Getting Started

Mahara is an e-portfolio technology.

An e-portfolio is a system in which students can record “evidence of learning” – such as essays, reports, reflective commentary, task lists, multi-media or artwork. Basically, anything that can be produced and stored digitally. These digital items are known as artefacts in Mahara.

It is more than just a place to store files as Mahara also provides ways for people to interact with their tutors and peers and create online communities.  Mahara also includes blogging (through journals) and a résumé (or CV) builder.

An e-portfolio can be used for personal reflection and development and to provide assessment evidence for a programme.  Students decide what to share with tutors, peers and friends.  They can also make a portfolio, or parts of it, public.  This can then showcase development and achievements with employers.

The word ‘mahara’ is from Te Reo Māori  meaning “to think, thinking, thought”. As Mahara was created in New Zealand, it was fitting to choose a Māori word to signify the concept of the ePortfolio system.

One example of how an e-portfolio may be assembled.

One example of how an e-portfolio can look.

Some types of activities which take advantage of the affordances of e-portfolio software are:

Group work assignments involving collaborative learning and critical evaluation, with tasks allocated for each group member requiring discussion and consultation before a final ‘product’ using a range of text items and other media is submitted.

Learning journals which encourage an ongoing personal connection with learning and link theory to practice in relation to the students’ knowledge and experience. This type of assignment helps develop the reflective practice necessary in many professions.

Field work / placement reports – such as placements in a relevant workplace – these provide a rich source of learning in an authentic context and an e-portfolio provides a useful way of gathering a range of evidence which shows what learning has occurred during the placement.

Problem-solving assignments – these focus on an issue or challenge relevant to the field of knowledge and allow the student to suggest multiple solutions, evaluate solutions and recommend and justify a particular optimal solution for the problem.

Resource portfolios – these are collections of a range of digital media resources found on the Internet focussed on an issue or learning area, with evaluations of the efficacy of the resources and (if appropriate) examples of their use in an authentic context.

E-portfolios are often used to give students a platform to develop reflective writing skills. Reflection is …

  • thoughts and feelings about experiences, events, ideas, opinions or new information
  • a way to develop self-knowledge
  • a way to achieve better understanding of why and how things happen

Your students can access this University resource on Reflective Writing. It can help them develop the skills they need as a reflective practitioner and improve how they communicate reflections through writing.

Mahara allows students to create a digital portfolio.  They are in control of the content they create, deciding what to share and who to share it with.

You may want to have a Group to bring students together (e.g. in tutor groups, seminar or project groups).  Within groups students and staff can work together to create and share content.

It’s important to understand the difference between personal portfolio work and group work in order to avoid confusion. See the student guidance on how Mahara is different for more information.

Mahara at the University of Bath can be accessed in two ways.

Use your University login details (username and password) and click Login.

Screenshot of login box in Mahara.

Your Profile area stores your contact and personal information. Each of the profile fields can be considered separate artefacts which you can add independently to your profile page or any portfolio page. Thus, you can reveal as little or as much information about yourself to others as you wish.

Your profile page is public, in the sense that by default, it can be viewed by anyone who is logged into Mahara at the University of Bath.

Note about privacy: Be very vigilant with your private information. Think carefully about what you share and who with.  Please discuss this with your students also, as they need to think carefully about their digital privacy.

Complete the form fields with the information you want to add, making sure to click Save.

Screenshot of profile in Mahara.

You can upload up to 5 profile images.

The images you wish to use must be between 16×16 and 1024×1024 pixels in size. Ideally, your profile images are square. Please use an image editing software before you upload your images to reduce a photo’s dimensions to the required ones.

The recommended size of your profile image is 100×100 pixels. Then the image looks good on your profile when you want to include it there and also in the smaller sizes around Mahara.

The profile images that you wish to upload to Mahara must be available on your computer. Choose one image at a time to upload. You can also give it a title.

User menu > Profile pictures

The dashboard is the first page you see on logging into Mahara. You can arrange the items on the page to suit your preferred way of working.  For example, you might want to see your inbox, or recent forum posts.

The sidebar blocks are not editable.

Click Edit Dashboard to arrange it the way you would like.

