Mahara is an open source ePortfolio system. An ePortfolio is a learner-driven collection of digital content demonstrating experiences, achievements and evidence of learning. As opposed to Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) which are focused on teaching, Mahara ePortfolio is a form of Personal Learning Environment, focused primarily on the learner.
“ePortfolios are personal online spaces for students to access services and store work. They will become ever more useful as learners grow up and start moving between different types of learning and different institutions” Secretary of State for Education and Skills, UK, January 2006.
Fundamentally, like traditional portfolios, ePortfolios rely on reflection, an essential component of learning that involves representation of what has been learned by student and facilitates conditions of learning (Moon, 2005).
“Reflection might be seen as both an approach and method for improving the quality and depth of student learning. Reflection is a way of thinking about learning and helping individual learners to understand what, how and why they learn. It is about developing the capacity to make judgments and evaluating where learning might take you.“ (Hinett, 2002, p. 1)
It has been proved that ePortfolios bring significantly better learning outcomes comparing to traditional paper-based portfolios (van Wesel & Prop, 2009), as well as being ideal for collaborative use of Personal Development Plans (PDR) and peer assessment (Luchoomun et al., 2010).
The Mahara ePorftolio system is an extremely flexible solution which allows users to compose the ePortfolio from any combination of digital artefacts such as text, images and audio visual content, combined into pages according to user preference; such pages may be submitted to teachers for assessment or published for peers’ feedback. What makes Mahara different from other solutions is that the user is able to control which information and items are being shared and limit the access to certain users, groups, or make it globally available.
Mahara has an extensive social networking features allowing users to maintain friendships, communicate, create blogs, organise groups, provide feedback and report objectionable content.
It is possible to integrate Mahara with Moodle which provides the benefit of having an extensive Virtual Learning Environment with single sign on (SSO). It is also possible to network Mahara instances together to enable interaction between educational institutions.
You can find more about the Mahara e-Portfolio on the Mahara Features page or on the Mahara project website.
Hinett, K. (2002). Improving learning through reflection: part one. The Higher Education Academy. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk.
Luchoomun, D. McLuckie, J., & Van Wesel, M. (2010). Collaborative e-learning: e-portfolios for assessment, teaching and learning. Electronic Journal of eLearning, 8 (1), 21-30
Moon, J. (2005). Learning Through Reflection, No. 4 in the Guide for Busy Academics series, The Higher Education Academy. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk.
van Wesel, M., & Prop, A. (2009). Comparing students’ perceptions of paper-based and electronic portfolios. Canadian Journal Of Learning And Technology / La Revue Canadienne De L’Apprentissage Et De La Technologie, 34(3).