Mahara 1.4: Working with Groups

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Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes

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by Ellen Marie Murphy | September 2011 | e-Learning Open Source

Mahara is an open source ePortfolio system that allows you to build dynamic and engaging portfolios in no time. Use Mahara when applying for jobs, creating portfolios for certification and accreditation, to support teaching and learning, for classroom projects, to create your own social network, and much more.

In this article by Ellen Marie Murphy, author of Mahara 1.4 Cookbook, we will cover:

  • Creating a group and adding members
  • Creating an interactive homepage for a course group

 

(For more resources on Mahara, see here.)

Introduction

In this article, we will explore groups: creating homepages, sharing group work, producing group projects, and even the ways in which groups can be used for assessment. Before we get started, there are a few things to know regarding groups.

There are two basic types of groups in Mahara: standard groups and course groups. Standard groups have two roles—administrators and members; course groups have three—administrators , tutors, and members. By default, anyone can create a standard group; only individuals with the system roles of "Staff" or "Administrators" can create a course group.

The purpose of groups is to facilitate communication and collaboration. Most of the recipes in this article will provide ideas for collaboration. Each recipe will be written for the administrator of a group. Administrators can change the roles of individuals in the group, which includes making everyone in the group an Administrator, or making all members in a course group, tutors.

Tutors of course groups, and members of standard groups, have the ability to manage most areas in a group, including files and pages, but they cannot edit the group homepage, nor add or delete members. By default, members of course groups have read-only rights, except in forums.

You might ask when (or why) one would use a standard group versus a course group. The answer is that there are two advantages a course group has over a standard group: course groups have one additional member role (as mentioned earlier) and only course groups provide participants with a drop-down menu that allows them to submit a page for grading/assessment purposes. When a Member of a course groups submits a page in this manner, it locks the Page until the administrator or Tutor has released it.

Additionally, if you created a group in a version of Mahara prior to 1.4, your group's homepage may look different from how you remember it. The Creating a web page that features student projects recipe explains the changes.

Let's get cooking…

Creating a group and adding members

In this recipe, we will create two types of groups, a standard group and a course group, and then discuss how to add users and set their roles.

How to do it...

  1. Go to groups and My groups.
  2. Select the button labeled Create group.
  3. Give the group a Name and Description.
  4. From the drop-down menu labeled group Type, you will have four standard group options: Standard: Open membership, Request membership, Invite Only, and Controlled membership. If you have been given a staff role in the system, you will also have two course group options: course: Controlled membership and course: Request membership.
  5. For this recipe we will only look at the options that include Invite Only and Controlled membership, as these options require you to add members.
    We will select Standard: Invite Only. There is little difference between the process for adding Invite Only members, and the one for Controlled membership.
  6. The difference between Invite Only and Controlled membership is that Invite Only members can choose not to become members of the group, and they can choose to leave the group; Controlled memberships do not provide these options to members.
    The difference between Standard groups and Course groups is that Course groups provide an option that allows members to submit a page for grading. The Administrator and Tutor will see the page when they go to the group homepage. The page will be locked, barring the student from changing the page, until the administrator or tutor releases it. Course groups also provide three member roles instead of two. members in Course groups have far fewer permissions than members in a Standard group.

  7. Leave the option for Publically Viewable group unchecked.
  8. Leave the option for Users auto-added also unchecked.
  9. The option for Shared page notifications should have a checkmark next to it, so that members of the group will know when another member shares a page with the group.
  10. Once you click on Save group, you will be taken to your group homepage.
  11. To add your first member, click the Members tab.
  12. You will see a line that says This is an invite-only group. You can invite users through their profile pages or send multiple invitations at once.
  13. Click on the words: send multiple invitations at once.
  14. You will see two columns, Potential members and Users to be invited. Beneath Potential members, you will see a Search box. You can use the Search box to find the individual(s) you would like to invite by typing a portion of their name in the box and selecting the search icon.
  15. When their name appears in the column for Potential members, select their name and then click the arrow pointing towards the column labeled Users to be invited.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  16. When you have finished adding all of the individuals you wish to invite, click Submit. They will receive a notification that they have been invited to the group.