Watch below to see the various way to edit the Dashboard.

A screencast on how to edit the mahara Dashboard.

You are, by default, notified of relevant activity in the Mahara Inbox.

However, you can change your notification preferences so that you receive an email instead.

User menu > Settings > Notifications

Change your preferences and click Save (at the bottom of the page).

Screenshot of user menu in Mahara.

Using Mahara Groups

Mahara allows the setting up of Groups, where staff and students can access and share resources, hold discussions in asynchronous forums and give and receive feedback. Note: Individuals do not have to belong to a Group to use Mahara.

One benefit of having a group is that the tutor can ‘push’ a template page (or collection of pages) to all the group members.  However, individuals can also ‘copy’ pages you allow them access to, so think carefully about whether you necessarily need a Group.

There are different types of groups in Mahara.

  • Groups created by Members (staff or student) where others can be invited to join.  This could be for personal projects or group collaboration.
  • Groups created by Administrators can add Tutors as administrators.  This type of group can allow formative submissions, for Tutors to review portfolios.

You can create a Group by selecting the Main Menu > Engage > Groups.  Click the Create Group button and select the appropriate options.

If you want a group created to allow formative submissions please contact the TEL team at and a Group can be created for you.  Once created, teaching staff can be placed in the role of Administrator or Tutor for that Group.

You will need to decide the following for your Group(s):

  • Name and description (i.e. purpose of the group)
  • Whether membership of the group will be controlled (by you), by request (to anyone who wants to join) or open (anyone can join)
  • Whether you want  a standard group (for sharing/discussions) or a course group (for sharing/discussions/submissions*)
  • Whether you want all group members to have permission to create and edit group pages, journals and files, or just the Administrator or Tutor.
  • Whether you want the group to be visible to other users in Mahara or hidden (including discussion forums).

These settings can be changed once the Group is created and the staff member given a group Administrator role.

*Members can submit pages to the group for review/comment, and these are locked during this process. These pages cannot be edited until they are released by a group tutor or administrator. This would be for formative feedback only.  If you want students to submit their portfolios for summative assessment please see the section below on submitting via Moodle.

All users in Mahara are given the role of Member.  Staff can also be given the role of Group Administrator or Tutor.

The Group Administrator role provides staff with permission to edit group settings to suit their needs, create pages or collections for the group to work on or copy and start discussion forums and review submissions.

The Tutor role can only exist in course groups. They can give feedback on submitted pages. They cannot add or remove users from the group.

As a Group Administrator, once the Group is created, you can access it either from the Main Menu > Engage > Groups or from the right-hand sidebar menu under My groups.

Select the Group and then click Settings.

Screenshot of a Mahara group.

Work your way through the settings, and click Save group when finished.

The settings have descriptive text to help clarify what they do. For more information you can click the information icons to the right.

Screenshot of Group settings in Mahara.

If you are enabling Submissions to the group please make sure you have the Allow archiving of submissions option set to Yes. This will make sure a copy of submitted portfolio work is taken for future reference.

There are a number of ways to add students to Groups, depending on the type of group.

Request or open groups:

You can invite students to join, either via their profile pages or via a group message. Select the Members tab in your Group and click the link to send multiple invitations at once to students.

Controlled groups:

You can invite students to join, either via their profile pages or via a group message. Select the Members tab in your Group and click the link to send multiple invitations at once to students.

You can also add students directly. Select the Members tab in your Group and click add many users at once link.

If you have a very large number of students to add to a group contact for guidance.

In Mahara course Groups students can submit Pages or Collections for formative review.  When a student submits work to the group:

  • the Tutor or Group Administrator can view the work submitted, not the other students
  • the Tutor or Group Administrator can add feedback comments to the work, or upload a feedback file
  • their work becomes locked until the review is over and the Tutor or Group Administrator releases it back to them

You will see submitted work in the Group dashboard (i.e. the About tab). Under the heading Submissions to this group you will see a list of links to student submissions.

  • Select a student submission and you will see their page or collection.
  • To add a feedback comment, add text to the *Add comment box on a given page. You can also upload a file by clicking Browse. You can add multiple files by clicking Add attachment for each new one.  When finished click Comment.
  • To release the submission click the Release page  or Release collection button as appropriate.

