Derrin Kent & Thomas W Bell - What's involved with a Mahara implementation


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Expanding on the information in TDM's new Mahara book, this presentation explains the implementation process that we use with our clients and for our own projects.

It is a general best practice guide to implementing Mahara at your organisation. We have some tips and tricks for getting an effective Mahara implementation, which is valued by staff and learners alike.

Intended audience: eLearning Managers, Learning Technologists, General Interest

Published in: Technology, Business
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Derrin Kent & Thomas W Bell - What's involved with a Mahara implementation

  1. 1. Whats involved witha Mahara implementation?Derrin Kent @tdmderrinMD of TDM.coThomas Bell @thomaswbell88Implementation Manager at
  2. 2.
  3. 3. What problem does this technology solve?
  4. 4. Portfolio-Based Learning +Evidence-Based Learning
  5. 5. +
  6. 6. A classic failing software implementation runs like this:● One educational manager opts to adopt …while others look sceptically on.● The educational manager brings in technicians to install, configure and launch the software and appoints a champion who does not fully understand how to use the software.● Explicit staff and user time is not allocated, neither is any further training, guidance and development time planned or purchased.● The implementation quickly starts to lose direction and the project ultimately fails.
  7. 7. Three broadly distinctimplementation stages(each with phases within them)... 1. Analysis and Specification. 2. Planning, Design and Implementation. 3. Evaluation and Continuation.
  8. 8. Analysis & SpecificationPhase 1: Decide if Mahara is right for you.Phase 2: Understand your own specific needs andworking conditions.Phase 3: Choose between running a Mahara-partner support or running your own installation.Phase 4: Scope out your implementation plan.
  9. 9. Planning, Design and ImplementationPhase 5: Create a Buzz!Phase 6: Get some quick wins in firstPhase 7: Continuously involve the users in yourplanning and design process.Phase 8: Keep going despite adversity.
  10. 10. Evaluation and ContinuationPhase 9: Review & Re-evaluate.Phase 10: Change & Embed.
  11. 11. Phase 1: Decide if Mahara is right for you. Mahara ISN’T… • Technically supported (although Mahara Partners are available). • A Learner Management System which tracks progress against Competencies (although it does integrate with TotaraLMS + where the TDM Evidence tab and progress tracker tools do exist).
  12. 12. Mahara IS / CAN…
  13. 13. Klaus Himpsl- Gutermann (& Peter Baumgartner) from Danube University
  14. 14. Mahara IS Open Source:No Vendor Lock-In (Buying Services v’s RentingProperty)• Cannot be expired• Tailorable (theme, codeline, language, architecture)• Extensible (Plugins, integrations)• International Community (security, roadmap, knowledge transfer)
  15. 15. Phase 2: Understand your own specific needs and working conditions. Understand fully where you are and know exactly why you want to go exactly where...● What educational objectives do you want to achieve?● What business objectives do you want to achieve?● What organizational objectives do you want to achieve?
  16. 16. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Do all those involved: your leaders,teachers/tutors, day-to-day administrators, ITsupport staff, and your future end users all have acommon vision for your ePortfolio?(Even if you are working as a go-it-alone teacher, are yousure enough  that your students will buy in to this?) 
  17. 17. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Is there a supportive external context for yourePortfolio implementation? Is there explicit supportfor this coming to you, for example, from central office,from government-funded agencies, or from accreditingbodies, trades guilds or workers’ unions?
  18. 18. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Is there, and will there be, aconsistent and reliable inflow offunding for your site’s ongoingdevelopment and support?
  19. 19. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Will there be a dedicated steeringgroup of visionaries and power-brokers who will work to make yourimplementation a success?
  20. 20. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Will you continuously invest to employ orupskill the competent staff you will need inorder to disseminate knowledge to newerusers?
  21. 21. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Do you have:• sufficiently skilled (specific competence) and• available (time/focus)technical and pedagogical supportinfrastructures in place?
  22. 22. If this is a “NO”….. ….could you turn it into a “YES”?Do your target end users have appropriateaccess to your Mahara system in terms not onlyof a reasonable internet supply, but also interms of physical access to machines in bothworking and home-life contexts?
  23. 23. Complex change and emotional impactSource: Thousand, J and Villa, R. (2000).  Managing Complex Change
  24. 24. ThresholdConceptsGordon Joyesat Mahara10
  25. 25. Threshold Concepts Prof. Gordon Joyes - University of Nottingham (following Jan Meyer and Ray Land)Concept 1. PurposeConcept 2. Learning Activity DesignConcept 3. ProcessesConcept 4. OwnershipConcept 5. Disruptive Nature
  26. 26. Phase 3: Decide whether to choose a Mahara Partner or to go it alone? https://
