Mahara eportfolio

Mahara is the eportfolio system supported by Flinders* for coursework, WIL, and personal-professional activities.

1. Plan  |  2. Build  |  3. Teachers: use it first  |  4. Teaching tasks  |  5. Teachers: review and maintain  ||  Support 

NOTE: You can search this page by using Ctrl+F.




Mahara is a personal online platform that stays with you for the duration of your time here at Flinders. It is an online space where you can join up the dots between different things and show progress over time, and a place to organise and showcase your work. It belongs to the account holder - this means you control all your settings and who sees what. You can use your Mahara space for anything you like - personal notes, professional activity, scholarly activity and research, continuing professional development, career building and job-seeking, etc. Mahara works well to capture your experiential and informal learning, and can also be used for formal coursework at Flinders, because Mahara integrates with FLO for authenticated assessment submission. It can be a lot of things, but essentially, Mahara is a place to tell a story about you. 

*Mahara is one of many eportfolios. It was developed by a consortium of higher education providers in New Zealand in 2006 and is open-source software. About Mahara: Explained by Mahara

Choose Mahara if: support for staff and students is desired; the ePortfolio system needs to ‘talk to’ the Learning Management Systems (eg for assessment purposes); or the course or topic interpenetrates other courses that are also using Mahara.

NOTE: We are currently using Mahara version 17.10. We update about every six months. For this reason, support material in this page generally hyperlinks to the official Mahara support material at the end of the paragraph. Sometimes, these links will point back to instructions in earlier versions. That means nothing has changed. 'Shortcuts' and 'Gotchas' (tips for avoiding common problems) are also included where relevant. These assume a basic level of familiarity with the layout and functions of Mahara, but are a great reminder of how to do something. If you are copying instructions for use in your FLO sites, please update them often. The latest shortcuts will always be here. 

To access the full suite of Mahara user resources, see the official Mahara user manual here

1. Plan

1.1 Play with Mahara

The best way to understand what Mahara makes possible is to use it yourself. Have something concrete and genuinely useful in mind, even if it is just creating one Page where you can write up your Philosophy of Teaching, or a place to collect feedback.

Where is my Mahara?

You can always find Mahara in your FLO user profile drop-down menu (top right of your window in FLO), or through the Okta menu. When you are in Mahara, you can return to FLO at any time through a link inside your Dashboard page. This makes it easy for you to move between FLO and Mahara - no extra sign-ins required.


1.2 Consider possible applications: 
  • A personal-professional profile online: Create a professional-looking online presence, showcase your resume and collect all your social media accounts in one place.
  • A place to collect things: Upload, tag and store files you have created, or hyperlink to larger media files. You can also export forum posts, glossary entries and other FLO-created items from your topic into your Mahara space.
  • A place to capture your thoughts on the go: Journal your experiences, reflect, plan, make personal notes
  • A place to collaborate with others: A controlled space for sharing and co-creating in groups 
  • A way to present to others: Creatively combine text and media into pages and collections, and share these for assessment, promotion, or job-seeking.
  • A conversational space: Connect your big ideas to the world and invite public comment 


1.3 Explore example eportfolios:

1.4 Learn about eportfolios: 



2. Build

The following items are the most common things that people do with Mahara. To access the full suite of Mahara user resources, see the official Mahara user manual here

2.1 Add and create items of content

Add your own content:

You can save and organise individual files into your Mahara space. These become individual items of 'content' which can then be used in your pages and collections for presentation. You can easily drag items from your desktop into Mahara. See Mahara files info here

Use built-in tools:

Storage capacity:

Your Mahara account is limited to 200 MB storage capacity. It is recommended that you compress large files before adding them, and store large media files in other spaces and link to them. Used this way, Mahara becomes a way to curate media items published to multiple places. Video files stored on YouTube will embed in Mahara. - See how to embed media in section 2.3 'Create a Page' below.


