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Using e-portfolios for SQA qualifications

Using e-portfolios for SQA qualifications

An e-portfolio can be defined as:

'...a purposeful aggregation of digital items ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc. which presents a selected audience with evidence of a person's learning and/or ability'
accessed 11 November 2010

SQA is encouraging centres to provide learners with opportunities to use e-portfolios when taking SQA qualifications. E-portfolios offer benefits for learners, centres and SQA. They provide a secure environment where learners can store, organise and share their learning and assessment materials, in a range of media formats.  E-portfolios allow tutors to access learners’ work, to assess and provide feedback. For SQA, e-portfolios offer a secure and flexible way to view assessment evidence and internal verification materials, including through e-verification.

SQA does not recommend any one e-portfolio system to its centres and there are many different approaches in use:

  • some centres use Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) to store, manage and assess learner evidence
  • it’s possible to use commercial presentational software, or webpages, to gather and present evidence for SQA qualifications 
  • there are many commercial e-portfolio products available; SQA has endorsed several of these 
  • centres could choose to work with a technology provider to develop a bespoke e-portfolio to meet their specific requirements
  • there are open source e-portfolio products; one example is Mahara, which is often used along with the open source Moodle VLE.  

SQA does not recommend any particular approach and will work with whichever system centres choose to use. We have developed e-portfolio requirements to provide guidance on choosing a system. 
The open source products are free for anyone to use, however centres should be aware that they would have to host and manage their own versions of these products. 


The Mahara e-portfolio can be integrated into the Moodle VLE, allowing learners to access their learning materials via Moodle and transfer content, such as forum posts and assignments, from Moodle to their Mahara e-portfolio. Mahara also authenticates with Moodle, so learners signed into Moodle can access their e-portfolio without the need to log in separately to Mahara.

Centres would need to host Mahara on their own systems or work with a partner to do this.  Mahara have a wide range of partners worldwide who can supply hosting, training and development.  There’s also a useful Mahara User Guide.

Key Features of Mahara

Like Moodle, Mahara allows learners to adapt the system to suit their needs. It provides learners with access to a store for multi-media files, a CV builder and a social networking system.


Within Mahara learners can build different ‘views’ of their e-portfolio, for different purposes and different audiences. They are able to control which items and information others can see.  They can gather together the artifacts they wish to share into a ‘View’ then set the permission for these to be viewed by others. The people the learner wishes to give access to can be added as individuals, or as members of a ‘Group’ or ‘Community’. A learner can have as many different Views as they wish.

File Repository

The Mahara File repository allows learners to:

  • Create folders and sub folders
  • Upload multiple files quickly and efficiently
  • Give each file a Name and Description


Mahara provides a comprehensive blogging tool.  Blogs and blog postings can be added to a View.  The blogging tool allows learners to:

  • Create blog posts using a WYSIWYG editor
  • Attach files to posts
  • Embed images into postings
  • Configure whether or not Comments may be received on their blog
  • Create draft postings for later publishing

CV Builder

Mahara includes a CV builder, allowing learners to create digital CV’s by entering information into a variety of optional fields including:

  • Contact and personal information
  • Employment and education history
  • Certifications, accreditations and awards
  • Books and publications; professional memberships
  • Personal, academic and work skills 
  • Personal, academic and career goals

Profile Information

Within Mahara learners are able to share details through a variety of optional profile information fields including:

  • Preferred Name
  • Student ID
  • Postal address and contact phone numbers
  • Skype, MSN, Yahoo & Yabber name
  • Introduction
  • Profile Icons images

Some organizations using Mahara in Scotland

Forth Valley College uses Moodle to support learning and has piloted Mahara for the Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary Project.

In June 2011 Cumbernauld College won an award for the Immersive Use of Mahara for Creative Industry Courses.

The University of Glasgow uses Mahara to support learning across the different university Schools, including to support Masters Research /PHD Professional Development.

Other useful links

Simon Grant of JISC CETIS started a discussion on the Mahara community pages and is compiling an online spreadsheet of some of the other institutions using Mahara in the UK.

The University of Illinois has published Mahara tutorials.