Skip to main content

Mahara and the Cloud

In 2012 the UC Teaching and Learning Centre engaged with Catalyst IT with funding and requirements specifications to improve Mahara handling of embed code/iFrames. Our key driver was storage related, we wanted students to store their content in services such as Microsoft Skydrive (which comes free with their email account) and therefore enable us to keep Mahara quotas low. Ultimately, this means we can better manage the cost to the university of hosting Mahara.

Of course there are other benefits that cloud services offer such as collaboration options, specialised content creation (mindmaps, presentations, charts, spreadsheets, jogging history, whatever) allowing users to embed complex, engaging, and interactive artifacts making for very interesting and interactive portfolios. Most important is by allowing students to use all the cloud has to offer we are freeing them to represent their ideas and work is ways that any one platform will never be able to do.

The principle idea we had in mind was to allow the administrator of a Mahara system to easily enable and disable the embedding of content from any cloud service that provides embed code. In our case the priority was Microsoft Skydrive for reasons stated above. At the time of the development (Mahara 1.4 and eariler) anyone hosting Mahara needed to edit hard coded arrays to add trusted embed code sources, but this arrangement also suffered from not just having to specify the top level domain name but also most of the embed code path, and these paths were prone to change. This approach was expensive and time consuming to maintain. Initially we asked Catalyst IT if they would just allow any embed code to be used in Mahara. However the developers didn't want to take that approach due to security concerns, i.e. it is possible for embed code to hack into the larger session and take data, use session details, etc, etc.

Thankfully for us Catalyst IT found an opensource project called "SafeiFrames". This allowed them to minimise development time and effort and provide a way for Mahara to refer to a domain name white list. Operationally speaking, if the embed code contained a matching domain name in the white list then the iFrame was allowed to load. In addition to the inclusion of SafeiFrames in 1.5 in Mahara we also commissioned Catalyst to add an administrative interface to Mahara as part of this development (1.6+) whereby an admin could use a web interface to manage the white list rather than having to edit code directly. Our Mahara is hosted, so any code changes like that would a) incur a fee and b) initiate a change request involving testing, staging, and finally a production move. For our users we also asked that whenever a domain is added an icon is displayed to the user in a list of allowed iFrame sources, so that they can see which services they can embed code from.

The video below (Good find Alan!) is an example of someone who is already seeing the potential of this work:

Speaking of cool Mahara features - check out how to use Skins (new feature in Mahara 1.8). Thanks again to Alan for this video link.
(Check out more skins from the Mahara 1.8 Skins Competition: )


Popular posts from this blog

What does 2021 hold for student #learningexperience at my university

"Handwriting Text E-Learning Loading. Concept meaning Forecasting the future event"   by  is licensed under  CC BY 2.0 This year we have a unique opportunity to capitalise on what was 2020 and all the impacts it had on learning and teaching.  Staff ICT literacy levels and confidence increased because they had to use digital tools for teaching, there was no choice. This situation was complicated, academics of all levels of ICT literacy had to adapt. Some staff had zero experience with digital tools and were using online tools for the first time, while others are always pushing boundaries and looking for alternative tools available from central support areas. As with staff, some students have very low ICT literacy, while others blaze ahead of the curve, using the tools like pros and needing much instruction. They just work it out. Shifting this cohort of students and staff to fully online was a massive undertaking and a huge shock for everyone.  Going into 2020

University of Canberra Library adds #VR Headsets to the catalogue - on the road to immersive learning resources in #Education

In September 2018 the UC Library added VR headsets to the catalogue, available in the short loan section. Students can loan the headsets for up to 3 hours. Support for using the headsets will be limited to basic guidance, and beyond this it will be up to students to have their apps and content ready, just needing the headset to get going. Supporting this technology is difficult given the number of different phones, OS versions and apps out there giving rise to any app recommendations working on one phone and not another. For this reason support will be limited, however as our in-house knowledge grows more advice will be able to be given. A small number of headsets to start with represents a low risk investment that also allows staff to up skill in VR technology. Demo sessions and training given to Library staff has been fun and a valuable sharing activity as everyone is at different stages of familiarity. Now that a number of staff in the library have been up skilled we can begin t

Conference Notes: ACODEs AR + VR + MR (XR) = #anewreality #acodenews

#aNewReality Workshop @ Griffith University Griffith University held a 2 day Immersive Learning event where those Colleagues who manage emerging technologies, and leading practitioners from across the Australasian Landscape shared their experiences, both at an Institutional and ‘on the ground’ development levels. Some of the questions UC went in asking: What are other Higher Education Institutions are doing around Immersive Learning and Emerging Technologies?  How is XR being used to increase student engagement, retention, and learning? How does XR support online students to feel more connected and situated? What strategies and technologies are a good fit for UniCanberra? Which approaches are not only educationally effective but also scale in terms of adoption and supportable, and are equitable? How much physical investment is needed to create various content in-house, what kind of content can be created using different technologies, and what ongoing support/