Book Review: Mahara ePortfolios: Beginnners Guide

I have liked using Mahara since way back in Alpha, both personally and recommending for clients. It provides a great option for those seeking an ePortfolio to work tightly with Moodle and also for those seeking to build a community of practice.

Packt publishing have kindly provided me with a copy of the new book Mahara ePortfolios Beginners Guide eBook by Richard Hand, Derrin Kent and Thomas W Bell. It looks to provide guidance on both of the key uses “Create your own ePortfolio and communities of interest within an educational or professional organization”. So apart from the z this looks interesting!

The Packt Beginner’s Guide books are just that, aimed at beginners and follow a philosophy of “Learn by doing: less theory, more results”. So with that in mind, let’s have a look at the book.

This is the second edition of a book that was published over two years ago, bringing the content up to date and more relevant with the later Mahara versions.

Chapter 1 – What can Mahara do for you?
This chapter is a great on boarding to Mahara and ePortfolios and what it can be used to support in personalised learning, reflective learning and  collaborative learning. The quiz about features was an interesting twist. It then brings the reader through 4 interesting case studies.

Chapter 2 – Getting Started with Mahara
I expected the chapter to explain how to install Mahara as most of the beginners guides do, however this chapter encourages the user to register at the demo Mahara website of the authors. This lets the user try out Mahara without having to go through installing it. It also provides info on some other sites the user could use. It walks the reader through all the basic aspects of Mahara in a nice step by step way.

Chapter 3 – Create and Collect content
This chapter really brings the reader to the next phase of using Mahara and ePortfolios, showing as it says how “Mahara replaces the USB Stick”. Now I don’t fully agree with that, but the authors do give good reasons for taking this view. It brings the reader through managing the files into and within Mahara, and introduces some other features.

Chapter 4 – Organise and Showcase your Portfolio
Content is great, but displaying and controlling the display is key and this chapter shows where Mahara is great at this and brings the reader through the key steps to achieve their goals. The tone and pace of this chapter is really excellent and the guidance and examples are very useful.

Chapter 5 – Share and Network in Groups
One area I really like Mahara for is the Group features. This chapter brings the reader into the world of Mahara groups and shows what they can do and use them for. This is a must-read chapter!

Chapter 6 – Course Groups and Other Roles in Mahara
At this stage the reader has gone through all user related aspects of Mahara and this now focuses on the administrative areas of Mahara and what options are available there. This is an important chapter especially for those considering for their organisation rather than as an individual.

Chapter 7 – Mahara Extensions
As with many open source systems, there are a number of plugin or extensions available for Mahara and this chapter introduces some of them to the reader and explains their usage.

They are an interesting inclusion providing the user a Mahara Implementation pre-planner and a guide for installing Mahara.

Some thoughts
Overall the book is a great introduction to using Mahara as an ePortfolio tool. So if you are looking for something in that area, this book is a good read!

I did find the explanations to be clear and concise and provided a good balance of guidance and step by step information.

I loved the cases studies and would have liked to see more.

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