bias in my thoughts and oppinions.
Why do I care? I have a problem with institutions who are driving their learners into systems that are provided by marketing companies and make them their sole applications of choice. As a manager of applications however, I find it difficult to argue with educators who want that first class user experience for their students.
So, in short I am all for managerial efficiencies in software applications, but I question their value in making a wonderfull software even better, especially in the absence of large budgets.
BTW, I'd be happy to share our experiences with funding small code improvements with anyone interested offline. It realy is not intimidating or difficult at all and for less of the cost of what one school was paying for one proprietary eportfolios system, we got the features we needed and now everyone can use them.
17 June 2011, 8:29 PM
Thank you for the explanations. Getting feedback from different user groups will definitely help to improve the usability in the long run as the suggestiosn can be taken into account.
I also prefer systems that allow you to take the data with you once you decide not to use it anymore or that comes without ads and where you / an institution have / has more control.
The increased interest in Mahara judging from the activity in the forums and the discussions going on in which suggestions for improvements are made indicate that users are interested in making Mahara better and making suggestions / providing solutions on how to do that.
08 June 2011, 6:03 AM
I agree, Francois, that is a big piece of work. On the other hand, for the purposes of isolated institutions application to particular "roles" we may start implementing it (without touching exsting stuff), which in turn could be a ground and provide scalability for RBAC development and further moving to it from existing flag-style roles.
29 June 2011, 9:05 AM
Sorry - but can someone please tell me if the "isolated institutions" option is currently available? I don't see it listed in the Administration area for an installation.
29 June 2011, 10:37 AM
It is a project. Ruslan Kabalin implemented this for his institution but it is not (yet) available for the community. Moreover it is working on a edited 1.3 version and, according to their developers it represents certainly a lot of work to adapt, test and implement in Mahara 1.4.
I have talked about "isolated institutions" or "wall gardens" during the Moodlemoot FR in Tunisia this week and I try to gather intestest and fundings for this interesting feature.
29 June 2011, 11:14 AM
I really appreciate that you mentioned Isolated Institutions during the Moodlemoot FR and your willingness to find funding options for it. It would really be great to have this added to 1.5
Thanks a lot!
29 June 2011, 1:41 PM
Dajan and Ruslan, here in NZ we have decided that we want Isolated Institutions in our multi-tenanted site (www.myportfolio.school.nz) and are able/willing to fund the integration to core. Mark Osborne, at my request, asked a little more about it at the MaharaUK. While there are a few changes we require (I think Kristina has already shared these with you) it should still be possible to have them in 1.5. I am sure we will share more on the way.
In case you are interested, myportfolio is growing quickly. We ran 30 taster saessions in June along and saw 100 new schgools register (now up to 660). With a target of 100,000 active users in two years time we will act quickly on improvements that support progress to this target. Isolated Institutions is top of the list for 2011/12 (post June).