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Mahara – as a content repository?

October 10, 2011 - My learning, Open source

As you may know, I’ve been a bit like a dog with a bone about two topics in particular over the past year or so.

The first has been Moodle’s new file management system since the introduction of Moodle 2. The second has been the use of Mahara in partnership with Moodle, and in particular the integration points (like I showed in my last post) that will make the combination more of a winner.

My focus with Mahara has usually (and predictably) been on using it as an ePortfolio tool – until now.

This all came about because I was trying to think of the best place to share a video around at work. I didn’t want to put it into a Moodle course ‘silo’ as I was pretty sure I’d want to use it in multiple places, but at the same time I didn’t have a genuine content repository to store it in. Then I wondered if it would be smarter to store it in Mahara – and bang, it hit me – why not use Mahara as the file storage area?

Think about it like this:

  1. The problem with Moodle in terms of content re-use is that it stores its content in course silos, so I can’t link to a piece of content from multiple courses without using an external repository;
  2. Mahara not only supports the building of ePortfolios, but it also supports collaboration spaces, which are structurally separate from the course-centric structure in Moodle, so I don’t have to have a one-for-one relationship between my Moodle courses and my Mahara groups;
  3. Within Mahara’s groups area, users can upload and store content, as well as creating pages of content, and sharing these pages outside of Mahara through the use of ‘secret links’; and
  4. Moodle can easily display web pages embedded in one of its content pages – all it needs is a URL.

If this all sounds complex, then check out this video which should make it a bit clearer.

A quick diagrammatic representation of how this is structured can also be given as follows:

Using Mahara as a Moodle content repository

So what is the good, bad and ugly of using this method?

The good – it is a way for those using both Moodle and Mahara to set up collaboration groups in Mahara which reflect (for example) a faculty, and who want to re-use content across multiple Moodle courses but who aren’t ready to invest in a complete content management system such as EQUELLA.

The bad – Mahara isn’t a content repository, at least not in the same sense as something like EQUELLA is. If you’re looking for version control, copyright management, sophisticated access controls, workflow tools and all the other things which you will get in a ‘proper’ content management system, then this won’t light your fire.

The ugly – the method is manual, and relies on cutting and pasting links to the private view. In a perfect world this would be accessed via the Repository API – but for now it is a manual process.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this and whether or not it gives another possible solution to the challenges of breaking down Moodle’s course silos for those who aren’t lucky enough to have access to a ‘genuine’ content management system. I’m actually quite filthy with myself for not twigging to this earlier, I really should have thought of this about a year ago.

Bouquets and brickbats welcome πŸ™‚

11 thoughts on “Mahara – as a content repository?

Allison Miller

Another cool example of the power of having an easily editable and share-able space such as Mahara.

Mary

Absolutely! My boss our Assistant Head Mark Greenwood @mgrtec has been experimenting with just that with Mahara and Moodle recently

mark.drechsler

Thanks Mary,

I’d love to hear if Mark G has any extensions to this idea that I’ve not considered. Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚

Mark.

Gideon Williams

Loved this “flipped” idea – can see it benefitting many staff who struggle with Moodle design and would like to create a “collection” of resources to support an activity.

lilian soon

The idea of using Mahara for sharing files is great – using what you can easily access.
But in the long run, it’s wise to invest in using a repository, otherwise you will end up tying yourself up in knots. How about installing Dspace, which is an open source repository?

Even a repository isn’t the be all and end all; video needs to be streamed to users rather than expecting users to download the video file to watch it. This means another service required! Vspace is the possible contender here.

I would probably go for using a Google docs site for sharing files. It’s possible to tag them, search and there is revision history. You can put content into folders for ‘categories’ and share these categories, or add the URL for the folder to a Moodle course. This way, anytime you add a new doc, you don’t have to update the Moodle. And uploaded video files will stream πŸ™‚

Good luck with it all!

@xlearn

Jocelyn Ireson-Paine

This is interesting. I’m working on a Joomla front-end to Moodle, and I’ve just started reading about Mahara. I’m still trying to work out what its benefits are over Moodle, one’s own Web site, Facebook, and so on, so articles like yours are very useful. Could you repost the diagram of how Mahara is structured? It’s not showing.

Thanks,
Jocelyn Ireson-Paine

Ralph Graham

Maybe not the right place Mark, but can i ask – as we have decided not to use another site (external site) as a repository, where exactly on a server should the repository go,
and if it is in the web_root section (that is the next step higher from where website files reside),
1 is it secure and safe there and
2 how do i navigate to it from the course editing area to reference it as part of a course. i am happy if you give me links to follow for the answers but any on attempt on anyone’s part to make this simple – avoiding a heap of reading!! – will have my heartfelt appreciation!! [rather not involve Mahara – one big fat learning curve is enough for the moment)
BTW I have no experience with pre Moodle 2 so have no awareness of how files used to be stored to muddy the waters.

mark.drechsler

Hi Ralph,

Best to ask that one in the Moodle or Mahara forums – asking me for technical guidance is not a wise career move πŸ™‚

Cheers,

Mark.

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  • Mark Pearson

    This is VERY nice! The thing I like about it is that it’s not just about ‘files’. It’s putting content into context and then sharing that. A teacher can build up a collection of these views, and then reuse and repurpose them — it seems to me that this is more powerful than a file repository. Indeed, Moodle 2 copies files from an external repository rather than linking to them so updates to a repository file are not reflected in the Moodle course. In your model updates to the Mahara view *are* reflected in the moodle course.
    A potential issue though:
    There’s no link backwards from the moodle course to the Mahara view so you can’t tell which courses you have used the View in. (But I guess that you could do this manually).

    mark.drechsler

    Hi Mark,

    Yes, if I could make this process into a more deliberate and less ‘work aroundy’ kind of thing between the two products I reckon we’d be on to a really good thing.

    Thanks for the feedback – on this post and others πŸ™‚

    Mark.

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