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Source: Massey University

Toro Mai is an online immersive multi-media experience hosted by kaiarahi (guides) Professor Meihanan Durie, Associate Professor Scotty Morrison and Stacey Morrison.

The University is seeing a marked increase in those registering for its online Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori course Toro Mai, as many people look to fill in days spent in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Toro Mai is a free online course provided by the University to connect global audiences with Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori. It was launched during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) in 2018 and has about 22,000 registered current users.

Toro Mai course developer, broadcaster and University staff member, Stacey Morrison of Ngāi Tahu and Te Arawa, says more than 7,000 new people have accessed Toro Mai in the past 10 days. The course usually has about 300 people register each month.

“Despite all the changes to their everyday lives, people are finding new routines and ways to entertain themselves in these challenging times,” says Morrison, who helped launch the programme two years ago as part of a development team that also included Associate Professor Scotty Morrison. “It’s wonderful to see that learning Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori was something many wanted to do, but perhaps found it difficult  to find time for.”

“While gathering in a classroom isn’t an option at the moment, the internet is still offering an opportunity for people to add to their skill sets. Toro Mai gives New Zealanders all over the globe the opportunity to reconnect with the language, culture and values of Aotearoa.”

The current COVID-19 situation has undoubtedly been a major reason for the jump in online participants in Toro Mai, but it also brings with it other benefits.

“With most of us housebound and confined to small spaces with whānau, it’s important to prioritise wellbeing,” says Morrison. “Learning and engaging with Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori can help uplift our spirits as well.”

A collaboration between Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, the School of Māori Knowledge, and the University’s Office of Global Engagement, the Toro Mai course is available free to all participants in Aotearoa and around the world. It draws in part from the work of Deputy Vice Chancellor of Māori and Head of Te Pūtahi-a-Toi Professor Meihana Durie and is taught via an immersive multi-media online platform. Toro Mai has two introductory level courses in Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori, each taking between 16 and 20 hours to complete. 

Professor Durie believes courses such as Toro Mai reflect the rapidly evolving nature of universities worldwide. “The university of the future is now well and truly upon us and Toro Mai is a response to that shift.  Access to quality online provision is important, but so too is the recognition of Te Reo and Tikanga Māori as complimentary parts of the learning journey for beginners.”

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Professor Meihanan Durie (left), Stacey Morrison and Associate Professor Scotty Morrison.