MMMup – Brainstorming plugin improvements

The Moodle-Mahara Meetup in Adelaide on 8 May 2013 was the perfect setting to talk with users of Mahara and Moodle about a plugin that is frequently used by those that have both platforms. Though we have the Mahara community forums, getting the opportunity to chat with users face-to-face is fantastic because everything is done in real time.

Back in 2012 Catalyst was asked to provide specifications for expanding the Mahara assignment submission plugin to account for the deprecation of MNet by Moodle sometime in the future and to allow for keeping submitted portfolios for accountability in case a student challenged a grade. All other functionality was supposed to stay. Since then a number of functionalities have changed in Moodle and Mahara. Thus hearing what users would like to see today is important for keeping the plugin relevant.

Altogether there were 18 users of Moodle and Mahara in my workshop on the Mahara assignment submission plugin. These came primarily from the tertiary education sector from Australia and New Zealand. But we also had a participant from Fiji and one from the secondary school level. Interestingly, only two of these 18 have used the plugin in question before. However, this did not pose a difficulty because then they were not limited by the current functionality, but could think very freely about what they would like to see in the plugin.

I split the large group into three smaller ones and allowed them time to talk to each other about what they would like to see and discuss their ideas in their groups after having had a quick introduction round. This part of the workshop was important to me so we had a basis for our discussions. We all didn’t know each other besides sometimes having engaged in the online forums. That’s why the introductions were the opportunity for us to put context around where we were coming from.

All three groups had lively discussions and came up with numerous ideas for the future Mahara assignment submission plugin. During the final big group discussion, every group put forward their top ideas which we captured on the whiteboard:

  • Group submissions of assignments as is now possible in the Moodle assignment. This would be ideal with the setting up of Moodle groups / groupings automatically in Mahara.
  • Display Moodle assignments in Mahara as well as the results.
  • Submit an entire collection and not just individual pages.
  • Have the choice to lock a page when it is being submitted; allow for re-submitting of Mahara pages / collections. I.e. allow for more formative and not only summative assessment. Submitting a Mahara page / collection could mean just to submit for the teacher to give feedback, but that doesn’t mean the page would need to be locked.
  • Keep a snapshot for accountability like with other assignments that need to be archived. Potentially have options of what to keep.
  • Allow for versioning of pages / collections in Mahara.
  • Submit a page / collection to Moodle directly from within Mahara so students don’t have to go to the assignment in Moodle first, but can click a button in Mahara.

We also had a few ideas that were not directly related to the assignment submission plugin:

  • Have chat functionality in Mahara. This is already a wishlist item on Launchpad.
  • Trigger for giving feedback.
  • Have more options where Moodle content ends up in Mahara when it is being exported.

Now we’ll just need the funding to implement changes and new features. :-) Mahara is an open source project and while everyone can take its source code and run with it, there are costs involved for developing the software further be it by institutions themselves or through providing funding to have Mahara developers perform the task.

If you have further ideas or want to expand on some of the ones listed above, please join the discussion.

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