Magic Block Development for the Mahara eportfolio platform and the EMVITET Project



Dublin City University deployed the open source Mahara platform in 2016 to date. It has been used extensively across the university since that date for student assessment, work placement, and extracurricular activities. More recently, there has been an uptake in staff using the eportfolio platform to record and showcase their CPD/professional portfolio.

To scaffold the use of the platform for both staff and students, eportfolio templates have been widely used. Templates have been widely used to ease the process of eportfolio development, particularly for novice users. The Learning Technologist with responsibility for the eportfolio noted the restrictive and prescriptive nature of designing templates. Template design required choosing the media elements to be included by the students in advance, instead of providing students with the flexibility to choose what media elements best demonstrated their learning.

As part of an Erasmus + funded project, the EMVITET project led by HAMK University in Finland, funding was made available to explore more flexible approaches to template design for the project participants.  EMVITET is a capacity building project that seeks to develop competencies in student centred learning leading to education 4.0. The project is using eportfolio templates for assessment, reflection and recording participants’ competencies. In the EMVITET project specifically, the portfolio pages are now being used to support continuous learning through peer review and will ultimately be a key part of the assessment strategy that leads to the awarding of digital badges for participants.

The team from DCU proposed a ‘Magic Block’; a block that could be included on an eportfolio page to enable a template to be structured but would magically transform to show any type of media the student deemed appropriate whether that was text based, an image, video or other. With the proposed Magic Block, the students would benefit from the pre-built template but would still be able demonstrate their creativity and include whatever evidence of their learning that they wished. “Reimagining how learning evidence is placed onto portfolio pages has greatly improved the usability” Kristina Hoeppner, Catalyst IT.

Catalyst IT was selected to develop this functionality for the Mahara platform. The open source nature of Mahara and the support of the Mahara maintainers is key to ensuring continuous improvement to the platform. While ostensibly for the benefit of the project participants, the decision was made to design this enhancement so that it could be included into Core Mahara. This ensured that Mahara users globally could benefit from the enhancement. The name of the block has been changed to the Placeholder block on launch, and is now the default method of eportfolio page creation in Mahara.

Emvitet, 18/06/2020 - 16:06:17

Magic Block Development, Mahara, ePortfolio, EMVITET

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