  27. 27. Phase 4: Scope out your implementation plan.1. Decide on your implementation timeframe.2. Ensure you have  staff commitment and allocate staff roles.3. Draft out your initial Mahara  site plan, structure + visual design.4. Draft out your Mahara-specific policies.5. Start to embed Mahara use into wider institutional and program priorities. (NB. See book for lots of detailed guidance on these processes) 
  28. 28. Phase 5: Create a Buzz!• Draw up and implement a communications plan that targets all different types of stakeholders• Publicize some real-life case studies and examples of Mahara in action.  (• Make sure everyone gets a copy of your new user guide. http ://• Set the Expectations. E.g. explicit incentives and penalties connected to user adoption• Practically help people to overcome barriers.• Offer support via telephone, face-to-face, live website support or you could set up a Mahara group as a helpdesk• Set up a “User Suggestions” facility• Set the Standards. One idea is to award  “medals” for implementing standards in pages and groups.
  29. 29. Phase 6: Get some quick wins in first.• Can you identify some instant fixes where using Mahara would solve a real problem you are facing?• Can you identify which of your user groups would respond best to an  ePortfolio as a media for learning delivery?• Can you quickly prove that Mahara adoption will be worth the effort?
  30. 30. Phase 7: Continuously involvethe users in your planning and design process. • Conduct regular response analyses. • Get together for strategy reviews. • Do something in response to what you find out.Remember: a proper Mahara site isn’t a miracle ofpeople;it is  a miracle of community  
  31. 31. Phase 8: Keep going despite adversity.“Implementation Resisters”require two types of “SituationalResponse Tactics” to deal withthem:• Tactic 1: Big Bombs• Tactic 2: Sniper Fire
  32. 32. People you love can become Implementation Resisters…The Pessimist might say: “We can’t change! We’re doomed!”The Pragmatist might say: “We’ve done enough, let’s not change toofar!”The Technophobe might say: “This is too difficult for me, it’s not fair!”The Traditionalist might say: “Im just too busy for this, this is a niceto do, not a have-to-do!”The Cynic may say: “This is just a passing fad, ignore it, it will goaway!”...and, the implementation teams worst enemy,…The Critic might say: “Rise up and rebel! We cannot allow this tohappen!”
  33. 33. Situational Response Tactic 1: BIG BOMBS • Powerbroker support • Identify and provide missing information • Visiting expert • Generic questionnaires • User guide promotions • Poster campaign • Competitions and celebrations: • Mass emails, newsletters, SMS, news forums • Formal training event
  34. 34. Situational Response Tactic 2: SNIPER FIRE• Corridor Conversations• Mentor Matching• Targeted emails / SMS messages / phone calls• Targeted feedback questionnaires and response strategy
  35. 35. Phase 9: Review and Re-evaluate.Easier said than done!!• Are the people really recording and linking to their knowledge in Mahara?• If not, why not?  How can you make it happen?• Is Mahara helping learners to achieve their qualifications?• Is Mahara helping people to do their work?• Can you offer targeted support for groups who have been slow to engage?• Does everything really have to be digital?• Are people actually identifying and meeting their learning, career and personal goals?• Is learning over Mahara ever being delivered more effectively through other online or offline approaches?• Are there variations in success between different types of learners?• Are there any good reasons for the variations?• How should you respond to these variations?• Do the groups, forums, or learning program briefs always match the aspirations and needs of the learners?
  36. 36. Do we measure what we value?• Could you yourself set performance improvement targets based on metrics gathered from the sorts of questions you have just asked?• Are achievement targets set for all courses at all levels?• Is Mahara participation a requirement?• Should it be a requirement?• Should you set participation targets or might that have a negative effect?• If any targets are set, is everyone made aware of those targets?• How?• How effectively?• Are staff or users themselves involved in the target setting?• How do you communicate progress against targets?• Simple graphical displays?• How do you celebrate and reward individual successes and collective progress against targets?• Are targets revised frequently enough? By whom? How ambitiously?• Do you care about all these targets?• Wouldn’t it be best to leave the whole Mahara  to grow ad hoc?
  37. 37. Phase 10: Change and Embed.A thriving Mahara site will often be in a constant state offlux, changing with the needs and focuses of theorganization and its people, embedding itself deeper anddeeper as an element of the wider e-institution.• Is Mahara usage going to be integral to your business development plan? (This is the information age after all, and your country may even be a knowledge-based economy like the UK and USA?).• Will Mahara usage be integral to your organizational policies and procedures?• Will staff responsibilities for Mahara usage and management be a defined and re-numerated element of their job description? Or would you prefer to leave Mahara to be a self-managing phenomenon?  
  39. 39. *: 0333 10 100 89