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Mahara Implementation and e-Portfolio Support Project

e-Portfolio Implementation and Support provided by the Teaching and LEarning Centre at the University of Canberra

My blog posts related to e-portfolios


Some faculties (Arts and Design, Education, Health) here at the University of Canberra have worked with portfolios for many years, some digital and others paper based. In 2009 the Teaching and Learning Centre resourced an effort to implement Mahara, an open source e-portfolio platform, led by Leonard Low. Portfolio practice is a long term proposition, so a large aspect of this effort included garnering support to for a sustainable Mahara implementation. Mahara went into pilot mode in 2010. At the end of 2010 Leonard had moved to Hobart to be part of the University of Tasmania, and I assumed the role of promoting portfolios and Mahara. Our efforts, combined with strong interest from academic staff across the campus has resulted in steady growth of staff use of portfolios for themselves professionally as well as teaching and learning strategies in their curriculum.  Mahara became a production service at the beginning of 2012.

Growing up-take and support implications

Supporting the community to this point in time has largely been a one-on-one arrangement, whereby staff learning portfolio technology and/or portfolio practice will work with me (primarily) on their specific implementations. Through my own research into portfolio practice and my experience supporting emerging practices and technologies (in this case web 2.0 technologies) I was aware that we needed a connected community approach to grow our collective knowledge and experience with portfolios. We needed to establish an e-portfolio community of practice at the University of Canberra. The establishment of this community would present exciting opportunities for sharing and collaboration.

Building a Community of Practice

The overall plan then is to bring everyone who is working with e-portfolios together in order to form the beginnings of a University of Canberra portfolio community of practice. This process began with the e-Portfolio Jam event held on 23rd May 2012. This event was the first of it's kind at UC in the context of supporting e-portfolio practice in that it brought together people from multiple faculties, disciplines and sectors. Bringing together the experience and expertise of the community allows practitioners to share with each other, learn from each other, and take their own practice further.

Building expertise through e-Portfolio Conferences

Conferences are also a great way of bringing in experience and expertise from the wider national and international community. They are also essential for raising UC's profile in these much larger communities of practice, as well as getting support from others and making long term professional connections. There is an "e-Portfolios Australia Conference" that has been running since 2010. I attended in 2011 and aim to attend these excellent conferences in the future whenever I can.

Below I list the conferences I have attended and any relevant notes I've taken:

e-Portfolio Australia Conference 2011

(Approximately 200 participants including international keynote speakers)

My notes:

Summarised Timeline:

Since this poster was created I have continued to document the events that have taken place as the implementation continues. In my opinion the events have been note worthy, but of course many things happen, conversations etc, that I don't get to see to this is only from my perspective or what people tell me. In addition, as the ePortfolio community of practice grows it will become increasingly difficult to know who is doing what, and at that point the practice at UC will be self sustaining and hopefully self documenting.

October 2012: Met with Director Careers to share what early adopters have been doing and to promote e-Portfolio approaches. Also discussed was exploring opportunities for Careers and TLC to  engage faculty together - together offering a more complete support package for faculties to help develop student portfolios i.e. the technical, portfolio practice and careers support. The idea (broadly speaking) is to draw into the conversation a whole person approach to developing e-Portfolios to aid in developing a sense of direction, identification or strengths and talents, aiding in employment processes, developing career etc, etc.

 30 October 2012: Stephen Isbel, Alison Wicks and myself ran an e-portfolio/Mahara workshop for 25 students in the 2012 Occupational Therapy cohort. Improvements we made to the workshop for this cohort (based on the experience from the 2011 cohort workshop) include:
  1. workshop delivered "just in time" i.e. the week before they go on prac and have to use mahara to document and share their reflections. In 2011 the workshop was before a 6 week break leading up to prac and students had forgotten how to use Mahara.
  2. workshop included wisdom and rationale using portfolios/mahara from past experience and what I have gained from other experiences at various e-portfolio forums.
  3. A move to a number of short sharp workshops. The workshop showed students only the functions they need to use at this time and no more. We will return to the students in a few weeks to show the next thing they need to use. This reduces the length of the workshop times, cognitive/memory overload, and also means students don't try to remember things they won't need to use yet.
Feedback from Alison and Stephen:
  • Hi Shane
    I think the session went much better than last year.  By limiting the information that was given, you were able to ensure that all the students could manage to set up their portfolio without any problems. The shorter session was also preferable as you were able to focus on the relevant material.

    I have had no queries from the students so far, so I can assume all is good with them.

    Keeping it simple was the key to the successful outcome.

    Many thanks for your support.


    Alison Wicks
    Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy
    Discipline of Occupational Therapy
    University of Canberra
Tuesday 30 November
meeting with a lecturer in Journalism & Communication Studies (Barbara Walsh)
Faculty of Arts & Design
Wants to use e-portfolios and blogs as part of unit curriculum design, needs advice navigating the complexity, design of, etc.

Thursday 13 December
Met with Cathy Hope: see:

Friday 14 December
Meeting with Stephen Barrass, discussing use of Mahara as e-Portfolio platform - or at least adding it to his mix. E.g. as a place to journal, and curate multimedia artifacts pulled in from specialist cloud multimedia platforms such as ABCPool, youtube, flickr etc.


