Friday, September 30, 2011

Comparing pebblepad to Mahara

Our Centre for Educational Development (CED) manager has organised access to trial pebblepad. The main reason is for CED staff to record their experiences, as they work with teams, to support the programme design process. At CPIT, we base programme design on principles of constructive alignment, starting with the development of graduate profiles. From the graduate profiles, flow learning outcomes which are tightly linked to learning and assessment activities.

I have used Mahara off and on and found the interface to be mostly intuitive. I have been playing around with pebble pad this week and in comparison, Pebble pad has a ‘prettier’ front page and is also mostly intuitive to use. There are more elements to Pebble pad as well, making it more flexible. Parts of Pebble pad are user customisable, so there is less of having to do things for the sake of filling up the space.

Pebble pad, like Mahara, works through the collection of assets/artefacts. A difference is that pebble pad treats ALL entries as assets, whereas Mahara tends to have an area for uploaded artefacts and the other entries (journal/blog, CV) etc. are separate ‘blocks’ that you can choose to display.

There is a sharper learning curve to learning how to use pebble pad because there are so many ways to collect and then display assets. Therefore, it is important to provide examples and opportunities for learners to see the bigger picture. One advantage of Mahara is that you can configure various 'showcases' for your portfolio depending on audience. You can do the same in Pebble pad as well by setting up separate webfolios or blogs but it is less obvious.

A trawl through the www indicates a slant towards pebble pad. Examples include this Australian report surveying TAFEs and universities, indicating more users of Pebble pad (p 17) and eportfolio platforms being the most widely used (amongst Australian tertiary institutes) although more so in universities than their TAFE sector who tended to lean towards using their in-house LMS. And a UK report comparing several eportfolio alternatives, trimming them down to a choice between pebble pad and Mahara and deciding on pebble pad as it would be serviced and the institute did not have to set up their own unit to oversee.