Blended learning with a blender

Back in early 2000s the phrase ‘blended learning’ began to be used more widely. At the Marsden with a colleague we decided to reuse and try to make the idea for trainers or anyone involved in learning design really explicit. We started a learning commissioning guide but did not get the oppportunity to develop further – these are some screenshots from an early Articulate Storyline 2 draft based around the television show Masterchef.

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We were asked yesterday to put together a training session for induction with academics or those interested in new technologies and how they can be used to enhance / improve learning. I suggested doing an actual blend with a blender – learning ‘smoothies’ based on different choices participants made e.g. class sizes range from raspberry sized to much larger blueberry sized (i.e. we could fit more blueberries on a plate than raspberries). And so on. We piloted it this afternoon and made an actual smoothie and it seemed to go down well – we weren’t sure if it would be too silly / patronising but the smoothie was appreciated.

We will probably try again in the future. My colleague also found that University of South Wales have done something similar in the past too.

Kazakh OpenU

Interesting post and what likes like a really good initiative with the new online education offering in Kazakhstan MOOC, MOOC, meet Kazakhstan: Surfing a new wave of MOOC innovation –

Very timely too for those of us involved with People’s Uni as they consider if / what / how they want to move forward. Context, relevance etc

It doesn’t mention who the other sponsors are but hopefully not the usual suspects from US,UK and Canada, so hopefully won’t get ripped off by consultants or see local entrepreneurs gobbled up as they develop.

On picking battles 

Not really sure what I’ve learnt about campaigning in the past few years but the Indian article hits home for campaigning friends.

So my battles are / continue to be – until the end of time or we win

  1. NHS – publicly funded, provided, accountable
  2. Inclusivity in martial arts – not so much of a battle as most agree it’s good thing but actually finding ways to make it happen.
  3. Moreincommon both Sutton group and anything I can do to support people’s understanding and appreciation of Russia, Russians and Russian life/culture. As my Russian language improves, this will get easier. Why?  because I don’t know anyone around me who is right now and social/traditional media can be challenged on a very noticeable tone and bias.
  4. Environment & public health, helping Savetherhino or related- probably not going back to full on Transition Towns activity but can support ideas and events where possible.

Any other campaigning will have less priority, attention.

#Moreincommon Sutton update

So good to meet tonight. We are still a very fledgling group but there is a will to help try and address division and marginalisation.

There is a London #Moreincommon podcast by another group:

We are planning a workshop in May/June and part of another Sutton event in July.

The group is unanimous in continuing to have its identity as #Moreincommon as we are not part of the direct action of #Hopenothate and all of volunteers in group are identifying more with more community cohesion. People get confused between the two.

Related –  assuming I pass my taekwondo coaching course and even if I move soon, will be putting out feelers for an outdoors mixed martial arts open day in / near Sutton. If possible this summer. I will discuss with different people connected to London / Surrey taekwondo as well as other arts.

This could be linked to #Moreincommon but will see if there is interest first. We have different East European, Russian, south & East Asian in Sutton and our big sister ‘area’ Croydon. There are also smaller communities who are migrants from many countries. It could be fun – a mix of demos and free training for anyone that wants.

We struggled this year in Cornwall with the camp but more martial artists back in the UK in 2018. This would be much smaller and great opportunity to meet / train with others too. 

installing mahara locally – completed process

This includes from yesterday – I have now successfully exported the missing portfolios from our local installation. So for installation and access to a local Mahara ePortfolio system with exportable portfolios in html / leap format for IIS (& probably will work for ZAMPP with some changes). We were constrained by only being able to use IIS at IT’s request.

