Sunday, March 27, 2011

Design & Building

It is great to see the work that Aaron and John have done in using Mahara for their third year projects. From the outset, the students have embraced Mahara to use for their e-portfolio and have made significant progress since my initial training session. A big thank you to Amy Van Berkel for her commitment to be the student mentor which has taken the pressure off me regarding followup training. We all look forward to seeing some great results in Aaron and John's class. I am currently working on the planning for the next Singapore study tour which will happen in September. I intend using Mahara again this year, as the outcomes of the portfolios last year were some of the best work that I have seen. cheers, Allan

What Online Collaboration experiences did our students already have?

We created a survey (using an online survey tool - Obsurvey: ) to find out what online collaboration experience the students involved in our project had before using e-portfolio groups as a collaboration space. We were interested to see if they used existing online networking (social & professional); how they had shared resources and information in other projects; how group communication had been done previously.

Some of what we found out:
  • over 80% have used Facebook or social networking (what for? - mainly communicating, sharing photos & organising social events)
  • But only 38% had used professional networking sites
  • In past projects they stored information on USB drives; communicated via email or text
  • 17% had used no online collaboration tools at all
We're already getting some interesting feedback on Mahara too (& plan to survey again later in the project to focus specifically on using groups in Mahara for this project):
'Mahara makes sense, it separates work from personal sites such as Facebook etc.....But it is unuserfriendly...why would they make it that confusing?'
Interested to see what they say about Mahara after they have used it for a longer period of time.

If you want to have a look at the the survey report, we've uploaded it into Google Docs so use the link:
Google Docs - Survey Report

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What do our students / teachers think so far?

The group has been using Mahara for 3 weeks now (the whole of the initial phase of their design project) - some feedback on how it's working:
Aaron McKay - Gordon teacher:
The Building design Industry requires collaboration in process as individuals come together to share, test, refine, develop design ideas.  Creating such a culture in a vocational education setting sets many challenges such as sharing and distributing information effectively, assessing individual performances within a group setting and managing process. 
 Positives (of using Mahara to create this collaboration culture):
 1.       Mahara brings together individuals, their thoughts, ideas and a collection of relevant project information using an interface that is similar to the method in which most students collaborate externally via social networks, such as facebook. 
 2.       Enables staff to observe what is being uploaded, by whom and when.
 3.       Enables postings to communicate with students.
 4.       Allows formative assessment.
 5.       Allows students to assess, give constructive and authentic feedback to each other.
1.        Requires trust from users in the creating and management of information.
2.       Uploading files is confusing as the uploading function isn’t block specific.
3.       Order of files and naming difficult to read and find.
And students - what do they think so far?
Amy Van Berkel  - Amy is one of the more experienced student users of Mahara (as she was one of the students who participated in the 2010 trial). She has been the 'student mentor' for other students using it for this group collaboration project in 2011.
Her feedback:
  1. Enables you to access all your files you've uploaded to Mahara anytime, anywhere, thus negating the need to carry around piles of folders, books and paperwork.
  2. It provides a central location for file sharing amongst a selected group, with the option for people to contribute and not just view.
  3. It’s good that you can create specific views within your portfolio and then pick and choose who it is visible to.
  1. It’s difficult to get you head around Mahara because it’s 'backwards' to common software.
  2. If you have a 'Live' document, you can’t save the changes directly within Mahara, you have to save it to your own file system, then upload it again before updating the file on the view ... It’s very long winded!
  3. It doesn't tag new documents that have been added to view since you last visited the view. 
  1. Would be handy to have a "Live Chat" function enabling you to converse with people when doing group work.
  2. Require a 'Block' within the views that enables you to put in web links directly ... similar to how the block is created for You-Tube videos.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

E-Portfolio group is up & running!

 Our students had their first session, working with Mahara, last Friday (25th Feb).  Many had never used it before but staff who ran the introductory session for them said “…the students all took to it very easily; they just got it and had no problems at all.” They were all made members of the group created for the project – there are 25 members.

How to organise the group collaboration space in Mahara was an important focus of the Friday session too – staff led the brainstorming and a plan for the site was drafted. It will be interesting to see how this initial plan works in practice.
Students have already started uploading files & other artefacts into the group files area to share with other group members. The focus in this project is on the group rather than their individual e-portfolios, but they are sure to explore the personal uses of the e-portfolio environment too. 

You can get an idea about how the brainstorm (on whiteboard) has been translated into a Mahara view from these two whiteboard & screen shot images.

The project team has been researching the workings of Mahara Groups to make sure we understand key issues - some of these we've been discussing: 
·         Administration of group - the person who creates the group becomes the Administrator but as group admin, you can ‘upgrade’ other group members to the administrator role.
·         Group Types - now include Standard and Course types (these control how others can join the group – open to all, request to join or be invited to join). Our group is a Request Membership group.
·         Use of Group Files & Group View - means students can upload, share and organise files.
The Building Design project has various phases phase 1 is the Requirements Research. Blocks have been put onto the Group View so students can upload and share files related to different tasks within that requirements research phase.
We considered the idea of creating a group view for each task within the Requirements Research phase but this would have restricted access too much. Instead we have chosen to create a group view for this phase and use blocks in the view to organise the research collection for the task.
·         Permissions to view/ edit/ publish an uploaded file into the group space & how they can be controlled. By default, all members of the group have permission to do all. We still have to test who can adjust the permissions – is it just the administrator of the group or is it the person uploading the file (or both)?
Students are completing a survey on their existing experience in using group/online collaboration and social networking. We plan to survey them again at the end of the project, aiming to find out both how easy /useful they found Mahara was for group collaboration and how it compared to other tools they may have already used both professionally and personally.
If you want to have a look at the survey use this link:
(we used an online survey tool called ObSurvey to set this up)