Mahara for Teachers

by Andrea Ghoneim

To give an idea how ePortfolios in EU classrooms can look like, I collected some case studies from Austrian schools (the implementation was on class level, on the teacher's initiative), reported and evaluated by the teachers themselves in a Master thesis. Furthermore you can find a pdf-collection of sample views of teacher's and student's Mahara pages (compiled by my colleague Erich Herber and me) and some links to videos and tutorials for getting started using Mahara. If you want to see the project context of our work in EUfolio Mahara, please have a look at the German/English EUfolio Mahara page or at the EUfolio website.

ePortfolio in Physics teaching in the Neue Mittelschule*
(lower secondary, 4th grade, students aged around 14 years, class of 16 students)

In Austria, the “Neue Mittelschule” (a new type of lower secondary school which replaces the old type of “Hauptschule” - a process that will be completed by 2018/19) aims at new, cooperative and open forms of teaching. The didactic principles include the use of ICT. The students have to develop “Sachkompetenz, Selbstkompetenz und Sozialkompetenz” (expertise, self-competence, and social competence).

cf. BMUKK (2012). Verordnung der Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur über die Lehrpläne der Neuen Mittelschulen. [20.08.2012].

For competence-based teaching and learning ePortfolios can be seen as an adequate environment for such a competence based education. In his recent master thesis, Alexander Frick presents his research basing on the question, how far ePortfolios and information- and communication technologies (ICT) can make a contribution to intensify a competence-orientation of teaching physics in secondary education. He explains basics of competence-based teaching in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and different concepts of (e)Portfolio-work and draws parallels between the phases of competence-based teaching, the landmarks of portfolio-work and the phases of (e)Portfolio-work in context with one another. He describes the implementation of ePortfolios in a 4th grade secondary class (Neue Mittelschule) in Vorarlberg/Austria. For the project, all lessons took place in the computer working room of the school. The students were informed about the basic aims of the ePortfolio project and about rules in the virtual classroom. They received a Mahara account and were trained in using the software. A common project about “magnetism” enabled the students to collect their first experience with the software and with creating a Mahara-view basing on (self-made) artefacts. Basing on the newly acquired skills, the students worked independently with Mahara on the topic “Direct Current motor” (Gleichstrommotor). As the ePortfolio was to serve as the learning companion of the students, they received a handout on the obligatory parts of the ePortfolio. The ePortfolio had to contain a cover letter in which the topic was presented, furthermore students had to write a learning diary with at least two entries per week with reflections on the learning process. Additionally, the feedback of one fellow student was requested. For the self- and peer-assessment, students were provided with a competence framework (on the basis of “can do”-statements). With its help, they determined their status quo at the start and the end of the learning process. During the learning process, the learners collected everything that could contribute to solve the different exercises around the DC Motor. Their teacher had mainly the function of a coach. The results of the proving of ePortfolios in teaching physics in secondary education show that ePortfolio-work contributes to the competence-orientation of teaching because there is a considerable amount of parallels between ePortfolio-processes and the phases of competence-based teaching. ePortfolios foster the acquisition of competencies in physics as well as the acquisition of ICT-competencies.

*compiled from: Alexander Frick (2013). ePortfolios als Möglichkeit zur Kompetenzorientierung des Physikunterrichts in der Sekundarstufe I [ePortfolios as a possibility for competence orientation in physics teaching in secondary I - in German]. Krems: Donau-Universität (Master Thesis).

ePortfolio for vocational guidance at the end of lower secondary school*
(class of 14 students, age: around 14 years)

At the end of the “Hauptschule” (one type of lower secondary school), one year is mainly devoted to an overview over the job market, vocational orientation and career guidance. Franz Ehrnleitner did action research on ePortfolios in connection with vocational orientation for his master thesis. He analyzed traditional lessons in job orientation, then the ePortfolio process was closely examined in order to create a concept for an electronic job application portfolio. The students had to collect documents they can use for applying for a job. CV and letter of motivation were written in the German classes. To illustrate the fields of interest and the strengths of the students, tey used a blog in which they commented on test results.Furthermore the students wrote a learning diary and a diary during their internship days in a company. The learning process was structured by assignments, help and guidance in the form of coaching by the teacher was offered. All students benefitted, however, the teacher considered the heterogeneous ICT skills in the classroom as difficult. Furthermore he had to cope with technical problems, partly caused by an ill-equipped computer working room at school. Expertise, self competence and social competence of the students could be increased by the use of the ePortfolio concept, additionally they felt well prepared for their first job applications and interviews.

* compiled from: Ehrnleitner, Franz (2009). Der E-Portfolio Einsatz im Berufsorientierungsunterricht der Polytechnischen Schule bzw. Sekundarstufe I am Beispiel der Open-Source-Software Mahara. Krems: Donau-Universität (Master Thesis).

ePortfolio in German (=mother tongue) teaching*
(lower secondary, class of 25 students, Kooperatiive Mittelschule – a school type similar to the abovementioned Neue Mittelschule)

Information and communication technology (ICT) may help to improve the quality of teaching, individualisation and sustainable learning, as they might have a positive effect on learning within heterogeneous groups of learners. The main aim of this Master thesis was to find out in which way ePortfolios can help to support individualised learning in German classes within the group of ten to fourteen-year-olds. For this purpose an explorative analysis of literature was carried out, as well as a case study on a second grade in lower secondary school. For the case study in particular a variety of methodological approaches of the ePortfolio was developed to show its possible applications in German classes. The results of this thesis show that the use of ePortfolios in fact has a positive effect on supporting individualised learning in German classes as it does not only reflect that the pupils are constantly learning but also allows the learners, as well as the parents and the teachers, to work side by side as partners, allowing for more space for individual decisions.

* compiled from: Neubauer, Madeleine (2012). Das E-Portfolio als Beitrag zur Individualisierung im Deutschunterricht der Sekundarstufe I.  Krems: Donau-Universität (Master Thesis).

EUfolio im WWW - EUfolio on the Web is the title of a page in German and English linking to resources around the project EUfolio. EU classroom ePortfolios. A range of presentations in both languages are embedded in the page, as well. As the project is approaching his end in April 2015, the page is quite rich in information on implementing ePortfolios in lower secondary schools and supporting skills-oriented teaching and learning with ePortfolios.

For the Erasmus+ Project ATS2020 (Assessment of Transversal Skills) we continue working with Mahara and Office 365. Please visit our collection of "Guides for Tools" to find a range of guidance material for Mahara 15.10 and Office 365/OneNote Class Notebook.

Working with the features of Mahara (video)

the log in via Moodle at the beginning is based on the producing school’s infrastructure, the rest of the video applies to the usual Mahara versions like ours

Mahara Tutorial by AUB
There are many Tutorials online. I like this one, because it is pretty simple and clear.

Mahara Introduction (by London Central School of Speech and Drama)
This video intro is not made for a lower secondary school, but gives a clear idea of many features of Mahara.

Tasmanian Polytechnic - a guide for schools and teachers
Introduction to ePortfolio and the process of it's implementation at schools (2009). With a lot of teacher's reflections (videos) as well!

Mahara Training Wiki
a more exhaustive training resource that allows you to do indepth training with Mahara


for more and updated information, please visit my blog at:

Learning Motivation through ePortfolios is the title of a report on a workshop day in Ljubljana. The programme was devoted to technical development, a school principal's workshop and a programe for teachers.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
ePortfolio, Mahara, teaching, lower secondary


Andrea Ghoneim - 15 April 2015, 8:31 AM

BTW: all menitioned MasterTheses can be obtained online via Danube University's library -> Web OPAC (in their original language = German)...