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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