I have played around with Mahara a bit thanks to Bart Quimby’s work for the UAA ePortfolio Working Group. It is unstructured and would require quite a bit of instructor/student time learning to use it. It has a wide variety of possible uses for academic and employment purposes. You can create groups and each portfolio is referred to as a “view.” I think the idea is that you add a bunch of artifacts and pick and choose from them for each new “view.” This doesn’t seem like it would be as useful for program assessment as the student’s work will not remain available neccessarily and I don’t think there any reporting features. The good part is that it is free and can be set up on a local server (Bart set it up for the ePortfolio group to evaluate). According to Mahara, “What makes Mahara different from other ePortfolio systems is that you control which items and what information (Artefacts) within your portfolio other users see.” For more features, visit http://mahara.org/features.
Sakai is more than an eportfolio system; it is a full blown LMS (Learning Management System). It would be a huge change to switch everyone from Blackboard but worth considering since Sakai is free and since the university is really interested in portfolios.
The UAA ePortfolio Working Group agrees that the tool isn’t as important as the work to develop appropriate outcomes and agreement on what constitutes evidence of reaching an outcome. That’s the hard part! (particularly at the program level).