2.2 Use the Journal

Mahara comes with a journal already set up and ready to go. You can also create others - as many as you like. Journal entries can be tagged for easy finding. When you add a Journal to a Page for sharing or submission, you can:

  • Embed the whole Journal
  • Select specific Journal entries
  • Add all entries tagged with a certain way;

See Mahara Journal info here


Shortcut for version 17.10: 

  • Drop-down navigation (top right corner) > Content > Journals
  • Create journal OR
  • Rename your given journal using the pencil icon
  • Click New Entry > write, tag, save
  • Put your Journal on the Dashboard (makes it easier to add entries)
  • Edit Dashboard > select your journal from the Blocks on the left
  • To add a new entry: Edit Dashboard > New entry

Gotcha: A journal must be in a page in order to submit it to FLO

Gotcha: If you are going to embed ‘tagged journal entries’ in a page for assignment submission, tagging your entries is REALLY IMPORTANT


2.3 Create a page

A page is a place to collect a number of items together to tell a 'bigger story'. For instance, you can group presentation slides with a picture of you presenting, some promotional material, feedback received, and a reflection on the event. You can add items to pages from your 'content' or you can add straight from your computer. Pages can be formatted to group items in different ways - play with the options for maximum effect. See Mahara page info here

See Mahara 'blocks' info here - what you can add to a page 

Shortcuts for version 17.10:

Make a new page: Dashboard > Create > Add > Page

  • Title your page
  • Description – a header across the top of your page (but invisible when editing your page)
    • A picture looks great here. Choose a long thin one to act as a banner
  • Tags – tag appropriately
  • Layout – default is 3 columns, or choose from the options
  • Save. You can always come back to this settings area and make changes
  • The page is ready is edit. Explore content options in the blocks on the left

Add content: Drag and drop to place on the page or see dropdown for options within each type. Common content choices:

  • Text: Drag onto page > title > add text, links, pictures, styling
  • Journal: Dropdown to choose: whole journal, journal entry or tagged journal entries
  • Embedded media: External > External media > drop in the URL
  • Choose whether retractable or stays open (depending on the best layout for the page)
  • Drag the content on your page to arrange
  • Display page (under title) to check how it looks / Back to return to edit screen

Gotcha: A page is the smallest thing you can share. If you are sharing or submitting content, it needs to be in a Page. For instance, submitting a Journal means adding to a Page and submitting the Page (with the Journal in it).


2.4 Create a collection

Collections are a collection of pages joined together. You will need to create all the pages first before grouping them together in a collection. See Mahara collections info here

Shortcut for version 17.10:

  • Dashboard > Create > Add > Collection – name, tag and save
  • Click Next: Edit collection pages
  • Select Pages to add to Collection > click Add pages 
  • Reorder pages with the arrows
2.5 Submit to FLO

You may be instructed to use Mahara as part of your formal coursework at Flinders. Mahara creates a formal and secure channel between you and the teaching staff. They will only be able to see what you submit, when you submit it. You are responsible for submission - just like any other assignment.

When it is time to submit your Mahara work to FLO, you will do so via an Assignment tool which will be especially set up to receive Mahara assignments. When you go through the 'submit' process, you will be prompted to choose your page/s and/or collection/s from a list displayed in the tool. Click which one/s you want to be submitted and complete the submission process.

The Assignment tool may be set to:

  • Unlocked (which means you can keep working in Mahara on whatever you have submitted, and teaching staff will see all your changes)
  • Locked (which means you will not be able to make changes to whatever you have submitted until unlocked by the teaching staff - but you can make a copy of it at any time)

Remember that your Mahara work is time-stamped. If you are asked to complete coursework in Mahara (for instance, keep a journal with regular entries) you will need to keep up to date as expected. If you create your entries all at once they will all have the same date.

Shortcut for version 17.10:
  • In FLO, Click into the Assignment tool
  • The tool has been configured to accept only Mahara Pages or Collections
  • You will be prompted to select the relevant Page or Collection from a full lst
  • Go through the steps as normal and submit
  • Depending on the setting, your page/s will be
    • ‘live’ – you can keep working in them, and all your changes will show up to the teaching staff
    • OR locked for editing until after grading (but you can copy the page and keep working on it)

Gotcha: If you are submitting a collection to an Assignment dropbox in FLO, you must submit ALL the pages at once. This might mean creating 'blank' pages ready for you to fill later. If you add pages to a collection after you have submitted it, the teacher will not be able to see the new pages.


2.6 Share your work

You can make Pages or Collections available to others for view - with or without comment.

