User Guide/User Guide As One Page
This document is an amalgamation of the pages in the Mahara User Guide. It's here so that we can create PDFs of the user guide documentation from time to time, which you can download and print.
Note: It's not a full representation of the pages yet, we are still adding pages to this document to be included. You could possibly edit this page and add more pages to it to help out ;)
- 1 Introduction
- 2 My Portfolio
Welcome to the Mahara User Guide! This user guide is designed to provide documentation for people who will use Mahara on a day-to-day basis. This document is designed to be read by any user of Mahara, as most users will have access to the features documented here. Site and Institution Administrators (will eventually) have separate user guides.
Without any further ado, let's begin!
What is Mahara?
If you're wondering what Mahara or an e-portfolio is, why you might want one and what it can do for you, then read on - you're about to find out.
At the simplest level, Mahara is two things: an e-portfolio and a social networking system combined. An e-portfolio is a system in which students can record "evidences of lifelong learning" - such as essays, artwork or other such things they produce that can be stored digitally. Such things are known as artefacts in Mahara. Social networking systems need little introduction - think Myspace, Facebook or Bebo. Basically, they give a way for people to interact with their friends and create their own online communities.
But Mahara is much more than just a place to store files. Mahara also includes blogging, a resumé builder, Moodle integration and the standout views framework.
What are Views?
Views give students a way to display their artefacts in a way they choose, to the people they want to see them. For instance, a student could have one view that contains a journal of their progress and some notes for a project they are currently doing, visible only to their teachers. Also, they could have another view, showing photos from their holiday in Scotland, that their friends can see.
This framework gives users tremendous flexibility in how their data is shown to others. Furthermore, they are not restricted to just placing artefacts in their views - Mahara allows users to insert Youtube videos, Flickr photos, RSS feeds and much more. And the entire framework is pluggable - so anything you imagine could become part of a view, simply by writing a new plugin.
The Mahara framework
With Mahara, you control which items and what information within your portfolio other users see. Such items and information are termed artefacts. To facilitate this access control, all artefacts you wish to show to other users need to be arranged into one area. In Mahara this compilation of selected artefacts is called a View. You can have as many Views as you like, each with a different collection of artefacts, and intended purpose and audience. Your audience, or the people you wish to give access to your View, can be added as individuals or as a member of a Group. It can even be made publicly available.
For example you could create a View for your friend and family that includes holiday photos and a personal Blog. You could create another View for your tutor, which includes assessments and your reflective learning journal. You could create a third View to showcase your best pieces of work and your resumé for potential employers. In fact you can create as many Views as you wish for work, study and leisure purposes.
The diagram below of example artefacts, Views and groups illustrates how content in Mahara can be shared and reused in different contexts and for different audiences.
How does Mahara fit in to the e-learning landscape?
If you think of LMSes such as Moodle, Sakai and Blackboard as the formal, structured side of e-learning, then Mahara is the social, reflective side. An LMS and an e-portfolio complement one another in an online learning environment.
In particular, while Mahara's APIs are open to all, Mahara can integrate with Moodle to provide a streamlined user experience. Currently this is limited to SSO, but from Moodle 2.0, students will be able to export assignments, blogs and much more straight into Mahara to use as artefacts (which can then, of course, be placed into views).
What if Mahara does not support a feature I want?
Mahara has been designed from the ground up to be an open, pluggable system. Creating new artefacts, authenticating against a custom system and much more can be implemented simply through writing a plugin that uses the appropriate core API. What this means is that it is free and easy for you to customise almost anything about Mahara to suit your needs - and paid support is available from the creators of Mahara should you require.
Other things to do
Now you have a basic idea of what Mahara is, you could:
You will find contextual help throughout Mahara, wherever you see the question mark symbol . Click on this to open a dialogue box containing help on the area you are currently working in. Contextual help is designed to help guide you through Mahara so please use this feature as much as you require.
Some useful definitions in the context of using Mahara:
ePortfolio - An electronic portfolio is an online collection of reflections and digital artefacts that students and staff can use to demonstrate their development over time to various audiences. Wikipedia has a page on ePortfolios.
Artefacts – Artefacts are items and information that ePortfolio users can create both within and outside of their portfolio. Within Mahara Artefacts include images, documents, blogs, personal information and resumé information.
View – A "web page" that gives users the chance to show off artefacts in their portfolio to others.
Groups – Collections of users, gathered around a common purpose or task. Users can collaborate on creating group Views, and build their community through Group Forums.
Your login details will be the username and password you entered during registration or as assigned by your institution or Site Administrator. Where relevant, you will also need to select the institution with which you are associated.
Your username may include alphanumeric characters, full stops and @ symbols. Your username must be between 3 and 30 characters long. Usernames are not case sensitive.
Your password must be at least six characters long and contain at least one digit and two letters. Your password may not be the same as your username and is case sensitive.
Once you have submitted the registration form, an email will immediately be sent to your email address. This email will contain a link which once followed, will confirm your account and log you into the system.
If you do not receive an email confirmation message after registration, please ensure the registration message has not been caught by your email junk filter. Please contact the Site Administrator if you have any problems registering.
It might be useful to consider the My Portfolio section of Mahara as your main personal repository of resources and information. In here, you can begin to add content to your ePortfolio, in the shape of uploaded resources, or Artefacts, Blogs within Mahara and store them in My Files and My Blogs.
