maharaAt the university at which I work, some instructors feel it is too restrictive to insist students use the ePorfolio platform provided. Some instructors allow students to use whatever they want, others are unsure. Is it okay to allow freedom of choice in the type of ePortfolio tool students use? Hmmmm… I pondered this for a while. But when I heard that students and some instructors felt that ePorfolio assignments could and should be submitted via presentation tools and website creation platforms – I decided to come down on the side of no. My argument is below and I welcome yours in the comments section.

ePortfolios exist to provide

  • persistent, online spaces to store and curate artefacts created or saved by an individual so they can track their learning over time and access and re-use resources they create and/or have saved
  • tools with which an individual can contextualise and aggregate existing artefacts and create new content
  • ways for the artefacts to be displayed and re-displayed to multiple audiences

Mahara is the tool that the the university for which I work has chosen because it works with their online learning platform, it is secure for file storage – and it is authenticatable in terms of assessment.

This last point – being authenticatable – is vital in meeting our obligations to ensure our assessments are robust. Unlike website platforms like Weebly, WordPress and/or Google sites; only a student account can be used to access a university-linked Mahara ePortfolio. When a Mahara collection is submitted for assessment, that collection is locked for editing – whereas a link to an external product could link to a website that was empty when the link was submitted and edited after the submission date.

Using Prezi or other types of presentation software to submit an ePortfolio assignment is missing the whole point of ePortfolios in an educational context. In addition to the authentication issues mentioned previously, a presentation tool is simply a way of presenting information and it is not output alone that is behind the use of ePortfolios in education. EPortfolios provide one space for reflecting on learning, of aggregating and curating useful resources and creating new content that students can return to over time. This is a vital part of the incidental learning ePortfolios provide. A consistent “home base” in Mahara to store, aggregate and display their work doesn’t limit students’ ability to use other tools for creation.

In addition to the authentication and pedagogical reasons behind using the Mahara ePortfolio, there are practical issues. Firstly, the university IT support service supports Mahara – so support is readily available. Secondly, markers will not have to familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of multiple platforms nor have to download and install specialised plugins to view assessments. Thirdly, students who use Mahara will develop proficiency in it over time – so as their assessments scaffold up in difficulty, the difficulty of using Mahara will decrease. And finally, the consistency use of Mahara across courses means students will be storing assignments, reflections and resources from their program and be able to access them after they graduate – starting them off in their professional lives with a single content-rich pool of resources from which to draw.



Free Mindmapping tools 

There are dozens of free mindmapping tools out there, here are three to start with.


Free web-based mind mapping tool that can be added to Google Drive. For best results, log into Google Drive, click on New and then More and select Mindmup. It will ask to be installed to your Google Drive. Can download work as PNG image, PDF, Freemind file format and more.


Device-based software program that requires download and installation.


A web-based presentation tool that can be used to create a mindmap. Students can send links to their work or can download the end product and present it on a computer.  Students and educators can have free accounts where they can control privacy/access to their work.

Image editing software

For Mobile Operating Systems, check your App store for the highest rated Apps.

GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program)

A downloadable software program for Windows and Mac OS that allows multi-layered image editing and the creation of animated GIFs.

MS Paint

Free image editing software that comes with MS Windows. Click the Start menu and type in the word Paint.

MS PowerPoint

Start with a blank slide, add images, graphics and text, then export the slide as an image. PowerPoint includes cropping tools and an easy drag and drop interface. You can change the slide size and orientation to anything you like – so could use it to layout posters or to create layered images.

All UniSA students have access to PowerPoint at no charge.

Multimedia creation/editing software

For Mobile Operating Systems, check your App store for the highest rated, free Apps in video and audio recording and editing.

MS Movie Maker – Windows OS

Microsoft Movie Maker is a free download from Microsoft and should be installed on all UniSA computer pools that run MS Windows. It does basic edits, allows for text overlay, music and voice-overs. It can create a video from still images imported into it as well as edit video. Tutorials are available here:

YouTube Creator Studio

Accessible by logging into YouTube.

For a video created from still images, click on Upload and select Create under PhotoSlide Show. YouTube can access photos and videos from Google image accounts or you can upload new photos.

