Mahara – the joys of starting again from scratch!

It’s been almost 3 months since starting my new post at Cranfield School of Defence and Security. Since being here I’ve been able to see the tools that I’ve been using for the past 8yrs with ‘fresh eyes’. One tool in particular would be the Mahara ePortfolio system which has only just been installed here since my arrival.

Some of you may be familiar with my previous work with Mahara at Southampton Solent University where the focus was very much placed upon visually appealing assessment outcomes that could be shared online with prospective employers. Due to the nature of the courses delivered at my new place of work (Military Vehicles, Defence, Explosives etc), much of our students’ work can’t be shared due to the sensitive nature of the content (think weapons design – you don’t want that falling into the wrong hands…). Our students are also multinational, multi-skilled and exclusively postgraduate.

After watching many excellent presentations from colleagues around the world (especially Kristina, Sigi, Linda and Pascale) I have decided to adopt a new approach to using Mahara. Many of our students are already on their career path, so employability skills aren’t so high on our lecturers’ agendas. What is important though is the ability to articulate what has been learnt during the modules and put it into real life context. Also, being able to constantly feedback on progress from a student-lecturer perspective can be key to improving the end result of their Masters Thesis submission.

I’m also exploring a ‘less is more’ approach to designing the support materials, something that has been repeated expressed by Learning Technologist Domi Sinclair from UCL. Students don’t want to be spoonfed every bit of information – they just want enough to get them going.

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With this in mind I have started to send out ‘feelers’ to see if any of our academics are interested in exploring Mahara further. I have created a handout that I have been taking with me to meetings, and will be shortly facilitating a couple of awareness sessions for lecturers and library staff:

What is Mahara

So, I guess it’ll be a case of ‘watch this space’! Fingers crossed that I’ll have something to talk about at the next UK Mahara Conference in November 🙂

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Good bye Solent!

Today marks the end of my Solent journey. I have been working here since August 2007 and have worn many hats over the years. I am sad as I have made so many awesome friends here over the years. It is also my ‘home’ as it’s where my family chose to settle after years of moving around with my Dad’s job. It’s the place where I’ve learnt my ‘trade’ as a Learning technologist and have enjoyed the freedom that my managers have given me over the years to explore areas that I felt enthused about, alongside projects that were handed to me.

  • To Steve Lake, thanks for taking a chance on me and giving me my first job at Solent all those years ago!
  • To my Dean of Service, Elizabeth Selby & Line Manager, Steve Hogg who’ve both been on all my LT interview panels, thanks for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to realise my potential.
  • To my lovely Learning Technology chums past and present – Alex, Andrew, Andy, Ann, Christina, Clare, Daran, Helen, Jenny, Julian, Lee, Loo, Nick, Paul, Richard, Roger, Rosemary, Sophia & Timos. You are all like family to me x I will be back every now and then (just remember to invite me!) 🙂
  • To the Graduate Associates Hannah, Sofy, Jack, Domi & Tom – so happy to have played a part in your first steps from being a student to becoming a professional 🙂
  • To all the academics and support staff – thanks for giving me lots of fun things to do!
  • Finally to my dear friend and mentor Lorry – thanks for giving me the kick up the backside I needed. Without you I would have never moved forward to where I am now. I wish you were still with us and I miss you every day xxx

Now, it’s time for Samwise’s next adventure…

Kisses x

Digitising Social Work with Mahara

I am very fortunate to work with great academics here at Solent. One such academic, Practice Learning Coordinator Colin Bright, approached me during the summer of 2014 regarding the possibility of using Mahara to streamline the communication and feedback process between students, lecturers and practice educators on our BA (Hons) Social Work degree. Of course I was happy to help and we started to map and plan what sort of processes Mahara could support. Colin was very pro-active and created a fantastic template for his students to copy.

The unit kicked off around Christmas, with 50 students building their portfolios using the copyable template that sat in a Mahara group. All practice educators and mentors were also given a brief overview of how they can give their students feedback. It was great to see so many professionals all agreeing to this new method of communication, and it shows how willing those who traditionally use a paper-based method are to up-dating their practices.

Anyway, I produced a poster for the Faculty of Business, Sport and Enterprise’s conference about this project:

Social work

Download PDF of Poster

Download Feeding back on ePortfolios helpsheet

What’s great is that this has now inspired the Health & Social Care teaching team who will be trialling Mahara with 16 of their students. Fingers crossed it works just a well with them!

Sam x