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#Training 2000 new users on #Mahara in one semester in #Highered


This year the University of Canberra is introducing a Common First Year Unit, comprised of 3 modules. The first module, "Thinking Like a Professional", is being embedded in a number of large introductory first year units. As part of this module students will learn about the various professional paths they could take, how to create a good CV and a plan looking a few years ahead. The reflections and artefacts that come out of this process will be assessed as part of a portfolio. Rather than blogs and/or other cloud platforms the portfolio system that will be used is UC's Mahara ePortfolio.

Providing support for the first year intake therefore has two primary components:

  1. The concepts, skills and knowledge associated with the professional options, creating a CV and developing a plan.
  2. How to use Mahara to communicate the reflections and other artefacts.
My role is in helping coordinate the support for Mahara. Point 1 will be covered by the unit convener, tutors and relevant module content and activities. 

"Just in time, targeted training is what works best...leading to deeper connections and therefore longer term memory of how to use the system"

Over the last three years supporting and promoting the organic growth of ePortfolio practice and Mahara at UC I have learnt a few things about what to do and what not to do. One of the do not's involves giving an overview of the whole of Mahara to students 5 weeks before they need to use it, they will have forgotten most of it by then. Just in time, targeted training is what works best.

In practice this means that if students need to start posting reflective journals in week 4 - train them in week 3, and just on how to complete that task. If you want them to share these posts with you in week 6, train them on creating a page - adding a journal - and sharing with you in week 5. This will ensure that students are given the knowledge they need when they need to use it. In addition, students are putting this knowledge into action straight away, therefore leading to deeper connections and therefore longer term memory of how to use the system.

"Focus will be on creating Digital CV's which will cover many functions of Mahara as well as how to enhance a portfolio using media such as Video CV's from cloud services like youtube.com"

Just in time training is just one approach we will use, the other strategies include:
  1. Training support staff
    1. We will roll out Mahara introductory sessions for support staff (e.g. Library Rovers, Academic Skills Rovers and Peer Assisted Learning - PAL's).
    2. Focus will be on creating Digital CV's which will cover many functions of Mahara - as well as how to enhance a portfolio using media such as Video CV's from cloud services like youtube.com. 
    3. This will give support staff the skills needed to answer students questions and at the same time have the opportunity to be taught how to develop their own Digital CV.
    4. Training will be informed by Careers Centre as well as an experienced Technologist, and Educational+portfolio Designer.
  2. Training teachers
    1. Workshops will also be delivered to teaching staff, and these will range from creating a professional portfolio for PDR (Professional development and review) to educational/andragogical oriented challenges.
    2. These will be marketed to the faculties rolled out according to demand.
  3. Online feature video tutorials
    1. These videos cover the basic operations in Mahara such as creating a page, using the journal, sharing a page etc.
    2. Students and staff can use these when they need a procedural guide for general functions in Maraha, free of disciplinary/unit/pedagogical instruction.
  4. Task specific online video tutorials
    1. These videos may be produced centrally such as for the common first year unit where many students will be performing a similar or the same task.
    2. Teaching staff, HR, Library, TLC, etc may produce these videos for context specific tasks.
  5. Overall concept videos
    1. Concept videos relate to the idea of a portfolio, how the might be used during your time at UC for example.
    2. Marketing might create these materials to promote the use of ePortfolios at UC, using student and showing what is possible with ePortfolio practice, Mahara - and lets not forget what is possible through embedding content from the cloud such as galleries, videos, mind maps, twitter feeds, etc, etc. 
  6. Online student led drop-in sessions using online collaborative software
    1. This idea is similar to the face-to-face version below, in that students can book into pre-determined online collaborative sessions to learn about Mahara.
    2. An information session using slides and screencasts will be provided, followed be a Q&A session.
    3. These sessions can be led by students who wish to add this kind of experience to their CV.
  7. Peer based drop-in support sessions with expert support
    1. From our experience with Mahara over the last three years students often turned to each other when they needed help. Therefore we will look to implement expert supported peer learning sessions.
    2. These may be a group of students from a unit such as the common first year unit with common tasks at hand, or a group of students from different contexts who just want to be in a room to learn Mahara from other Mahara users and share practice.
    3. One or more of the Library Rovers can be present to help when peer knowledge is not available for a particular task or action in Mahara.
    4. Computer space will be booked for students to drop in to these peer learning sessions.

If you have other ideas, or like any of these ones - lets us know!
Cheers.

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