Shortcuts for version 17.10: 

Option 1: Secret URL

  • Dashboard > Share > choose your Collection or Page from the lists
  • Click on Secret URLS (globe icon)
  • New secret URL > copy
  • Send this to whomever you want to see your page or collection
  • UNSHARE: When you delete the URL, their access will disappear

OR create a Secret URL directly from your Page – click Share button

Option 2: Share with others

  • Dashboard > Share > choose your Collection or Page from the lists
  • Click on Edit access (padlock icon)
  • Advanced options – choose to allow comments and/or copying
  • Share with: choose from the options
  • UNSHARE: When you delete the share, their access will disappear 

OR control share options directly from your page - click Share button. See Mahara Shared by me info here

Gotcha: If you are presenting this media as part of a collection (portfolio), you will need to manage the privacy settings of these outside-Mahara items. For instance if you make a Mahara collection and share a secret URL to that collection with someone, all the items you have linked to your collection should also be viewable by that person. 


2.7 Collect comments on your work 

Mahara Pages and some types of content come with a 'comments' field already turned on. You can control whether you want this on or off, and whether you would like to moderate comments, from within your Page. See Mahara comments info here  

Shortcut for version 17.10:

  • Share > Advanced options
  • Allow comments yes/no
  • Moderate comments yes/no


2.8 Make a copy 

Within your collection, you can make a copy of any Page, or any Collection that a Page is part of. Coped Pages can then be adapted. See Mahara copy info here

Shortcut for version 17.10:

  • Share > Advanced options 
  • Allow copying yes/no. Note that the default setting is no.

You can also copy any Page or Collection shared with you, if copying has already been enabled by the person sharing.


2.9 Work in a group

It is possible to use Mahara for groups, although some caution is advised if using as part of formal coursework. Anyone with a Mahara account can create public or invitation-only groups, and can request to join other groups. See Mahara groups info here

Gotcha: All members of a group need to already have picked up their Mahara accounts.


2.10 Export your work to another platform

You will have access to your Mahara account for the duration of your FAN. For students, this is one year from the date of graduation; for staff, it is when your employment with the University ends. If you want to keep the contents, pages and collections in your Mahara account, you will need to export it all into another account of your choosing. To export, you will first need to create an account to send it to, and then export from your Flinders Mahara content using Leap2A format. See Mahara export info here


MORE.....

Didn't find what you were looking for? Search the official Mahara user manual here



3. Teachers: use it first 

If you are planning to use Mahara in your topic or course, go through the activity yourself first. 

This will:

  • generate ideas on how the tool might be used to support learning and assessment
  • provide insight into the user experience 
  • test the steps so that you can provide accurate instructions (write them down as you go)
  • create an example for sharing with students so they can 'see what you mean'

You can share your work with colleagues via secret URL or 'share' (see 2.6 above).



4. Teaching tasks 

If you are a teacher using Mahara for coursework or WIL, there are some extra FLO-related things for you to consider.


4.1 Guide and support students

General support principles for using Mahara in educational contexts:

  • Own the space: Mahara is a personal space, and users are responsible for maintaining the contents of their accounts
  • Grow your skills: Managing your Mahara space is a digital competency - start simple and develop confidence and expertise
  • A partnered approach: Staff and students are all users - share your expertise and help each other 

Support strategies:

  1. Write instructional guidance in FLO which clearly explains the task. See the Demo site: Mahara in FLO here
  2. Provide concrete examples: You can use your own, or those of students who agree to share a copy of their work. Examples will help students 'see what you mean' - in terms of organisation and content
  3. Share a copy-able 'template': If it is important to have the work formatted in a particular way, you can create the structure yourself and share with students as a copy-able Page or Collection. Students can copy, rename their version and 'fill in' the containers you have created. See 2.8 Make a copy section above
  4. Provide hyperlinks to help material and services: You find these in the Mahara user manual, or copy from the appropriate section on this support page
  5. Copy and paste 'Shortcuts' from this page: Feel free to copy these from the appropriate section on this support page.

Gotcha: Hyperlinks and shortcuts copied from this page and used in FLO for student guidance and support will need to be checked every time the topic is offered, as the version may have changed in the interim - and therefore, the links and instructions may be out of date.


4.2 Receive Mahara assignments 

To receive Mahara assignments securely and authenticated by FAN, create an Assignment tool. It is not recommended to receive Mahara coursework by secret URL or 'share' as these options do not go through the FAN authentication system. 

