When you live in New Zealand, you are bound to get up or stay awake at strange hours to participate in webinars that are held overseas – which basically means every time. 😉 But it’s definitely worth it. The case in point is the EPAC webchat with Beth Klingner and Linda Anstendig from Pace University: “Mahara: The Journey From Pilot to University-Wide ePortfolio” which took place on April 7, 2011, at 10 a.m. PT and translates into April 8, 2011, 5 a.m. NZT.

I learnt about this webinar on the UBC Portfolio Community of Practice a day before the event thanks to having reviewed my Google alerts and Twitter search on #mahara. The archive of the webinar will be made available online shortly.

Beth and Linda took us along their timeline of getting involved in ePortfolios and then getting started with Mahara in 2010. In contrast to other institutions that use Mahara out-of-the-box, Pace University has a developer who can implement customizations and make the system fit the university’s needs better. Recognizing the need for a lifelong portfolio, they linked their students’ Gmail accounts to Mahara and thus also allow alumni to keep their portfolio after graduation as they can keep their university’s Gmail account. Currently, every students gets 100 MB of space, but they can apply for more if that is necessary.

Mahara at Pace University is not only used for portfolios in classes, but also by Career Services and for their Leadership Certificate. The latter has built-in reflection questions that the students answer on the ePortfolio system. Starting in Fall 2011, they will also use it for faculty who are up tenure.

The ePortfolio team at Pace University has created a number of resources to support students and faculty in getting used to working with an electronic portfolio. They have:

  • an assignment guide
  • a blog
  • step-by-step tutorials
  • ECHO 360 videos (lecture capture videos)
  • short 30-60 min. face-to-face workshops
  • virtual tutorials for distance education students
  • promote ePortfolios on the university web site

Among their current initiatives are training librarians to support students in their use of ePortfolios, training academic advisors, and developing rubrics to use for ePortfolio assessment. They have some more initiatives of which you can learn when you view the recording. 😉

A really great idea to promote the use of ePortfolios among students is their contest. Students can submit public portfolios and a committee decides on the best. These will be published on the university web site. That way, excellence in using ePortfolios will be recognized and students can see some good examples and are encouraged to use ePortfolios themselves in a meaningful way.

Summer 2011 sees some exciting things for them in the ePortfolio space:

  • implementing the faculty review
  • starting a research project on the impact of Mahara
  • re-doing the customizations for the new version of Mahara

The latter will hopefully be aided by the fact that we plan to release Mahara 1.4 at the beginning of May (a little bit later than we had hoped but a second security release threw the original plan a bit out of the window).

It’ll be interesting to watch what Pace University is doing in the ePortfolio space and read up on their research projects to understand better the use of Mahara at the university level.

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