For a January update see here:

February 2013:

  • Supported Cathy Hope in Arts and Design (Communications unit) create video tutorials of how to create journals in Mahara, how to create pages, how to add journals to pages.
  • Supported Ryan and Kym in Education (Teacher Education) in creating video tutorials for Mahara journaling and portfolio page creation.
  • Supported Adam Duncan from Wiradjuri pre-school to establish a separate Mahara institution that he can manage for Wiradjuri students.
  • Met with Sarah Ailwood from Law to discuss scenario based learning but ended up talking about e-portfolios and how they could help address certain knowledge and skills gaps students have (not limited to UC) that current strategies don't cater adequately for.

March 2013:

  • Met with Calvary Health Care ACT (Louise Botha - from the Learning and Development area) to talk about options for deploying/providing Mahara. Louise had used mahara in the GCTE (Graduate certificate in Tertiary Education) last year thanks to Peter Donnan introducing the establishment of an e-portfolio as an assessment item. Louise does not have a budget to host Mahara or have it hosted and wasn't sure about using off shore Mahara service providers. I started to think of platform agnostic approaches as being the best option in this case. As it happens we bumped into Keith Lyons a at the coffee spot we chose and he takes the platform agnostic approach so he was able to tell Louise what he does and why. Afterwards we spoke about the need for development of rules and guidelines for digital portfolio use (e.g. privacy management) so that people will have criteria for choosing and using their platform.
  • Also this month physiotherapy and sports science again signalled their interest in digital portfolios  through a meeting with the Saffire leaning designers. To see how, why and where prtfolio practice fits into the existing curriculum I recommended a curriculum mapping approach where by the teaching team map out their current curriculum (as per blog entry about the Risk Management unit) and use that as a stating point for planning change.

April 2013:

  • Met with manager of Careers again, spoke about working with faulty to augment course based templates with other whole of person/career type placeholders for students to fill in. Also discussed how course based e-portfolio templates help students to see the whole journey (or even possible journeys) that exist in their chosen course from day one. Perhaps even a picture of their destination, provided by the content found in exemplar or mock portfolios.

June/July 2013:

  • Professional Portfolios for Academics and General staff, plus opportunities to research ePortfolio practice with ESTeM colleagues:
  • Nursing and Midwifery - evolving their cloud storage e-Portfolio model:
  • Organising the e-Portfolio Australia Forum:
  • The organising committee, including myself, Allison Miller, etc, have been working hard to get presentation submissions, organise the program, book labs, advertise etc.

August/December 2013

  • October: Hosted the ePortfolio Australia Forum over 2 days with workshops and other sessions. 105 people with many positive reviews, some criticisms of signage placement and moving between buildings.
  • November: Added links on Current Students homepage and MyUC applications list to Mahara ePortfolio.
  • December: Meeting with Careers - past meetings over the last 2 years have resulted in interest from Careers in ePortfolios for students but no new practice, however staffing changes have resulted in new capability, and now Careers are interested and able to pursue a transition from paper to e-portfolio based CV support with Faith and Charlotte. I met with them this December to show Mahara's resume section, and how easy it is to create an online resume complete with built in video CV.
  • December: Meeting with BGL Common First Year Unit implementation (use of ePortfolios for career planning, professional identity building, etc). Diane is now thinking of using eportfolios in three other of her units.
  • December: Met with Tony K from BGL to discuss ePortfolio practice - what other people at UC are doing, what Mahara is, issues within his own units, and potential course wide appeal, use and implementation of ePortfolio practice.
January 2014
  • Ran a ePortfolio workshop for Law on the 23rd with Mel. There were about 10 people who RSVP'd but most didn't show. The person who did was very enthusiastic to integrate ePortfolios but it's not ideal to ask students to go to that much effort for just one unit, and it was clear a course wide approach might be a way off yet. We concluded that an optional task to create a digital CV, and a video of court room performance would be appropriate for now rather than asking students to learn an entire eportfolio system (Mahara) for one unit.
  • Total number of accounts and pages spike over the Christmas/New Year Break! This is out of the primary teaching sessions and can only be attributable to the fact we promoted UC's Mahara ePortfolio in November 2013, on the Current Students page and the student Portal, for the first time. Roughly 1200 students presumably clicked these links out of interest, and resulted in page creations.

February 2014
  • Mahara training delivered for Sports Management academic staff (Creating a digital CV in Mahara) for their plans to offer units flexibly, deepen critical thinking, reflective practice, etc.
  • Mahara training delivered for Business, Government & Law Sessional Staff and Teaching Staff - Common First Year Unit - Module 1: Becoming A Professional. (Creating a digital portfolfio version of your CV and adding your five year plan in Mahara.)
  • Third year student who was given advice to use Wordpress chose Mahara instead.
  • CFYU Preparations! Gearing up for the common first year unit with support options as students are going to be taught how to think professionally (specific to each profession as related to the courses on offer at UC), including developing a CV and 5 year plan.
  • O-Week: Handed out 50 double sided flyers to all the Society Booths in the Refectory on what Mahara is and how to get the the tutorial videos.
  • Provided in-tutorial Mahara demonstration and interactive tutorial for 2 groups of 30 students. For the unit Coaching Pedagogy 8914 (Jim Fowlie).
March 2014
  • Attended MaharaHui 2014 (Mahara conference with Misty Kirby from ESTeM). We presented the Smart Folio project that we have been developing for a few months now. A blog entry describing this project is here. (Coming Soon)
  • Careers start offering ePortfolio workshops for developing digital Resumes and CV's.



  • 18th - Today I was invited to showcase ePortfolio practice and Mahara to UC's Medical and Counselling Service. They now plan to use Mahara to implement a dynamic, interactive, and social online presence as another channel which students can use to engage with their services, and each other.


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