The Evolution of SmartEvidence in Mahara

The last code update (15.01) I applied to my Mahara eportfolio site ( I noticed a new annotation block and wondered what the function was. It seemed devoid of a context and duplicated the function of the feedback block, so I started digging around to learn more. Reading through the change log and the tracker website I started seeing mention of SmartEvidence and that the annotation block was part of the initial implementation. As I understand it, this is a dynamically generated matrix for evaluation of defined standards that links back to the evidence that the student has added to their eportfolio. The timing of this could not be better as I have been in discussions with people in the Ministry of Education on how to use eportfolios in displaying evidence of competency in this sort of matrix. The potential of this to assist schools in transitioning away from a grades based assessment is huge and I cannot wait to see how much they get working in the 15.10 release of Mahara! Now all we need is the integration of xAPI statements so students can build reports of their own experience.

Here is what I found in the Mahara tracker:

SmartEvidence – where the user may upload evidence to support a particular standard related to their field of study/work – for evidence based learning.

A summary of some of the features (for later phases include):

– A standards framework will be input/uploaded in the Admin area for the relevant standard for a site and/or institution.

– Each standard has a “descriptor” which the user can use to link a piece of evidence to.

– Site/institution templates are create with the fixed category ‘SmartEvidence’.

– Traditionally, organisations use paper based evidence maps. This will be digitized as a Standards grid (SmartEvidence map) – based on the standards framework used for the site/institution.

– Interactive elements are added to the grid for managing evidence against standards and accessing information about the standards framework, thus forming the essential elements of SmartEvidence.

– The user creates annotations linking a piece of evidence to a particular standard in the framework.

– Evaluators can “rate” the quality of the evidence.

– Lots more…


In this initial phase, we’ll introduce (as much as possible of the following):

1- Annotation artefact – a new artefact similar to the comment artefact but with less functionality (i.e. no attached files, etc). It’s an explanation of why a particular evidence meets a particular standard.

* An annotation can consist only of a text field (WYSIWYG editor is OK).

* Users can add as many “Annotation” blocks to their page as they wish since they can associate their page with a number of standards descriptors. Once the annotations are converted to the full functionality, there will be a way to select the associated standards descriptor. For the moment, the user would enter that manually into the text field.

* It will not be possible to attach files or star ratings to an annotation. If a user wants to leave those on a page or an artefact, they should use the standard feedback functionality.

* Annotations can be changed until the first comment was made to prevent changes to the annotation after another user made a comment.

* Comments on annotations cannot be deleted if they have been made by staff or administrators. If they were made by others, they can be deleted, and the comment author would receive an email about it like happens for deleted feedback.

* The title of the block cannot be changed. The University of Canberra provides a short title that should be used. The title shall not be changed because in the future, with the full functionality available, these blocks need to be converted and a standard string will be used for the title then depending on the SmartEvidence map that is set up.

2 – SmartEvidence artefact/plugin OR Site admin flag to enable SmartEvidence:

* For this phase, perhaps just dummy stubs to enable smartevidence(?). If not enough time, for now, a flag in site options page that can be pulled out later into its own smartevidence plugin.

* A site administrator can turn on the “SmartEvidence” functionality for the entire site, e.g. enabling a plugin. Once allowed in general, institution administrators can decide whether to allow “SmartEvidence” in their institutions or not. The functionality needs to be turned on specifically, as it will add a lot of functionality, at least one menu item etc. to the Mahara instance. Once the functionality has been turned on and changes have been made either on the site or institution level, it cannot be turned off anymore.

3 – Institution configuration to enable SmartEvidence for an institution.

* Still need to work out affect on users with multiple institutions (who are admins in one but not the others).

4 – New Admin menu for ‘Smart Evidence’:

* New menu item in Administration – ‘Smart Evidence’. With sub-menu ‘Page Categories’ – like group categories page.

* Menu will appear only if Smartevidence plugin is installed.

* For institutions, will appear if institution has switched on the flag.

5 – Page/Collection Category :

* New fixed system category ‘SmartEvidence’.

* Site administrators can set up categories for pages and collections similarly to the concept of group categories.

* The category “SmartEvidence” is provided by default when the site administrator allowed the functionality in general and can only be selected and seen by site and institution administrators when they create institution or site pages / collections as these pages and collections will need to be set up on the institution or site level. Institution administrators only see the category when their institution allows “SmartEvidence”.

* Only institution and site administrators will be able to see the category chooser when creating pages and collections.

* Pages and collections get categories added so that it will be easier in the future to categorize pages and collections

6 – Page Filter:

* New categories multi-select field (at all levels – user, group, site, institution).

* Only visible if Smartevidence is enabled in site/institution, respectively.

7 – Collection Filter:

* New filter/search section with ‘search’ button and new category multi-select field (at all levels).

* Only visible if Smartevidence is enabled in site/institution, respectively.

8 – Copy Page or Collection Filter:

* New categories multi-select field (at all levels – user, group, site, institution).

* Only visible if Smartevidence is enabled in site/institution, respectively.

9 – Shared with me Filter:

* New categories multi-select field (at all levels – user, group, site, institution).

* Only visible if Smartevidence is enabled in site/institution, respectively.

10 – Collections:

* Ensure pages in a collection maintain their individual categories. i.e. no cross ‘contamination’.

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About the Author: Patric Lougheed

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