Screenshot of the release page button in Mahara. Screenshot of the release collection button in Mahara.

*Bug report: Please note that a bug has been identified whereby tutors cannot delete comments or edit them beyond 10 minutes.  Please take care before posting comments.

Important: Mahara is not like Moodle when it comes to submissions.

  • Feedback is viewable immediately by the student.
  • Releasing work means it becomes editable once again.  Students can change the work and delete your comments.
  • There is no facility to store marks or grades.

If you want to assess Mahara work more formally, e.g. for summative purposes, or to give a grade indication on a partial draft portfolio, see our guidance below about submission to Moodle.

It is possible to mark any page as a ‘template’, which allows it to be copied with layout and instructions intact.

  • You can create a template in a Group or from your list of Pages and Collections.
    • Select the relevant page or collection
      • Main Menu > Engage > Groups > select the group, then Pages and collections or
      • Main Menu > Create > Pages and collections
    • Click Add and select Page.
    • Edit the settings as appropriate, changing the Template option to Yes.
    • Click Save.


mahara template.

Think about:

  • Adding an instructions block and locking it in place. Students won’t be able to delete this, but will be able to use an accordion to toggle the instructions on and off.
  • Choosing a layout that suits the template you have in mind.


Now build the template by adding relevant blocks to the page, and typing in the content you wish the students to see and edit.

For example you might present them with a task and relevant space to complete it. Or, you may provide a table for them to complete.

You can view the completed template by displaying the page, from the link below the page title.

Finally, you can make the template available to students.  You can do this in two ways.

  1. You can enable copying for the template so students can find it and make their own copy.
  2. You can push the template to everyone in a group, so students will see it in their portfolio space when they log in.

Select the Page or Collection that makes up your template > click Edit (pencil icon) > click the Share button.

Under the Advanced options drop down menu you will see an option to Copy for existing group members. Change this to Yes and scroll down to click Save.

Screenshot of copy options in Mahara.

A copy of the page or collection will be placed into the personal portfolio area of each member in the group.

Watch this short video to see how to push templates to students.

A screencast gif showing how to push a Mahara template to students.

Select the Page or Collection > click Edit (pencil icon) > click the Share button.

Under the Advanced options drop down menu you will see an option to Allow copying. Change this to to Yes if you want students to be able to copy the page or collection. Scroll down to click Save.

Students in your group can select the Copy button (in Pages and Collections) and select the page or collection.

Setting up a Moodle submission point to assess a Mahara portfolio

Coming Soon! This functionality is not yet available.

Mahara is not an assessment tool.  Staff can ‘review’ portfolio work within a group in Mahara, but if you want to assess the portfolio (by giving a grade) then this should be done through Moodle.  Note: students do not have to be in a Mahara group to submit portfolio work to Moodle.

If you want your students to submit a copy of their portfolio (pages or collections) for summative assessment, there are two options.  These are outlined below, and if you require advice about which one to choose, please contact the TEL team by emailing

The table below describes the differences between the two options.

If you wish to have students submit their portfolio for assessment and store an archive of that submission, then currently the ‘External tool’ option is the one to choose. Once Mahara functionality of the Moodle Assignment / Mahara plugin is updated, it will then only be necessary to use the Moodle Assignment option.
Moodle Assignment Moodle External tool
Moodle submission set up Yes.

  • Uses Assignment activity.
  • Teacher needs to add URL/key/secret for each assignment. Contact TEL for this.

  • Uses External tool activity.
  • Teacher can add Mahara LTI as a pre-configured tool.
Student portfolio submission Yes.

  • Student can select page/collection to ‘submit’ for marking.
  • Student portfolio work remains in Mahara.
  • Page/collection opens in a new browser window.

  • Student can select page/collection to ‘submit’ for marking.
  • Student portfolio work remains in Mahara.
  • Page/collection can open in a new browser window.
Locking portfolio (during grading process) Yes.

  • 3 choices available: no lock, locked during grading, locked forever.
Yes, locked during grading.

  • 2 choices: lock or unlock after grading.
Recording grade (marks) Yes.

  • As for normal Assignment, recorded in Gradebook and Assignment.