For a video, click on Edit under Video Editor and select an existing YouTube video or upload a new one.  YouTube Creator studio features allow users to add YouTube music and create text overlays. At this writing (January 2016) voice overs/narrations are not supported.

MS PowerPoint

Yes, you read that correctly. Newer versions of PowerPoint allow you to save presentations as one of two video formats – MP4 or WMV.  (When in doubt, choose MP4). You can add voice over to slides and, if you embed video from your computer and set the video to play automatically, you can embed video and trim it. YouTube links won’t work.  See this video for a quick tutorial:

All UniSA students have access to PowerPoint at no charge.

Audacity audio editing software

This free, open source software download for desktops and laptops allows for multi-track audio production and post production. It works on Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off on The game of tapping into a passion for learning · Categories: e-learning design, educationaldesign

winners_on_podium_400_clr_7603Gamers are great learners, I’ve been one and I have nephews who are gamers.  When I was really into it I would spend hours researching my character, watching videos about fighting techniques, bookmarking and consulting sites about crafting and levelling up, adding in plugins to make my game play more efficient and would benchmark myself. Games stop being fun when you have no more levels and achieves to get.

Gamification of courses is, as far as I’ve seen, not doing a good job of hooking into the passion of getting more proficient.

For people who have only been alive for 10 years, getting into a good university in 8 years is so far away. Where is the immediate reward?  So techniques to make learning engaging can reward short and medium term wins have to balance  with not making kids who aren’t as quick to learn feel stupid. Wow – what a challenge.

Here’s another one: for learners who are in university and overwhelmed – a P is a degree and as long as they get that achieve, what more are they after? What good does a HD do?

So we have to get people in the habit of loving learning, of being passionate about the topics they study and seeing connection and context to their lives and ability to achieve what they want to achieve throughout their learning lives. How do we do it? Not with animations, badges and trumpet sounds is all I know. The learning goes on…

11. December 2014 · Comments Off on On the “authenticity” of reflecting for a mark · Categories: Blogging, educationaldesign, My personal learning journey, Research

I’ve been talking quite a lot with educators about embedding reflective practice and the use of ePortfolios throughout courses and programs. So in reviewing the papers and sessions that caught my eye at ASCILITE2014 in Dunedin, I wanted to share this one.

This cross-university team responded to student feedback that reflections that are marked are not “real” or “authentic” as the student is tailoring it for the teacher’s eyeballs. In fact, having it marked by different instructors across multiple courses in their programmes left many feeling confused about the purpose of reflection itself!

In a nutshell, the solutions the research team propose are:

1)      Use practice-based tasks as points of reflection

2)      Provide clear guides and models and give frameworks for them to work within and build on

3)      Allow students to privately reflect then “self-review” based on a provided framework – this way they can select excerpts of their private reflections and still keep the private stuff “real”. This self-review can be/count towards the assessment.

4)      Provide multiple contexts and opportunities. Ask them to reflect on readings/videos and the experiences they have in prac and their project work and what they’re learning in informal environments.

The concise paper is attached for your reference. For those of you who attended, it’s paper number 80 by Pauline Roberts, Helen Farley and Sue Gregory.

Concise paper -ePortfolios and Authentic Assessment PDF (193 KB) 


04. June 2013 · Comments Off on Sky Drive Live + PowerPoint Web App = learning object? · Categories: e-learning design, educationaldesign
I’ve been looking at ways of taking myself out of the production cycle when it comes to creating online resources and turning more of that work over to our facilitators. As well, we’re introducing more and more facilitators to the flipped classroom model of having students prepare and interrogate learning materials in advance of face to face sessions, so I’m exploring easy ways of transforming classroom resources into online learning tools.

PowerPoint is a tool that many facilitators use every day, yet from my conversations with them and in looking at what they have created, I found that there was a lot of potential for improvement.

My first step has been  to talk with my colleagues about how they use PowerPoint and to introduce some base concepts as to what makes for more engaging presentations. Most of them have excellent skills in group facilitation gleaned from group work in counselling and community services, so there was a great information exchange happening. Some are saddled with presentations created by others and due to contractual obligations have very little wiggle room at present. However, most were open to learning and one in particular was excited at the prospect of eliminating text and injecting visuals into her slides.

So I put together a PowerPoint Content Basics presentation and presented it at our monthly staff meeting (click More to see it):

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