MoodleMoot IE & UK 2016


Oh wow – it’s been about 8 years since I last went to one, and oh my, I was blown away!

Very inspiring conference with so many lovely and knowledgeable people to talk to and swap ideas with. The keynotes did their job – all 4 had something really inspiring to share, and every break out session I went to was full of new and interesting ways in which Moodle is enhancing the teaching and learning experience for both staff and students.


FLSC team with the ‘main man’ himself – founder and CEO of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas 🙂

We were also shown a great video all about the Moodle Users Association and how it works. The video below gives a great overview:

As you can imagine, my notes run on for many pages, but the key points that my colleagues and I will be exploring include:

  • Resurrecting monthly TEL awareness sessions (teachers don’t know what they don’t know)
  • Exploring all the new and exciting plugins for Moodle 3
    • Group choice
    • Level Up
    • My Feedback
    • Progress bar
  • Developing a VLE framework, based on the UCL Moodle Baseline guidance, that is accompanied by Module page MOTs, hands on workshops and online guides
    • Developing a better module page template that adheres to the VLE framework
  • Enabling Webservices so that the Moodle app can work with our system
    • Gavin Henrick used the Choice tool as a great alternative to the expensive ‘clickers’
  • Evaluating alternatives to the Turnitin submission tool – plugins & feedback tools within the Moodle Assignment
  • Looking at supporting the ‘Late Majority & Early Adopters’ (see below)

Both of our presentations went down very well with over 150 people in the audience each time! We spoke to quite a few people afterwards about how our Turnitin Inductions are helping improve students’ assignment writing, and how Mahara is supporting group work and assessment. (See abstracts here)

Our audience for our first presentation! Eeek!

Oh drat – wasn’t going to write a long post was I? Oh well, it was amazing and hats off to Gavin Henrick and crew for organising such a wonderful conference. I’ll be back – don’t you worry!!!

Sam 🙂



2 papers accepted for MoodleMoot IE & UK 2016!

I am so excited to be presenting not just once, but twice at this year’s MoodleMoot IE & UK 2016. Both Aurélie and I each had an idea for a paper – leading on one, supporting the other with theirs if they were accepted. Therefore we are so happy that both were approved and we get to share two Moodle stories with the delegates this year.

Our abstracts are below:

Presentation 1:  Tuesday @ 15:00 – room B
Enhancing group assessment with Moodle, Mahara and Turnitin

MMT2A group portfolio can sometimes appear as a disjointed collection of documents, often lacking a cohesive narrative running through it. At Cranfield Defence and Security (one of four schools at Cranfield University), the decision was made to trial an online collaborative space to compile a digital portfolio to be used as an assessed piece of groupwork.  The Module Manager for the Systems Engineering Workshop module, part of the MSc in Systems Engineering for Defence Capability, had used the Mahara ePortfolio platform in the past to create an online digital poster and wanted to see if it could encourage his students to work together more as a group to compile a richer and more structured reflective online Portfolio.

This presentation will show you how three learning systems, Moodle, Mahara and Turnitin, were collectively used to support and deliver the week-long module:

Moodle – the ‘lynchpin’
to provide pre-reading/activities to complete prior to the start of the module

Mahara – the student space
to give the students the space to compile their group portfolio, discuss ideas, and collect evidence and artefacts

Turnitin – the assessment & feedback tool
to allow students to submit their work and for the assessors to write their feedback

Feedback and reflections from the students, lecturer and learning technologists will be shared throughout this talk, along with a showcase of how Mahara was used to create bespoke learning resources, along with the students’ finished portfolios.

Presentation 2:  Wednesday @ 15:15 – room B
Improving Turnitin Inductions with Moodle and Open Badges

Turnitin BadgeCranfield Defence and Security is one of four schools at Cranfield University. Based at the UK Defence Academy, our students are all mature learners studying post-graduate qualifications in engineering, science, acquisition, management or leadership. 

All students submit all coursework to Turnitin during their studies. They undertake a face-to-face Turnitin induction in an IT lab at the start of their studies. This allows them to get an overview of the tool and to see how the useful features such as the filters, similarity matches and feedback options work, as well as going through the process of submitting a document.

In our presentation, we will show you how we used a Moodle course with activities to guide the students through their induction. Upon completion of these activities, the students are rewarded with an Open Badge. This badge has been shown to be a great motivator for them to complete the training. All those who fail to obtain the badge are reported to their Course Director and may be prevented from submitting further coursework.

