Embarking on ePortfolios using Mahara in a K-12 School..



Well I’ve embarked on a journey of rolling out the use of Mahara as an ePortfolio system for our school which is K-12 (NBCS) and have had some interesting reflections.

Everyone Seems Keen

Normally new technology or ideas in the education sector is met with much resistance and squirming. With ePortfolios though, it seems that the educational ground is fertile and ready/waiting for this implementation. I have had teachers and managers alike approaching me to ask how and when they can start using the system.

Know What You Want

The first and most important step in implementing ePortfolios at your school is to make sure you know WHY. This seems obvious, but it is a crucial set in the process of figuring out HOW you will implement the system as a whole. At our school (NBCS) we have the following primary goals:

  1. Student learning reflection and “Award Garden”
  2. Better Student-Parent-Teacher communication and work display
  3. Staff Professional Development

With these goals figured out it makes decisions down the road a lot easier.



Separate Installations for School Sites

Having fiddled with the use of “Institutions” in Mahara to split and re-theme the Primary and Secondary ePorfolios, I found that it was actually easier to create two whole separate installations. Some of the reasons for this have been:

  1. In the current version of Mahara 1.2 you cannot stop members from one institutions becoming friends and interacting with other institutions.
  2. You cannot configure plugins for a specific institution, which means if you want to switch off something for Primary you have to do it for the whole site.
  3. Single sign-on becomes messy when you have two separate Moodle sites trying to log into the one Mahara site. (Double user accounts start popping up all over the place.)

There is a little more management required for two sites but so far these have been minimal.

Lastly – Run a Pilot Test Program

Pick three enthusiastic teachers across the school in a range of areas and allow them to start a pilot program for a semester. allow this process to be fairly loose in nature. This not only engages the students and teachers, but also gives you time to iron out all the bugs and hiccups you might encounter before releasing the system across the whole school. Remember, you want the majority of teacher’s first experience with ePortfolios to be positive and not full of issues.

Our ePortfolio experience so far has been great and I hope that some of these tips will help you with yours!

Follow my tweets at: grant_harbor

Grant Harbor


3 thoughts on “Embarking on ePortfolios using Mahara in a K-12 School..

  1. Hi, Grant, an intersting post and thank you for your frankness about some of the problems that you have had to face.

    My main concern is that about ‘ownership’. It seems to me that you are setting up an ‘institutional’ ePortfolio system. Have you thought about ‘portability’ and the ability for student to take away their ePortfolio when they move on to another institution?

    See my blog at http://www.efoliointheuk.blogspot.com and a recent SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/maximise/the-need-for-now

    Please tell me more about the Christian Ethos of your school.

    Best Wishes
    Ray T

  2. Just read this as part of the Moodlebites mahara course. Agree with much of what has been said. We launched Mahara two years ago and did not succeed for a number of reasons but mainly due to buy in with staff. The three pronged approach at your school is IMHO, the right way to do it and I hope this is supported at senior leadership level too. I woudl be interested to know what things you have “removed” or “incentivised” (horrible word) from existing practise to ensure maximum success.

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