  • Recorded in a Mahara page and in the Moodle Gradebook.
Recording feedback in Moodle Yes.

  • As for normal Assignment.

  • Feedback by teaching staff is added as ‘comments’ or ‘uploaded file’ directly on the portfolio.
Recording ‘comments’ in Mahara Yes.

  • Can be public or private.

  • Can be public or private.
Updating/editing marks Yes.

  • As for normal Assignment.

  • From the Moodle Gradebook, not from the External tool activity.
External access (for moderation) Yes.

  • Can access from Moodle Assignment.
  • Impact of ‘locking’ choice above.

  • Can access via Mahara – student will need to share access via secret URL, outside of normal assessment process.
Archiving submission No.

  • Mahara say this is in development – no timescale details.

  • An archive (or snapshot) of the submitted portfolio will be stored in Mahara.
Student results view Yes.

  • View in Assignment or Gradebook.

  • View in External tool (Mahara page) or in Gradebook
Grade transfer to SAMIS Yes.

  • As normal from a Moodle Assignment.


Please note, as mentioned above, the Moodle Assignment does not currently keep a copy of the portfolio work submitted, which may not be suited to summative assessment.  We will update this guidance once the software is updated.

  • Before you begin contact for the required OAuth key and secret (codes) that are needed to set this up.
  • Navigate to your Moodle course.
  • Turn editing on, and in the appropriate section of your Moodle course click ‘Add a new activity or resource’.
  • Select ‘Assignment.
  • Complete the settings ensuring that
    • Under Submission types you have selected Mahara. You can deselect the other options as required.
    • Enter the URL for the Mahara site (
    • Enter the OAuth key and secret (codes) provided by TEL.
    • Choose the relevant option for locking student portfolio work – no locking, locked during grading only or locked permanently.
    • The maximum grade remains at 100, if you intend to transfer the final grade to SAMIS from Moodle.
    • Complete the Grade transfer link to the appropriate SAMIS assessment item if required (and you are the Unit Convenor and have the role of Teacher+ in your Moodle course).
  • Save and return to the course.
  • After students have submitted their portfolio, you can return to the submission point to grade and provide feedback as you would for other Moodle assignments. You may want to consider:
    • Hiding the Assignment submission until all grading has been completed, so that students do not see your feedback as it is saved.
    • Using the marking workflow to control when students can view the ‘released grades’
  • When you click the ‘View all submissions’ button you can select the links to the student portfolios to review their work and provide comments or upload feedback files to the portfolio itself, or you may choose to only add comments and feedback in the Moodle grading screen.

  • Navigate to your Moodle course.
  • Turn editing on, and in the appropriate section of your Moodle course click ‘Add a new activity or resource’.
  • Select ‘External tool’.
  • Complete the settings ensuring that
    • You select Mahara LTI integration from the Pre-configured tool drop down menu.
    • Click the ‘Show more’ link and leave the ‘Launch container’ to ‘default’ (do not select ’embed’).
    • Under ‘Privacy’ ensure that all the options are selected, as this will ensure students accounts in Moodle and Mahara match up.
  • Save and return to the Moodle course page.
  • Select the newly created submission and you will be presented with some Assessment settings from Mahara.
    • You can choose to keep the student portfolio locked after grading, which means they’ll no longer be able to edit it.
    • You can choose to ‘archive’ the portfolio when graded, which means a copy of the portfolio will be saved in Mahara.
  • Click Save and allow submission. You choices will be confirmed, and you can edit them until a student submits.
  • After students have submitted their portfolio you can return to the submission point to grade.
    • Click the Portfolio title link for each student to review their work.
    • Add comments as appropriate. Remember you cannot edit the comments after 10 minutes.
    • Upload a feedback file as appropriate.
    • Click the Grade pull down menu and select a grade out of 100.

Once graded you cannot access the portfolio or change the grade from this submission point. You can override the grade directly in the gradebook if required, and students can share their portfolio with you within Mahara.

Further help

 For more guidance you can access the Mahara Manual.

You can access context related help from the Help link at the foot each Mahara page.

This guidance material has been adapted from the Mahara 20.10 Manual under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 unported.