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Thoughts from the Mahara Open Forum

anonymous profile picture
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Posts: 8

09 October 2014, 4:17

For those who haven't seen the newsletter, I had the pleasure of attending the Mahara Open Forum 2014 in Hiroshima. I thought I'd summarise a few things I found interesting here - this is probably going to be most useful to developers, but I'd be curious to get comments/questions/confirmation/denial from non-technical people as well!

Also, a disclaimer: I'm nowhere near fluent in Japanese so there was a lot of stuff I didn't understand, and more that I may have misunderstood. Don't take this as gospel truth ;)

  • Firstly, there was a lot of discussion around the new Dashboard buttons in Mahara 1.10 and their usefulness - apparently the new setup seems quite similar to the main menu bar so some people didn't seem sure what exactly they're for
  • Sounds like lots of Windows tablets are being used in Japanese schools and universities - we definitely do need to support IE on touchscreens ...
  • There was an interesting discussion on the merits of Mahara vs Manaba Folio (widely used in Japan) and Karuta (a new project to make a simple & elegant ePortfolio system). Mahara definitely seems the most powerful of the three, but it seems that usability and first-time experience are still lacking; apparently students start using Mahara a lot when they feel they understand it, but that can take a while. However, a problem with Manaba Folio is apparently that it looks too simple: people think they understand it then become confused when it doesn't work the way they expect it to. So there's obviously a tradeoff between something that appears complex but becomes easier when you learn how to use it and something that seems easy but has hidden (counter-intuitive) complexity
  • This is something I may have misunderstood, but it's an interesting idea even so: Using Mahara in lecture halls to replace the traditional clicker thingy which allows students to answer the teacher's questions en masse. It's not something I would have thought of doing with the system, but I'm curious whether anyone else has used it in a similar way?
  • According to research by Hosei University, Mahara is "まあまあ使いやすい" (generally easy to use) but people rate the Feedback system worst in terms of usability. I'm not sure if there was research done to find out what about it is hard to use, but is Feedback something people in other countries/institutions find hard to understand as well?

Apologies for the long post - hopefully it provides some food for thought!

Aaron Wells's profile picture
Posts: 896

09 October 2014, 11:46

Hi Jono,

Thanks for the update. It's always interesting to hear about how Mahara is being used by people in other language communities. The first-time experience stuff is pretty similar to what I've heard from the English-speaking Mahara community, although the comparison with another system with hidden complexity, is quite interesting.

What part of Mahara functionality were people using to replace the clicker thingy? Or was that a hypothetical idea?



anonymous profile picture
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Posts: 8

10 October 2014, 1:45

Yeah, the discussion was between teachers so rather than promoting the system they were talking about, they all seemed to end up recommending the others! Apparently there's no ePortfolio system in Japan that people fall in love with at first sight and continue to enjoy long-term

I'm not sure about the clicker functionality, it was just a side note in a larger talk so it may have been a hypothetical thing or something they'd tried and given up - I didn't get a chance to ask for more detail, time ended up being quite short on that day ...

11 October 2014, 3:34

(...) Apparently there's no ePortfolio system in Japan that people fall in love with at first sight and continue to enjoy long-term (...)

In fact, IMHO based on my PhD research, there is nowhere no ePortfolio system people fall in love with (a fortiori not at the frist sight).

But the portfolio (with or without the 'e') methodology is clearly explained, trained and used, people click and continue developping portfolio practices in the long haul.


Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3920

02 November 2014, 17:26

Hi Jono,

Thank you for the more detailed report. :-)

Interesting feedback in regards to the new buttons. I would have thought the old dashboard corresponded closer to the main menu. What I like about the new buttons in particular is that they don't take up so much space on the page anymore and that the number of possible actions is reduced and doesn't overwhelm anymore. Like previously (but maybe more easily now), these buttons can be adapted to link elsewhere, read something else or be removed entirely. I'm really interested to see what others are making of them.

They were inspired by discussions between Pace University and Southampton Solent University an the user feedback they got. Pace implemented two buttons (Create and Share) because they don't focus on the groups aspect so much, but for general Mahara, we wanted not to neglect that aspect.

I added a link to your forum post in the newsletter so others can find it easily.




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