Is Mahara The Only Free e-Portfolio Option?

What is The Mahara Free e-Portfolio Option?

You’re most likely wondering what Mahara or an ePortfolio is right?  – you’re about to find out.

Mahara is two things: an ePortfolio and a social networking system combined. An ePortfolio is a system in which students can record “evidence of lifelong learning” – such as essays, artwork or other such things they produce that can be stored digitally. Such things are known as artefacts in Mahara. Social networking systems need little introduction – think Facebook. Basically, they give a way for people to interact with their friends and create their own online communities.

The Mahara Framework

With Mahara, you control which items and what information within your portfolio other users see. Such items and information are termed artefacts. To facilitate this access control, all artefacts you wish to show to other users need to be arranged into one area. In Mahara, this compilation of selected artefacts is called a ‘page’. You can have as many pages as you like, each with a different number of artefacts, intended purpose and audience. Your audience, or the people you wish to give access to your page, can be added as individuals or as a member of a group. It can even be made publicly available.

For example, you could create:

  • a page for your friends and family that includes holiday photos and a personal journal
  • a page for your tutor, which includes assessments and your reflective learning journal
  • a page to showcase your best pieces of work and your résumé for potential employers

A single page or a collection of pages can make up your portfolio. Unless artefacts are placed in a page, they are not visible to anybody but you. You can use files that you uploaded or journal entries you wrote in as many pages as you wish. You only need one copy of your artefact.

Imagine you collected all your artefacts in a shoebox. Whenever you have a new artefact, you add it to the shoe box. When you are ready to create your portfolio, you take a look at the artefacts in your shoebox and choose those that you want to make available on a portfolio page. You can arrange the artefacts on that page to your liking.

The Mahara Framework

Mahara is completely free to download, install and use.  It is ‘Open Source’ software that is developed by a group of dedicated software experts.  You can download it from the Mahara website.

What can Mahara do?


Mahara allows students to develop a portfolio over time and encourages reflection and planning.  It also allows the use of different media in assessment, such as:

  • Text
  • Images
  • Video
  • Any other file type – to download.
  • Journal entries
  • Forum posts
  • Task lists (called Plans);
  • Personal information;
  • CV
  • External content
  • Content from Google
  • HTML code

Designing a Mahara portfolio assessment

When designing a Mahara portfolio assessment it is important to consider the learning outcomes being assessed. For example, are you assessing just the content, or is the organisation and/or development of ideas over time part of the assessment? You can choose to leave the design and organisation of the portfolio to the student, or create a template for them to copy and use.

  • If the way that students organise their assignment is not part of the assessment then you may want to create a template. This will give students a structure for their work and means that the markers will know where to find each component.

  • If making connections between elements of the portfolio is important, then you may prefer to give students the freedom to organise their portfolio.

  • To allow students to demonstrate the development of their learning on the module you could require them to include some journal entries.

  • So, there you have it.  Everything you need to know about Mahara.  We have a Mahara overview video and a how-to install Mahara video you can watch.  If managing your own Mahar installation is too technical for you, don’t worry.  A low cost managed Mahara service is available.

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