When you decide to start sharing selected Artefacts, you can use My Views to begin packaging them up for presentation.
A web log or Blog is a journal-like tool that allows you to record your thoughts and experiences. By adding your Blog to a View you can allow others users to place feedback and comments, allowing you to create a dialogue with your audience.
Creating a Blog within Mahara is a two stage process. First a Blog must be created and given a title and description. Then, you can add Blog posts to your Blog. Think of the first stage as rather like creating a wrapper or container in which you can begin to add your creative writing, reflective thoughts and comments through Blog posts.
Add A Blog Post
Click on Blog title and select Add Post. If it is a new Blog there will also be a message that says ‘No posts yet. Add one’.
Give your Blog post a title and in the HTML text editor, add your thoughts!
You can add Tags to Blogs and Blog posts you create within Mahara. Tags allow you to add descriptive labels to Blogs and create an index of tag classifications. Add words or phrases separated by commas. So for this example, the following tags have been added:
eLearning, Staff development, pedagogy
Tip - When you add subsequent Blog posts, you can click on Show my tags to view a list of all tags you have previously used. This can save time if you need to frequently upload Artefacts with the same tags. Simply click on any relevant existing tags, and they will be added to your new Artefact.
Over time your tags list will develop into a comprehensive list of keywords for your Artefacts and will aid the search process.
Save as draft
If you would like to come back to your Blog posting at a later time to add or modify it, you can hold off from publishing it by saving it as a Draft by ticking the 'This post is a draft' checkbox. When your post is a draft, no one except you can see it.
When you have completed your posting and you are happy with it, select Save Post.
If the Blog post has been marked as Draft, it will appear as Draft and can be published later.
If the Blog post has not been marked as draft, it will appear as Published. In both cases the full Blog post will be displayed, along with its title and date and time of which it was posted. The parent title of the Blog to which it belongs is indicated in bolder type at the top of the screen.
Note: Saving and publishing your post means that it is saved and stored in the My Blogs area. It does not mean that other users can yet read it. Until you decide to make it available by adding it to a View and assigning access rights, nobody else will be able to see or comment on it.
Whilst a Blog itself is considered an Artefact, so are any individual Blog postings you create. This means that both Blogs and individual Blog posts can be added to a View.
Remember that until you add it to a View, your Blog remains visible only to you.
Add a file from My Files
If you have already uploaded files to the My Files area, you can quickly associate them with a Blog post. Select Browse my files to display a list of the files uploaded to your file store.
Chose a relevant file, such as an image or photograph and click Attach. This will automatically add your file to the Blog and will be displayed as an attached file.
When reading another person’s Blog, via a View, you may be able to submit comments on their posts. To comment on another user’s Blog, open the applicable View, click on the Blog’s name or title and select the Place Feedback option at the bottom of the screen. Currently this will only work if a user has chosen to display Recent Blog Posts in their View. This displays a list up to a maximum of 10 most recent posts, by title.
Other users with access rights to the View can click on a title and submit Public or Private Blog Comments (Feedback). Public Feedback may be seen by other users who have access to the View. Private Feedback is only visible to the View owner. A View owner may choose to make your public feedback private, but not vice versa.
Tip: To edit your Blog description, view the Blog list in My Blogs, click on the title and select Settings. You can now amend the title or description of your Blog.
- Prevent comments on blog posts
There is now an Allow comments field that can be set for each blog post
MyPortfolio > My Blogs > New Post > Allow comments
By default this is turned on – if you don’t want others to make comments on your posting then untick this box.
Embed an image to a Blog post
Once you attach an image to a Blog post, you can then embed it into the body of the post. Before you do anything else, position your cursor at the place in your Blog post where you would like the image to appear. Click on the image icon in the HTML editor (this is the one that looks like a green tree) From the Insert Image box select the appropriate file from the drop down box and click Insert.
You can also embed an image as a link from another website. You can either type in the url of the image or drag and drop the image from the website into the HTML editor. Please ensure you have appropriate copyright permissions to use the image.
For best results images should be no more than 400 x 400 pixels and have less than 5 pixels of padding on each side.
Upload a file to a Blog
You may upload or attach files to a Blog posting. Files added to a Blog posting are automatically stored within your file repository area in a folder called ‘Blogfiles’ and contribute to your file storage quota.
In order to progress, you must comply and agree to the Copyright notice by ticking the copyright box.
Browse your desktop in the usual way to find a file or image to upload. When attempting to upload a file you will see the following fields:
Name - You can add a title when uploading a file, otherwise it will default to the existing file name.
Description – You may choose to give your file a description
Tags – You can add tags to Artefacts and Views you create within Mahara. Tags allow you to add descriptive labels to Artefacts and Views and create an index of tag classifications.
Once you have filled in the required fields, click Upload to complete the add file process. You will see a confirmation message and details of the attached file.
To View your Blogs and Blog posts, go to My Blogs, for a list of Blogs. Click on a Blog title for a list of Blog posts associated with that Blog.
The two stage process of creating a blog and then adding Blog posts will result in a Blog which is still only visible to you, the owner. To enable others to read your Blogs requires a further step - add part or all of it to a View