We will also share how we refined our training during the academic year after evaluating the initial launch in September 2015 and the reaction from our staff and students to Open Badges. We will demonstrate how we set up the Moodle course for the automation to work.

This will be my second ever MoodleMoot – last one was over 5 years ago! Looking forward to seeing everyone there,

Sam x


Designing the dashboard in Mahara

I don’t know about you, but I’m always at a loss as to what should go on the landing page of Mahara. When we first used it we left the default block on there with the quick links to various sections, which also reflected what I deemed to be a great portfolio building process: Create > Organise > Share. But apparently not! Staff and students were still getting stuck on what to do when they first logged in. I did like the idea from PACE Uni in the States of giving students a choice of either uploading content or creating a page, however I felt that a bit of a ‘how to’ was more necessary.

So, as per usual, an idea popped into my head. The little ‘i’ icon dotted around Mahara is rarely used. What if we could replace it with helpful info? So I sketched it out in PowerPoint and emailed it to the Systems Dev (Roger) for his thoughts:


This prompted Roger to look at what was feasible and what would be the best solution for us. He suggested that instead of having 3 buttons and links on each section of the tabs, that perhaps one new button should be put in place that captures what’s to be shown. Using the first word in each of my explanation (what, how, see) we can build a great model that could be used throughout the site! It also meant that it would be easier and less effort to replace one button for each upgrade:



Now this was sorted we could start to work on the dashboard. Below are a series of ideas starting from my initial sketch to what will be used when we upgrade:



Initial idea before the ‘What, How, See’


First idea (by me!)


Version 2 by Christina Ryan (currently live)



Version 2 (dev server)

Version 3 by Paul Maple (on the dev server)

What I like about my job, especially in my team, is that I am free to put forward ideas that can make a difference. Hopefully what we are doing will have a positive impact on student and staff support (staff are supposed to meet with us prior to using Mahara with their students). Fingers crossed!


OpenBadges > Mozilla > Moodle = Simples!

Hi all,

Just received my two badges from the recent Mahara UK conf – one for presenting and one for attending. As we have just upgraded to the latest version of Moodle I thought I’d give the ‘badges’ feature a go!


  1. I accepted the badges that were sent to me via email (using my personal Mozilla Backpack log in) and attached my evidence (a link to this blog!)
  2. I then logged into my Mozilla Backpack and made a public collection called ‘Moodle & Mahara’ and dragged all my badges that I wanted to display into it
  3. I then went to the badges section in my profile in our Moodle, entered my details for my Mozilla Backpack, chose my ‘Moodle & Mahara’ collection.


It was so simple!




I am hoping to explore badges more during the 2014/15 academic term 🙂 Oh and see it working in Mahara too!

Sam 🙂

PS: isn’t our new Moodle theme lovely!

My Mahara UK 2014 Report (#MaharaUK14)

mahara_presenter_2014Not long back from what was probably the best conference ever, full of great examples of ePortfolio usage and ‘lessons learned’ to take heed from. Great to see presentations from colleges and unis who are just finishing their first year of using Mahara, as well as the ‘old faithfuls’ showcasing the awesome things their institutions are doing. I won’t go through everything I saw, but will give a general overview and show highlights of each day. I will then give a short explanation of my presentations at the bottom of this page. Firstly, here are my action points from the conference:

Take aways:

  1. Explore the benefits of groups for building self-help resources and for assessments
    Template pages can be copied to students’ own portfolio
    Submission could be made easier
  2. Work on content for the Mahara user manual
    Perhaps the Assessment & Lecturer’s guide?
  3. Collect case studies from presenters to add to my tool kit
    Lots of examples to choose from – perhaps explore the newsletter too?
  4. To explore the potential of adding vivas to assessments
    Great to get students to do a 5min presentation of their portfolio – could be live or recorded/screen recorded
  5. To explore the potential of screen-recorded feedback to students
    A lecturer could use JING to record what they’re seeing – perhaps for formative feedback? Feedback file could be given to them via myCourse
  6. Explore potential of Taxonomy of Reflection chart with students
    Could a self-help checklist work?