The steps to add a member to a Controlled group are the same as those for Invite Only, only the wording is slightly different; the word add replaces the word invite.

How it works...

In the upper right-hand corner of each user's account is a small envelope icon. If a user has a notification, a small number will appear next to the envelope indicating to the individual that they have new notifications as well as the number of notifications. This is just one of the places where the individual can be notified of the invite; they will also receive an e-mail notification.

The potential member must accept the invitation before they can become an actual member of the group. In a Controlled group, the individual is automatically added as a member. They do not have the option of accepting or not accepting the invite.

There's more...

Understanding how to manage member roles will help you use your group more effectively. Let's look at some ways to do this now.

Adding members from their profile page: Controlled and Invite Only membership

While you have the option of sending multiple invites at a time, you also have the option of adding users one at a time through their profile page. To do this, follow these instructions:

  1. Select groups and then Find Friends.
  2. Use the search box at the top of the page to locate the individual or scroll through the list of Mahara accounts.
  3. When you find the individual, click on their name to access their profile page.
  4. At the top of their profile page you will see a drop-down menu from which you can select the group. For an Invite Only group, select the group from the drop-down menu for Invite to and click the button Send invite. If the group is a Controlled membership group, you will click the Add button after selecting the group from the Standard Controlled membership drop-down menu.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

Changing roles

You may wish to change the role of various members in your group, granting them more, or fewer, permissions. Let's see how to do that:

  1. On the group homepage, click the tab for members.
  2. Beneath each member's name, you will find their role and a link to Change role. Click the link Change role.
  3. In the window that opens, you will see a drop-down menu with the list of available roles for the group. Select the role you wish this member to have.
  4. Click the Submit button.
Mahara 1.4 Cookbook Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes
Published: September 2011
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
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Select your format and quantity:

 

(For more resources on Mahara, see here.)

Creating an interactive homepage for a course group

Members of course groups have many more restrictions than members of a standard group. For one, they cannot create or edit pages. By default, they cannot create folders, or upload files (though that can be edited); they can post to a forum but not moderate posts in the forum. Nevertheless, there are ways they can collaborate and communicate with each other in the group, developing a sense of cohesion and belonging, and there are ways in which we can set permissions that will further facilitate this. In this recipe, we will begin by setting file permissions to allow for sharing, and then we will create a homepage that fosters community. The permission settings for files can be a little tricky, so we'll examine them closely in the How it works section.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

Getting ready

Create your course group and add the members.

How to do it...

  1. Go to groups, then My groups, and then click the group you wish to open.
  2. Now you will be at the group's homepage. At the top, there will be several tabs. We will begin by creating a folder that students can upload files to. Select the tab labeled files.
  3. By default, members (students) of course groups have read-only access to the files section of the group. They do not have permission to upload files.

  4. In the Create Folder box, enter the name of the folder you will be creating. In the example, the folder is called members Folder (your folder).
  5. Click the button labeled Create Folder.
  6. Once the folder is created, you will see it in your list of folders. Next to it will be a pencil icon that will allow you to edit the folder. Click this icon.
  7. The folder information will expand and you will have several options. First, we will add a Description in the box for that purpose.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  8. Below Description you will see an area for setting Permissions to give members (students) the ability to upload files to this folder; click in the box next to Member under the heading Edit. Do not select Publish, at least not for this recipe.
  9. The option Publish allows members to use a group file in their own personal pages. If the file is deleted from the group, however, it will be deleted from all the pages in which it has been added.

