Using Mahara to demonstrate your professional currency

Allison Miller is the director of Vanguard Visions and an important member of a team of accredited consultants at eWorks. With nearly twenty years’ experience in education and training, Allison is well aware of professional development requirements for VET teachers – or at least she thought she was. If you’re not sure about revised requirements in the Standards for RTOs 2015 this post will bring you up to speed.

Meet Jamie, a VET teacher in regional Australia

Jamie is passionate about learning. She has been delivering training for eight years, and diligently completes professional development activities as required for her role every year. At a recent meeting about the new Standards for RTOs 2015, however, Jamie was told that it is no longer enough to simply record her professional development activities in her diary to demonstrate her vocational and professional currency.

During recent discussions with her RTO’s Quality Department, staff were asked to start recording how their professional development activities ensured that they stayed current in their industry and skills and teaching practices (Standard 1.13) for the units and qualifications that they teach. This sounded reasonable to Jamie, but she wasn’t sure how best to approach it.

Sam is a nurse at the local hospital…

and a good friend of Jamie’s. Over coffee Jamie explained (or sort of complained) about this new requirement to Sam. “My workload is so huge at the moment, I just don’t know how I’m going to find time to read the new Standards requirements let alone show I’m meeting them”, said Jamie. Sam happily reassured Jamie, however, by sharing how she easily managed her mandated 20 hours of continuous professional development (CPD) as a nurse.

Sam used a system called Mahara eportfolio to set her own learning plan to achieve the 20 hours. With the action plan tool in Mahara Sam was able to map the learning she intended to undertake to ensure that she could demonstrate her skills against the nursing standards. The tool also allowed Sam to describe what she needed to achieve and by when.

What else can a Mahara ePortfolio do?

Sam uses the journal in Mahara to record the learning activities she undertakes, such as:

  • attending workshops
  • reading journals
  • participating in online group discussions.

She can then link these activities to her learning plan and uploads into Mahara any relevant documents which demonstrate how she has applied her learning. The Group forums in Mahara provide her with a private space to ask questions of her workplace colleagues.

Bringing it all together

The Mahara eportfolio system employed by Sam’s workplace offers staff the opportunity to create a series of pages or collections which can be shown to workplace supervisors as part of ongoing professional development conversations. This approach has multiple benefits both for the organisation and the individual. For example, the real-life ‘Sam’ also used this collection of evidence to help her get a scholarship for a course she wanted to undertake.

But what about Jamie?

Through a simple conversation over coffee Jamie realised that she too could use a tool like Mahara to demonstrate her vocational and professional currency. With a little research Jamie discovered that there are Mahara sites online which allow individuals to register and manage their own eportfolios, so with Sam’s help she set this up. Guided by performance development meetings with her manager, Jamie started using the action plan tool to map out her learning goals and set herself milestones for when she wanted to achieve these.

Each time Jamie attended a related webinar, an industry forum, or participated in a VET-related online group, she spent a little time recording it in her Mahara journal. Nothing too complicated or detailed, just what she had attended and how that activity had:

  • influenced her to update or change parts of her training program
  • helped her achieve what was set out in her workplace performance plan.

Any new documents related to her training program and statements of attendance for undertaking professional development were easily uploaded to her Mahara eportfolio. Jamie also recorded project outcomes to ensure that her training program met the requirement of a new training package. Nice and easy – everything recorded in one place.

A happy ending

Jamie was able to use her collection of work and reflections to demonstrate that she had the skills and experiences to move up to the next level of job classification in her workplace – which included an increase in her salary. And Sam? Well she enjoyed having lunch bought for her by Jamie, to thank her for her advice.

Does a Mahara ePortfolio sound like it might work for you?

Find out more at the Moodle-Mahara Meetup.

And if you need help tracking your staff training for auditing purposes, it’s time to consider TVC Enterprise.