Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Are you a Maharan?  For those n00bs, who are wholly unaware of the parlance I've broken into, a "Maharan" is a dedicated follower/user of the Mahara eportfolio platform. Mahara is another best of breed Open Source learning platform (like Moodle), that has been developed in Australia/New Zealand.  Mahara has experienced meteoric rise to fame (again similar to Moodle) across the globe, due to its relative ease of use, ability to integrate into other systems (Mahoodle or MaGoogle), and the growing acceptance of personalised of learning.  The reason why I'm telling you this, is that I've just reviewed a very good book that's just been published by a good friend of mine Derrin Kent, and his dedicated team at UK Bewdley based TDM ltd.  Derrin is an all round good guy and is very experienced at levering ILT/e-learning solutions for Work Based Learning, Colleges and local companies using Moodle or Mahara for teaching or training.

That experience Derrin has amassed is precisely where the scenarios that support each chapter of Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios are drawn from.  Derrin and his colleagues at TDM, have really gone out of their way to make this book appeal to all levels of interest and experiences, not just with eportfolios, but ILT in general.  It is written in a relaxed, yet informative style which draws the reader into trying out the bite-sized exercises, which form the lion's share of the book. At every step each chapter builds confidence, gives clear illustrations, and positively reinforces the theory by real world scenarios. The reader is constantly encouraged to "have a go hero", buy jumping online to a Mahara sandpit, to learn by doing.  Each step is explained and the chapters check learning, fully explaining the jargon and provide good examples of exactly why and how Mahara could (and should) be used.

The first chapter, really set the scene explaining eportfolios in general, and the final chapters move into more tutor and administrator levels of Mahara deployment.  But as a mere "user" myself I found these latter chapters equally clear and informative – especially the sections on using Mahara as a very capable e-assessment tool.

What really sets this book apart from the plethora of computer manuals was the first appendix that guided the reader into the essential aspect of planning and piloting an e-learning platform, to ensure all stakeholders are consulted, and a robust evaluation plan is factored in.  The final appendix even goes as far as covering basic installation of Mahara for those brave enough to try. But by the time you've dipped in and out of this book, you will want to.  A thoroughly good read, that can be enjoyed by anyone interested in the potential of eportfolios and a must for those who have Mahara and want to exploit its suite of features. 

On its own (either hosted or locally run) Mahara offers a robust set of features that pitch it up against most VLEs for shear practical teaching and learning e-solutions. But... if you do co-join Mahara and Moodle (single sign on), then Mahoodle can offer quite a powerful and flexible Open Source solution suited for most training and teaching needs.

Well done Derrin and all the TDM book authors, for a well crafted and very informative book.

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