Monday saw the first MUGSE meeting (Mahara User Group for Southern England). Although this meeting was fairly last minute and the location was…interesting…it was reasonably well attended. There was a mix of Mahara veterans and some newbies, looking to find out more about what the system is and what it can offer.
For this reason the conversation was rather varied, which I thought was actually quite useful.
The meeting started with introductions and then went on to Don Christie (Catalyst IT) talking about the upcoming Mahara 1.9 upgrade. Don mentioned this upgrade will not be as huge as the leap from 1.7 – 1.8 (yay for rows!) but would offer improvement to accessibility. He mentioned that extensive user testing had done on this front, and how the system would be up to a high standard. Don also touched briefly on the 1.10 upgrade, and mentioned that this particular release was likely to incorporate a number of social feature being developed by Totara. These included things like sharing files (without a page), voting up content – such as questions and answers or ‘ideas’. The 1.10 release should also be where we see the addition of Mozilla Open badges, allowing Mahara to act as a back-pack. Another possible feature on the social side could be real time chat. Don advised contacting Yuliya Bozhko (@YuliyaBozhko) for more information about the social tools they’re looking to develop.
The meeting then opened up to more general conversation, and one of the topics raised was graduate or alumni access to Mahara. The usual issues or storage space, and costing were raised. As this is an area I am currently exploring I mentioned the USB portable version offered by Kenji Lamb from Soffed. Munib of JISC RSC South-East suggested I look at MAXOS, which offers Mahara on a stick.
After realising how new some of the members of the meeting were, we then did some show and tells about our Mahara instances, as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the system. I showed the UCL Mahara install, known as MyPortfolio, and talked about the popularity and functionality of groups at UCL.
The wonderful Sam Taylor then talked about student usage of Mahara at Southampton Solent University (also referred to as MyPortfolio) using the slides from here presentation at the German Moodle Moot, available online at mycourse.solent.ac.uk/mootde. Sam showed us some impressive looking student portfolios from a variety of subjects, many of which are publicly accessible.
Southampton City College continued the show and tell session by giving us a glimpse at their Mahara install, known as MyBit. In particular Irene showed off their work experience plugin, which includes pre-filled fields – for limiting mistakes on a standard form, and automatic reporting outside Mahara – to negate the cumbersome process of having to share the logs on a page. The work experience logs plugin is based on the CPD tool for Mahara, but with some code changes.
During the lunch break Don Christie mentioned a Mahara analytic tool to me, called Piwik. This tool works much like Google Analytics allowing you to see traffic to your site, include from where, how (what browsers/ devices) and when. This information can of course help with many things, including planning upgrades and targeting testing. Don later tweeted me a link to the Piwik presentation from the recent Mahara Hui in New Zealand.
After lunch we continued the general conversation before looking forward to the Mahara UK conference. The event is being hosted this year in Brighton on the 17th-18th July, and is titled Sea of Change. There is no particular theme for the conference, of proposals can cover a range of topics, the title is simply a pretty and clever pun based on the location. Meredith Henson (Catalyst IT Europe) encouraged us to send in proposals and spread the word about the conference, which I will be doing so ready your Twitter feeds! She gave away some top secret details, so unfortunately if you missed it you have missed out as I am not at liberty to disclose them here, but I think I am allowed to say the conference sounds even more exciting now! As if Brighton, the summer and Mahara weren’t already excitement enough!
The day rounded off with a discussion of the future of the User Group, prompted by the possible scenarios I blogged late last week. On this we decided that those present would like to make the group inclusive of the South of England, rather than specifying the south East. It was also agreed that due to the relatively unrepresentative collection of users present at the initial meeting, some time would be set aside at the Mahara UK conference for a fuller discussion.
If you would like to be involved with, attend or host any future events please get in contact with myself or Catalyst IT Europe. We hope this group can grow and become a useful community resource.
Here is a selection of Tweets from the day: