Mahara – celebrating 15 years of supporting learners
On a Wednesday morning in mid-2005, Mark Nichols and Bill Anderson, both then at Massey University’s Hokowhitu Campus, came up with the idea to create an ePortfolio platform in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
A little over a year later, after countless hours of research, analysis, interviews, and tossing various ideas around the project team, Penny Leach, then-developer at Catalyst, committed the first piece of code to the Mahara codebase on 27 September 2006 at the end of her work day at 16:50 with the unassuming commit message “Initial commit”. The Mahara project codebase became official. Fifteen years later, we are taking time out to celebrate the Mahara community around the world.
Being good open source citizens we initially tried working with an existing open source project. After several months of that we realised that wasn’t going to work. So we basically started from scratch and built a portfolio system that was then used across many tertiary institutions in NZ, and still exists. It is now used by thousands of institutions around the world.
So from that perspective it’s been a highly successful project. It has expanded in its scope and what it’s taken on. Mahara was a proof of concept for academics who had a theory about student-centred learning. They had an idea that students should be in control of their own learning artefacts. Mahara allows students to manage how the world sees them, and their own destiny. Which fits with Catalyst’s vision of moving away from institutional ownership and having more control at a personal level.