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The implementation journey - Southampton Solent University

Page history last edited by Gordon 9 years ago


Summary Case study Home Page An overview of use The implementation journey

Video case studies



Notes from filmed interviews  



 Brief overview of the organisation and the e-portfolio implementation journey:

Solent's e-portfolio implementation was not the starting point of the project. The initial project focussed on student personal development and employability and the need to update and replace the existing paper based PDP process called 'Reflections'. This project led to the identification, evaluation and piloting of an e-portfolio solution. Mahara was chosen for the pilot as it fitted well with other existing technology and met all the needs of the pilot. Mahara was formally adopted, and integrated with the VLE (Moodle) and Careers support website (CareerBox).


The implementation has centred around the e-portfolio being a personal tool and as such has encouraged independent student use through the provision of comprehensive self-directed learning materials in addition to tutor-led activities embedded in specific courses or units. This allows all students and staff the freedom to use their e-portfolio without formal permission or direction. So far over 7500 users (staff and students) have taken advantage of this opportunity, of which over half are regular returners. Accounts are automatically created via single sign-on through the VLE - anyone with a Solent account can have an e-portfolio.


Influential projects led by institution staff (internal and externally funded):

  • Fostering Student Personal Development and Employability 2008-2009 TQEF project
  • Implementing Mahara; considering how best to engage students. Continuation project; 2009-2010 TQEF project
  • Mahara Lite (Investigation into mobile use of e-portfolios). SDP Funded project 2010-2011



The senior academic champion of the implementation, Dr Barbara Lee (Reader in Teaching and Learning), is a member of the Solent Life Group and the learning and teaching committee (Academic Standards and Development Committee) and saw the need/opportunity for an e-portfolio implementation once the VLE Moodle and CareerBox (online careers guidance package) were in place, asking herself 'Where is the student in all this?'  This led to an internal project to trial the Mahara e-portfolio, enabled by TQEF funding, in which the e-portfolio was envisaged as an electronic storage space for students, accessible from and integrated with the VLE, which they could use to organise and present information to prospective employers. The project generated real research results, real examples for people to see, which were presented to Senior Management Team.  This group welcomed what was a research-based, worked-up solution to the challenge of supporting the development of students' employability, a major strategic priority for the University. From this a further presentation was made to members of the Vice-Chancellor's Office. Carried out both through the curriculum and through promotion of independent use by students individually, this implementation is a collaborative, cross-institutional development, with both tutors and careers advisers encouraging take-up, and further students individually picking up Mahara by contagion, empowered by the availability and usability of excellent examples and support materials provided by the Learning Technology Unit. The Solent Life Group authorised institutional implementation in Summer 2010, at the same time as the Academic Standards and Development Committee approved the creation of a Teaching Fellow post in each faculty (part-time secondments) to lead the roll-out and embedding of the e-portfolio alongside generic outcomes of other TQEF projects.  The breadth of commitment across the institution is reflected in the scope of the membership of the recently constituted Mahara Development Group which brings all the stakeholders together to oversee continuation of the implementation: it is made up of the Reader in Teaching and Learning; 4 x Teaching and Learning Fellows; Learning Technologist; Employer Engagement Specialist; Careers and Employability Manager; Careers Advisor; Learning Systems Development Manager; plus Visiting Members:Students; Lecturers; Support Staff; SDP Consultant

The Mahara Development group advises the Solent Life Group and the Dean of LIS.



The availability of TQEF funding has been instrumental in bringing about this e-portfolio implementation. There have been two phases, two projects - detailed below.  The first provided seed funding, resources for making the promotional videos and putting on events. The awarding of the second project recognised the success of the first and was explicitly for implementation.  In terms of staff time, some was allocated to the projects as core business, some was bought out by the project funding. Funding also had to be negotiated for the provision of a server (July 2009). Some further funding is being sought from the University Strategic Development Plan fund (SDP).


References made to e-portfolios in  institutional strategy docs:


  • The job specifications for the Faculty Teaching Fellows make e-portfolios an explicit part of the core remit - reflecting the institution's view that the implementation is of strategic importance 
  • From summer 2010, validation of academic units (courses/modules) requires inclusion of e-portfolio
  • Faculty plans include increasing adoption and there are new targets for increasing the number of students accessing Mahara
  • The e-portfolio is mentioned very briefly in the prospectus



Implementation journey milestones      

Date  Event  Description: What happened? What decisions were made? What was the rationale/evidence base? Who made the decisions?  Include key documents
2008 - 2009
Research Project Launched
TQEF funded 

Fostering Student Personal Development and Employability

TQEF funded project-  The University allowed staff to bid in for small project funding from the TQEF fund. This facilitated the investigation of new practice and technology.

Group Members: Reader in Teaching & Learning, Student Support Network Officer, Careers and Employability Manager,Learning Systems Developer, e-Learning Support Officer, Researcher

Jan 2009 Mahara Selected for Study

Mahara was chosen for the pilot as it fitted well with other existing technology and met all the needs of the pilot. Mahara adopted, and integrated with the VLE (Moodle) and Careers support website (CareerBox).

Following the pilot it was decided by the group to continue Mahara's usage into the production environment as it met the needs of the users and had a promising developmental roadmap.


