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Feasibility questions for a new plugin

16 March 2017, 8:19

Hi everyone

The university where I teach is in the process of adopting Mahara and since I already use a portfolio in my course, I am thinking of using Mahara. However,

  1. mine is a portfolio for recognition of prior learning (RPL) and using Mahara would involve developing a new set of specific functions, and I need to know if the approach I need would be too alien to Mahara or if it can fit in the model.
  2. If the project makes sense, then I will need to hire a programmer that already knows how Mahara works and who can evaluate development costs and time. There is a kind of a loophole here, because I need to evaluate the costs before I can hire someone, but I guess that can't be helped.

I'm guessing that nobody can say much before I make my specific needs very clear, but I wanted first to make sure I am at the right place for this topic.



Gregor Anželj's profile picture
Posts: 349

16 March 2017, 8:57

It is hard to assess the needed time/costs if the specifications (at least approximate) are not know. It might be that the functionality already exists in Mahara and would need only mintor tailoring to your needs - like e.g. framework for SmartEvidence.

You can ask one of the Mahara partners - myself included - for the estimate, but it would be hard without specifications.

HTH, Gregor

16 March 2017, 11:36

Thank you for your answer.

Here are the specifications as best as I can describe them right now. As you will see, I'm not used to doing that sort of thing.

The RPL portfolio is a set of 6 texts describing professional realizations.

Each text is divided in 4 parts :

  1. Title
  2. choice motivations (100 words)
  3. context (150 words)
  4. 4. description of the realization itself (1200 - 1500 words). 

The description should put some aspects in evidence :

  • the presence of certain levels of expertise (10 levels are specified)
  • professional knowledge (user-defined and can be of any numbers, but usually 2-4)
  • professional attitudes (user-defined and can be of any numbers, but usually 2-4)

So the basic idea is to be able for the user to tag specific parts of the text to indicate the presence of these elements. As you see, some elements are predefined (levels of expertise) while some are defined by the user (knowledge and attitudes). My idea is that these tags should appear as coloured text with mouseOver giving description and editing options.

A teacher / supervisor should be able to add comments to the text for pedagogical purposes, since the final version of a text is the results of a work in progress through which feedback can be given several times.

The teacher / supervisor should also be able to validate each level of expertise indicated in the text by the user. Once a level is validated, then it counts for the summative evaluation (score) of the portfolio.

One last input : the user should also be able to upload files as proofs of his work experiences, mostly pdfs and images, but possibly video. These files should be linked minimally with a realization, but could also be linked to specific parts of the description, to exemplify what is being said. 1 file may also be linked to many realizations (like 2 realizations done at the same workplace).

Now for the "views", or how this data could be presented to the user. 

  1. The text, with its tags and commentaries
  2. Plain text
  3. A grid showing the relationship between the 6 realizations and the 10 levels of expertise, with the score calculated from the validated excerpts, or from invalidated excerpts as well (user's choice).
  4. the text excerpts relating to each level, knowledge or attitude (for example, show me every excerpt that is tagged as being a level A of expertise). When looking at excerpts, tags should still be visible.

The last thing is about having some kind of 'Wizard', a questionnaire that would help the user enter the right informations. Each question would be linked to a specific level of expertise, with sub-questions about knowledge and attitudes involved, so that the answers would provide for a base text (answers stripped) already tagged from which the user can then elaborate his complete description. I believe that this might be easier implemented through Moodle, but some kind of export / import mechanism should then be implemented.

This Wizard thing, while it is not critical to the rest of the portfolio, does put forth an important design idea : that the "level of expertise" might be the base unit for linking every aspects together. In other words, the user could not tag a specific knowledge or attitude if it is not already tagged as a level of expertise. This needs more thought on my side, but if it can save lots of trouble on the coding side, it could be a good reason to go that way.

In the same line of though, the paragraph could also be the base unit for tagging. No need to tag sentences, parts of sentences or words. In this way of looking at it, the coloured text stuff might just be overkill and would eliminate any problem of overlapping tags and other nonsense.

Needless to say that not everything has to be implemented at once, but it would be interesting to see how far this can go.

Thank you very much for your input !

16 March 2017, 12:08

There is one more thing.

The students who will use this "RPL portfolio" will also already be using Mahara as a "standard" portfolio. Which means that the "RPL portfolio" should become a part of the student's portfolio.

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4096

28 March 2017, 8:52

Hello Yves,

Thank you for the high-level ideas for your project. Some of the things can already be realized in Mahara at the moment I would say with SmartEvidence (take a look at a presentation of the initial implementation and a previous one where some additional ideas are already presented). Please keep in mind, that this is the first steps for SmartEvidence and that there is a wealth of more functionality that can be implemented and changed to suit your needs.

Other areas would require development work to achieve what you wish. Currently, for example, we can only tag entire artefacts, i.e. an image, a video, a text as a whole, but not individual parts of text. I suspect you have something like Diigo in mind or Medium where you highlight text and can put a comment directly there. For the time being - if it were possible - the individual parts could be broken up into individual texts that could then be commented on though I would assume that this is not so desirable as it would break the flow of the text.

Once you have an artefact in Mahara, you can re-purpose it in many different portfolios. So your students already using Mahara can easily use already uploaded or created content in their RPL portfolio.

I'll be happy to discuss this more with you.




Gregor Anželj's profile picture
Posts: 349

29 March 2017, 1:43

Yves hi.

I have programmed the plugin MyLearning (v.2) for ATS2020 project which in a way does somethign similar. This plugin is not available in the Plugins section on Mahara wiki and is not to be confused with the plugin MyLearnign (v.1) which unfortunatelly has the same name.

The ATS2020 plugin supports summative assessment and has several sections (e.g. Prior knowledge, Setting goals, Learning strategies, Evidence and Self-evaluation). Each section can contain text and attachments. Also keywords can be added, but not individually on each section, but rather on the whole...

Andrea Ghoneim is the person to talk to, especailly if you are also interested in the pedagogical side of it. She might also have some examples that was created in ATS202 project for you to see.

This in combination with SmartEvidence that Kristina already mentioned might be what you are looking for.

There is also na article in Mahara Newsletter July 2016 (Vol. 6, Issue 2) at

... and a page (a part of ATS2020 project) that explains the use of MyLearning plugin at


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