Relevant settings:

  • Submission type: Mahara portfolio - you can ignore options for file number, type, etc. 
  • Lock submitted pages: There are 3 options. Once submissions have been received, you will not be able to change your option. Options:
    • "No": This is the default option. Submitted pages and collections will be editable by the students. This provides you with a 'live window' to their work. 
      • Note that it is possible to archive submitted work if you want a snapshot in time - see item 4.4 'Save submitted work' below. 
    • If "Yes, keep locked" is selected, submitted Mahara pages and collections will be locked from editing in Mahara and will remain locked after grading. This option is not recommended unless required by an accrediting body.
    • If "Yes, but unlock after grading", the page or collection will be unlocked after submission grading, or, if marking workflow has been used, they will be unlocked when marks are released to student.

You can think of these as 'live' or 'locked' windows to the students work. Note that with any of these options, a student may at any time make a copy of their submitted work and keep editing it. Hence it is helpful to think of submitted work as a 'version' or a snapshot in time. If you need to see another version at a later time, create another Assignment dropbox.

Gotcha: Not all work in Mahara is time-stamped. Pages are time-stamped but not all items within the Page. This means if the student is building a Page over time, you will not be able to tell when individual items were added. If it is important that you see the time stamp, choose Journal.


4.3 Provide feedback

When assessing work in Mahara, consider how you will provide feedback to students. If work has been submitted through the Assignment tool, you have two 'locations' where your interact happens: in Mahara (through Comments) and in FLO (through the normal channels of assignment feedback). You will probably need to use a mix of both, as appropriate to your context. 

1. Comment in Mahara

When you click into a students submitted Mahara assignment you are able to interact on that Page through the 'comments' functions, provided the student has not turned comments off. Each Page has a comments field, and some items of content also have comments enabled (Journal entries, Notes and files). As a visitor to the student's eportfolio, you can leave comments here, but note that these comments then 'belong to' and managed by the student - they can choose to delete them if they wish. 

Comments in Mahara 'give' the student something they can use in their portfolio as part of their portfolio, for example:

  • praise for work well done
  • useful extra information, or 
  • evidence of your having been there

2. Provide in-FLO feedback

Feedback that relates to your judgement on the quality of the work submitted and justifies a grade given is formal, and should occur in FLO. This acts as a record of your thinking should there be a grade challenge.


4.4 Save submitted work 

It is possible - though arguably not necessary - to save a submitted Page as a PDF. Obviously this is an extra step, and is not required for assessment records. However you may choose to do this if:

  • a record: a formal record of the work is required for accrediting bodies or the like 
  • annotation: you want to annotate a Page with comments (as you would for a normal PDF assignment)
  • research: the Page is a research artefact
  • example: the Page is an example of work, intended to be shared or presented with others 

Remember to seek and gain the necessary consent if you are saving a Page for purposes other than assessment. 

To save: 

  1. In the Mahara Page itself, locate the 3 dots on the top right of the Page - this is a drop-down 
  2. Choose Print > destination 'Save as PDF'


Note that formatting may change. The Page will save in black+white, with comments displayed at the bottom of the PDF. 



5. Teachers: review and maintain

Tips for maintaining up-to-date Mahara support in your FLO site 

  • Review shortcut instructions, and replace, if needed - the latest version will always be in this support page 
  • Review URLs to Mahara support pages, and replace if needed - the latest link will always be in this support page 
  • Click into any displayed example portfolios and make sure they are still live and as you would expect to see them. Portfolios are living things that will change over time and may no longer be appropriate, or they can disappear without notice


  Training and support

  Troubleshooting

Support for students 

When Mahara is used as part of formal coursework you will be supported by teaching staff to understand the task and the steps you need to take.

FLO help is available if you get stuck submitting to FLO or saving FLO work to Mahara.

Please note that FLO help staff cannot see or help users beyond log-in because this is your private space.

Contact: FLO Help for Students


Support for staff

Design advice and technical support
eLearning support teams

Network ideas with peers:
ePortfolio Community of Practice


Training for staff

Beginner - no assumed skills:
Personal-professional use of the Mahara eportfolio

Next - some prior know-how is assumed:
Create and educational Mahara activity

Refer to the red 'Gotchas' under each section. 

If you discover a Gotcha that isn't listed, please 

» How-to glossary