Demo Pages created (Sam's ePortfolio)

Feb 2009
Student & Staff Focus Groups

These were formative, to take soundings.

Staff Responses

Student Responses

July 2009 Promotional Video released for internal use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOFSrV3QOWM
July 2009  Report on first TQEF project

Writing this brought an important moment of realisation - of just how much it was a student-focused project.  The VLE was for tutors, the e-portfolio for students.  Even so the project identified the needs of both audiences:

(i) Staff - want solutions to problems, especially how to embed employability in the curriculum, although purposes identified by tutors now are diversifying

(ii) Students - independent use has taken off.  Their feedback in the first project was very clear - the e-portfolio had to be as easy as Facebook, but their items would be safer because backed up by the University while they would have ownership - 'I want it to be mine.'  Students were very positive once they understood that they wouldn't have to show staff items from their e-portfolio which they didn't wish to show.

Summer 2009

Negotiation of funding for server

Server and system set up

Applied Solent Theme and customisations and embedded links to "CareerBox" Solent's online careers guidance package.
Implementation Project Launched
TQEF funded

Implementing Mahara; considering how best to engage students. Continuation project; 2009-2010 TQEF project

Group Members: Reader in Teaching & Learning,  Careers and Employability Manager, Learning Systems Developer, e-Learning Support Officer, Researcher, Careers Advisers x 2
The Careers Service has played an important role in relation to students' independent use, promoting the e-portfolio as part of CV support.
  Help Pages

Pages developed for student induction

Staff help pages developed

Pages have continued to be developed and are ongoing.

The importance of having these excellent support materials available cannot be emphasised too much. 

Help site

15 Sept 2009
Internal Dissemination

Solent Event 2009

Presentation given at Solent Event on 15 September 2009

Recruitment of tutors for pilot projects

  Students recruited and inducted

Pilot academic units:

  • CV and Career Building - testing feedback mechanism
  • Geographic Information Systems - embedding and share large maps
  • Print Journalism: Professional Practice and Employment - creating an online CV with examples of work
  • Personal Development for Higher Education - weekly reflective log for all activities completed on the course with evidence of application of newly acquired academic skills in the workplace


12 Oct 2009 External Dissemination JISC RSC South-East Moodle User Group.
Update on Mahara use at Southampton Solent
November 2009
Promotional Video released for Mahara Community
Jan 2010
Mahara Usability Research

Students recruited to complete five pre-defined tasks in Mahara without tutor assistance to evaluate the ease of use for the self-directed learner. On completion of each task they were asked to blog comments on their experience and share the page they created.

Students were paid to take part in this exercise but opted to carry on using the e-portfolio subsequently. A summary of the outcomes of the research may be available shortly.

Link to moodle site (passkey: solent1)

24 Feb 2010 External Workshop Facilitation MoodleFest JISC RSC South-East. Facilitation of Mahara Clinic
April 2010 External Dissemination

MoodleMoot UK 2010 - Parallel Session short paper

A Mahara Honeymoon

There has been a significant amount of interaction with e-portfolio implementers outside the University in the course of the implementation, especially the Moodle user community nationally and internationally.  This has brought rapid suggestions for problem-solving from practitioners, deepened the team's thinking through challenging their assumptions (Why are you doing it like that?) and saved them from institutional introversion.

Summer 2010
Validation of Academic units to include Mahara

unit descriptor example (describes use of e-portfolio in the Learning and Teaching Strategy)

Business School module: Plan to Succeed - 100% e-portfolio-based assessment

Summer 2010 Book Contribution Mahara Cookbook. Packt Publishing - Technical Advisor - Sam Moss
July 2010
Research Project Launch
SDP Innovation Fund project

Mahara Lite for Mobile Learners

So far smaller-scale trials of mobile technology for workplace learning.

16 July 2010 External Dissemination

Mahara | UK10

Invited Speakers - Solent's Mahara Journey

See Barbara Lee's video here for a very useful summary 

August 2010
Recruitment of 4 x Teaching and Learning Fellows (0.25 FTE)  - 2 year contract 
 Remit includes embedding of Mahara into faculties 
Sept 2010
Internal dissemination 

Solent Exchange - e-Learning Fair 


14 Oct 2010
External Dissemination JISC RSC South-East Moodle User Group: Mahara@Solent 
There has been a lot of interest from local FE colleges - valuable interaction enhancing Solent's understanding of what incoming students are expecting.
October 2010
Mahara Development Group

Core Group Includes:

Reader in Teaching and Learning; 4 x Teaching and Learning Fellows; Learning Technologist; Employer Engagement Specialist; Careers and Employability Manager; Careers Advisor; Learning Systems Development Manager.

Visiting Members:

Students; Lecturers; Support Staff; SDP Consultant

Nov 2010
External Workshop Facilitation - Invited speaker 

JISC Netskills Workshop - ProgrammePresentation

Autumn 2010 - Spring 2011
JISC ePI Study  
This study has proved very valuable in making us question our own practice so far and in gathering together the various projects in to one complete narrative to share internally at Solent.
June 2011 External Dissemination

Mahara UK11

Hosted, Co-Chaired and Presented at the event.

Facilitated a developers day.



September 2011
Internal dissemination 

Solent Exchange - e-Learning Fair

October 2011 External Dissemination

JISC RSC-SE e-Learning Fair

Invited Speaker



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