Book review: Mahara ePortfolios Beginner’s Guide

Recently, Packt Publishing published the Mahara ePortfolios Beginner’s Guide. Richard Hand, Thomas W. Bell and Derrin Kent are the authors of this second edition which now focuses on Mahara 1.5, released in April 2012. The original beginner’s guide was published in 2010 for Mahara 1.2 was a good resource for users new to Mahara wanting to learn how to work with this ePortfolio system and collaborative tool.

Therefore, it is great to see that the guide was updated to Mahara 1.5. The authors kept the main principles of the book the same, but revised, clarified and added further information, examples and an entirely new section on planning a Mahara implementation.

Having been a reviewer of the book during its writing phase I saw the hard work that went into refreshing this guide and can congratulate the authors on having done a wonderful job. They keep the language light and engage the readers at all times with their conversational style that is informative yet easy to read and comprehend at the same time. The use of four different case studies allows readers from a variety of backgrounds to identify with at least one user group to find parallels in how they could work with Mahara.

While most of the book is aimed at new users of Mahara explaining what they can achieve with ePortfolios and how they can create and collect content in Mahara, organize it into portfolios and then share these with other users as well as work together in groups, the latter chapters go beyond that. These chapters explain how to work with groups in a more formal learning setting, what plugins can be installed to extend the core features of Mahara and how to install Mahara.

The new chapter of the Mahara Implementation Pre-Planner is a great resource for anyone tasked to implement an ePortfolio solution. It provides a series of questions for each planning phase that guide readers to answering easy to tough questions ensuring that they know exactly why, when and for what reason they wish to implement an ePortfolio system in their institution.

Although this updated guide was written for Mahara 1.5, it is still applicable for Mahara 1.6 which was released on October 19, 2012, because the general concepts of working with Mahara have not changed. For institutions wishing to invest in reference and training material for their users, the Mahara ePortfolios Beginner’s Guide is a great resource along the Mahara 1.4 Cookbook, also published by Packt, which provides over 50 recipes for using Mahara in various contexts. And then there is the Mahara user manual which explains the individual functionalities of Mahara in a more reference-book style.

The Beginner’s Guide differs to the manual in that it provides more of a story line and takes the user on the hand for starting out to create and collect content and then working with it to produce a portfolio. Thus, readers can work through the book and create their portfolio while they are moving from one chapter to the next.

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