  1. Install PHP in Program Files (Program Files x86) on your C Drive (php 5.3 minimum for Mahara)
  2. Install MySql workbench
  3. Enable the required Mahara extensions in the php.ini file (i.e. remove the 😉: gd (include Freetype support), curl, pgsql OR mysqli (we used mysqli), openssl and xmlrpc, mcrypt, zip and unzip utilities,  imagick, adodb, zlib, zip, bz2 and save file.
  4. Add this line extension_dir=”c:\ Program Files (x86) \PHP” or wherever you have your PHP program files; in php.ini file and save file.
  5. Open the Mahara SQL file (the data dump with a .sql file extension at the end) in Notepad++ . Delete or comment out (I deleted) any definer clauses using find / Ctrl+F and save file.
  6. Open MySQL workbench and create a new schema (right click e.g. on an existing one and press Create new schema).
  7. Go to Data Import / Restore
    screenshot of mysql workbench top menu
  8. Select your .sql file and import (don’t forget to select your schema to import it into before pressing import)
  9. You need to connect your installation with the PHP. To add PHP to the PATH, go to Control Panel – System – Advanced System Settings – Environment Variables – System Variables, scroll down and click on Path then edit. Add the location of PHP (not the mahara installation, just the actual PHP program) onto the end of the list.
  10.  Open up a web browser and type localhost/www/index.php. You should then see your Mahara site login page appear. This assume your Mahara site has all the correct files on the C drive e.g. in C: Inetpub/wwwroot….  If you see that you get error pages with localhost/www twice in each line, comment out wwwroot line in the config.php file that starts
    $cfg->httpswwwroot =
  11. If you have any default messages on your site such as site closed for temporary upgrade, remove the message in the config.php file and type
    update config set value='0' where field='siteclosedbyadmin';
  12. Login and browse your Mahara site. If there any export errors, check that this code is in your config.php and there is a bin folder on your C drive (create new folder if not and put your zip / unzip files in there)

$cfg->pathtounzip = 'C:/bin/unzip.exe';
$cfg->pathtozip = 'C:/bin/zip.exe';


Update – my colleague was able to install this on the hosted version once we had removed the definer clauses as this was what caused the privileges errors when we first tried this before installing on a local server.

Attempts to locally install mahara following change of eportfolio platform

To cut a long story short, we are currently attempting to install an old version of the open source Mahara ePortfolios onto a local server. IT were unable to assist and both my web knowledge and my colleagues are a little rusty. The data has been provided by the previous third party partner last year when the university moved to a different ePortfolios platform (Edublogs / CampusPress). The files have since been transferred as a ‘data dump‘ onto Sharepoint but some portfolios were missing so we are unsure of the accuracy of the overall data as the external partner is unable to give us server admin permissions without compromising their security. My colleague was able to install MySQL and the Mahara data into a new MySQL database. He installed IIS and PHP but then was unable to progress further. We put the db details into the PHP config file but unable to connect via http://localhost/www/index.php

So I have done the following after much searching including this on installing / configuring.  We enabled php extensions and I added the extension directory in php.ini file in the PHP (e.g. C: Program Files (x86) / PHP on Windows) and checked more on why they were not loading, which turned out to be a PATH issue becuase we had not added PHP to the list of variables.

To add PHP to the PATH, go to Control Panel – System – Advanced System Settings – Environment Variables – System Variables, scroll down and click on Path then edit. Add the location of PHP (not the mahara installation, just the actual PHP program) onto the end of the list.

The login page then appeared but incorrectly formatted and was not talking to any dynamic elements of the page so e.g. you couldn’t login because there was no login box. I used Developer tools and noticed that we were getting a localhost/www twice in each line. I commented out the wwwroot line in the config.php file that starts
$cfg->httpswwwroot =

The presentation elements of the page are now displaying and we have additional database errors with usernames once we tried a login so we’re nearly there.

Goodbye to seeking freedom

The internet has changed this. I thought after leaving custody in Turkey that freedom would be the ability to walk out of your front door and in any direction you want and whilst that’s partly true, it’s not that simple.

I also read Nelson Mandela’s thoughts on freedom. This short extract only from the section about freedom in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet resonates

“…for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment” 1


1. Gibran K (1923) The Prophet, available as audio at

Learning Russian update

In the midst of a some ongoing turbulence in new role, I met with a very kind mature student from Ukraine today to actually start speaking some Russian and it was a wakeup call. I couldn’t follow a normal speaking pace or even understand many words.

Will be doing this hopefully once a week for a while. He explained that Russians can identify if you are from Ukraine because of accent and some words / nuances. A bit like Yorkshire English and Surrey English.

We didn’t discuss politics. A lot more prep for next tine but it will bring together everything I’ve been learning online. 

I asked if there were nice places to hike in Ukraine too and yes. For the possible health projects ( which was main reason for learning Russian) it will be useful.

And apparently it’s just Petersburg to locals.

People’s Uni update

I met with one of the cofounders and one of pharma module content reviewers last night.

They have asked us to pause the next module development temporarily (and amendments to pharma one) as they are reviewing their business & educational models – i.e. to decide if ‘university’ is the right term for how they may want to operate. They have a strong faculty and originally offered accredited Masters courses but they are not running those currently.