To guide a single student through the multiple and occasionally complex procedures involved in setting up a Mahara e-Portfolio (according to the requirements I have created for our overall senior literacy course) takes something like 20-30 minutes.
I have approximately 50 students in the senior literacy cohort. To give them all the 1-1 attention to set up e-Portfolios would take around 20 hours.
Okay, admittedly there are more efficient ways of guiding groups of students through processes like this one.
I could, for example, work through the set up procedures on the wall screen while students watch and follow along and apply the same procedures on their own computers. Generally speaking, given the different pace of each student (for various reasons), the pausing and checking and fixing involved would probably mean something close to 1 hour to get a whole class up and running on Mahara the way I've planned for them to.
One hour is a lot less than 20. But given we have at least five Year 12 groups attending separate classes at separate times, the process is still going to take at least 5 hours. If all goes well and nobody is away...
So, depending on circumstances, let's conservatively estimate that getting 50 Year 12 students thoroughly set up on Mahara and submitting their literacy tasks there is going to involve somewhere between 5 and 20 hours of (my) overall classroom time.
Considering that I planned, rehearsed, recorded and uploaded a series of four screencasts demonstrating how to do this for students in a period of about 2 hours, and that every student has managed to follow and apply them (not always on the first try, but certainly by the second or third) almost fully indepedently, I have saved myself -- depending on how you calculate the alternative measures -- somewhere between 3 and 18 hours of overall classroom time.
If that isn't enough bottled time to impress you, consider the fact that I also use screencasts for a whole range of things from outcome overviews to practical applications and skills demonstrations, supported with a range of automated quizzes to check students' understanding... I'll do the math at some point (and perhaps, recognising my limitations as a mere English teacher, enlist the help of my Numeracy teacher colleague) but I figure that I'm firmly on track to make time something I have more of for the things that really count.
That's time I have been able to put back into the sorts of teaching/learning activities (getting to know learners as people, discussing and negotiating tasks, giving feedback on writing efforts, etc.) that make teachers indispensable in classroom contexts.
Just as importantly, I think that 20-30 minutes each learner has gone through setting themselves up with an e-Portfolio is a crucial confirmation that they can do complex multi-layered tasks on their own at a pace they personally find manageable.