  10. There is an option to allow comments. This allows participants to leave feedback (comments) on the folder. Put a checkmark next to Allow comments.
  11. Click on the Save changes button.
  12. Next, click the pages tab.
  13. From list of Pages locate Group Homepage and click the small pencil icon to its right in order to begin editing the page.
  14. You will see two rows of tabs. In the top row of tabs, click the tab labeled Edit Layout.
  15. Select 2 Columns, Equal widths.
  16. Click on the Save button.
  17. At the top of the left-hand column will be a gray box that contains group information. Click the x in the upper right-hand corner to delete this box.
  18. From the General tab click and drag a Text Box block into the top of the left-hand column.
  19. Delete the Block Title, leaving it empty.
  20. In Block Content, add a greeting. Using the various options on the HTML toolbar, apply formatting and center alignment to the text.
  21. Click on the Save button.
  22. Locate the Members box, already on the homepage, and drag it underneath the greeting you just added.
  23. Locate Latest Forum Posts and drag it under Members.
  24. Click and drag the area (block) labeled Group Pages to the top of the right-hand column.
  25. Click the small icon in the right-hand corner of the Group Pages block to allow you to edit this block.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  26. You can leave the Block Title as it is. The option to Display group pages should be set to Yes by default. Change the option for Display Share pages to Yes.
  27. Click on the Save button.
  28. Now, from the files, Images and Video tab, click and drag the A Folder block into the right-hand column beneath group pages.
  29. Leave the Block Title as it is.
  30. Select the folder you created in steps 2-9.
  31. Click on the Save button.
  32. Click Done.
  33. Finally, let's create a forum that allows students to be moderators. We can make the students responsible for monitoring the forum. One way this might work effectively is to assign this responsibility to a different student each week:

  34. To begin, click the Forums tab.
  35. Click the button labeled New Forum.
  36. Let's give this forum the Title Student Moderated Discussion.
  37. In the Description let's provide students with guidance on what they can discuss and perhaps even lay out the dates when a specific student will be the moderator.
  38. You can leave the Forum Indent Mode set to Fully expand, as that setting is mostly a matter of preference.
  39. Click the Settings option to expand the menu.
  40. Select your preference for Automatically subscribed users.
  41. For the option labeled Order, click the option Choose where you want the forum to be ordered compared to the other forums. This will allow you to click and drag it into the order you would like it listed on the Forum tab.
  42. In the column labeled Potential Moderators, select the student who will be monitoring the forum for the first week. Then, click the little arrow that points toward the column labeled Current Moderators.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  43. Leave the Who can create topics, set to All group members.
  44. Click on the Save button.

How it works...

From the group homepage, members will be able to view and download documents from the shared file folder. On the files tab they will be able to upload files. Though they can upload files and create folders, they will not have the option to edit those (for example, to change permissions or add descriptions). They will not be able to use the files in their own personal pages (unless you grant permission to publish). The following image shows you what a student will see after creating a folder and uploading a file to the Members Folder:

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

From the pages area of the homepage, members will be able to view pages that other members have shared with the group. They will see a drop-down menu that allows them to browse the pages in their personal portfolio and submit them for assessment, and, if there are any templates available to copy, they will see a button that allows them to copy the template.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

In the forums area on the homepage, students will see some of the latest forum posts, and by selecting the topic, they will be able to read and reply to the posts.

The Member box allows them to see all of the members in the group, their roles, and access their profile pages.

Summary

In this article, we saw how to create a group and add members, and also created an interactive homepage for a course group.



Mahara 1.4 Cookbook Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes
Published: September 2011
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Ellen Marie Murphy

Ellen is a learning technologies specialist and educator with over 16 years of experience. She is an avid proponent of open source software, and tends to be an early adopter. Her first Moodle and Mahara implementations were during her tenure at The Sage Colleges, where she was employed as Director of Instructional Technologies. Currently the Director of Learning Technologies and Online Education at Plymouth State University, and the Higher Education Liaison to the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education, she remains actively engaged with all levels of education: K-20.

In 1998, while teaching at a middle school in Vermont, she was introduced to the concept of ePortfolios and has strongly supported the use of ePortfolios in teaching and learning since. She recently hosted a Statewide K-20 ePortfolio Day and hopes to make it an annual event.

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