Day 1: Thursday 17th July

Recordings of keynotes:

It was hot – bloomin hot! But fortunately the Uni of Brighton has such great facilities and we were kept cool throughout the whole conference. I had one presentation on this day which wasn’t until 4pm (long time to wait!). Anyway, the presentations I saw are listed below:

  1. Keynote: Crossing the threshold: Moving e-portfolios into the mainstream
  2. Putting the Mac on Mahara – weathering the storm of community formation
  3. Mahara: A student’s perspective
  4. Big Vet, Wee Vet – onboarding new students
  5. Provision of an Inclusive Mobile Responsive Learner Development Support Toolkit at Forth Valley College
  6. Keynote Address – State of the Mahara Nation
  7. User groups and community engagement


Throughout the day I saw great examples of how people from different organisations were coming together to form communities; one such one being the Scottish MacHara group. This was complemented by the final session which discussed the practicalities of meeting either online or in person. As one of those present at the first ever Mahara User Group South England (MUGSE) I was very keen to hear what others thought of having more groups.  A feedback site was sent out asking for feedback on how people thought they ‘gave back to the community’.

I also saw examples of how Mahara was being used to create support sites, something that was also showcased the following day. Accessibility, induction, orientation – who knew it had so many uses! The highlight though was probably seeing Solent student Bradley (@BradleyGavin) give his first ever national conference presentation on his experience of using Mahara.  he did a wonderful job and did really well with answering all the questions thrown at him at the end (that’s always the hardest bit – I find!). Lots of praise was sent his way via twitter too!

You can see his presentation below:


Meanwhile…during the night….


Day 2: Friday 18th July

This day was to see myself and colleague Roger Emery start off the second half of conference with our presentation (more on that later). The presentations that I saw that day were:

  1. Mahara from scratch at the University of Pardubice
  2. Empowering students to critically evaluate their future career choices: Creating development plans with UK HE science students using studentfolio
  3. EUFolio: Using E-Portfolios to Develop Assessment Practice
  4. An investigation into curriculum approach within a Physical Education undergraduate work based learning course
  5. Mahara groups for assessment
  6. Become a Mahara writer
  7. The Graduate Toolkit


BswB75EIUAA_ZEAIt was wonderful to see the lovely Linda from the University of Pardubice (Czech Republic) present in the Uk. she is an English teacher who use Mahara to support her students’ English language skills. I was fortunate to have met Linda at the German Moodle Moot earlier in the year 🙂 in her presentation she compared the use of Mahara to looking after a tree: look after the roots, help it grow, reap the wonderful fruit at the end. See her presentation:

And thanks for the gingerbread 🙂


It was also on this day that the inspiration for action on groups and vivas was gained via the wonderful presentations of Domi Sinclair, Amy Price and Sam Rhodes.


Links to my presentations

1) Leading by example: Engaged lecturers can encourage their students to create great pieces of work in Mahara. Peer mentors and past examples can also help to raise the bar each year.

2) Winning hearts and minds: never give in and just keep on going



Great conference, lots of ideas, and the meeting of fabulous friends old & new. I love this community!!! Next year I plan on putting in a proposal to perhaps showcase what has happened since this conf and whether the new things I’ve trialed have worked!

Sam xxx

Some of my tweets & retweets from the conf:








‘Gordon’s Skill Development Ladder’ & TEL

During my current  MOOC & Badge exploration, I’ve come across a great little course on the Open2Study platform called ‘Teaching Adult Learners‘. In it they showcase ‘Gordon’s Skill Development Ladder’ (see video below):

I have never come across this before, and think it could be useful for those of us wanting to develop our colleagues’ skills in the use of technology to enhance their teaching. I love the saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ (classed as ‘Unconsciously Unskilled’ in Gordon’s Model) and could apply to anyone using the VLE. I’m not complaining about our lecturers’ usage of our Moodle – I just want to show them how it can be so much more than somewhere to upload files and weblinks.

Anyone else using this model/ladder? I might explore this further when I have time over the summer.

Sam x

My poster has been accepted! – ePortfolios Australia Forum 2014


My poster presentation proposal for ePortfolios Australia Forum 2014 has been accepted 🙂

Although I won’t be there in person, I’ll make myself available to those there via Skype, Twitter, Facebook and email – monitoring those channels all day.

My poster will be similar to my one for Mahara UK 2014 – a Call for Mahara case studies on employability-focused assessments. I’ll be showcasing my ideas so far regarding my research, but will be asking the community for their examples of how they’ve used Mahara to address employability and PDP issues via an assessment.

This is going to be a busy year!

Sam x