These WERE the Days of Our Ning | #Edchat Recap on Ning in Education

The tangled web weaved by Ning this week has been compared to those written into soap operas such as “Days of Our Lives” and even mystery series – leaving much to be queried and debated. If you missed the news you are unlikely to find it on Hulu, but you can read an overview of Ning’s decision to charge for the “create your own social network” platform by Steve Hargadon entitled Ning the Good, the Bad, and the Unknown.

Here is a brief glimpse of what we know so far (please correct any misunderstandings in comments):

  • Ning will no longer offer any fully free network opportunities. Pre-existing content will not be grandfathered in, but rather deleted 30 days after the pricing plans go into effect in July.
  • Ning Mini Networks will cost $2.95/month, with the option of annual payment plans ($19.95/year), however there is a 150 member cap and features are limited included no groups, chat, pages, apps, events, or video uploading. Many are questioning why they would have to pay for something that they could get out of a blog platform such as wordspress, blogspot, or tumblr.
  • Full branding control costs $19.95/month ($199.95/year), yet features are still limited as video and music uploading is not available. The ability to upload video and music files as well the API access upgrade costs $49.95 per month ($499.95/year). There may also be additional costs for alternative authentication and bandwidth.
  • A “major educational company” that has no name is going to sponsor and offer free mini Nings for K-12 educators, however users must be 13 years or older to participate. However, due to the reasons stated above, many educators feel the mini Nings will not be useful. Other’s, like Shelly Blake-Plock of TeachPaperless question how Ning will define a “K-12 educator”.
  • Finally, with the swift and unclear changes to Ning, others no longer trust Ning and are reluctant to make any investments due to a concern that prices will continue to fluctuate over time.

#edchat Debates

Tuesday’s #edchat discussion brought up some interesting debates about the Ning news and how it affects educators. The first debate that struck my attention was the question of wether Ning should consider including advertisements in order to continue to offer free services.

@k_shelton I also wonder if situations like Ning are a result of low advertising opps. Why is advertising bad when students get it ALL the time

While this is a pliable option, I am not sure it is helps us utilize Ning in educational settings. I wonder if as a result of the inclusion of advertisements, campuses would censor Ning sites, or the sites would eventually become less classroom-friendly.

Others suggested the use of open source as Ning replacements, but how many teachers are familiar with the tech expertise necessary to use open source software effectively? Most teachers wouldn’t be able to set up hosting and social networks without it. The beauty of Ning is that you need none of this expertise to create your own social network.

@edutek Needs tech expertise RT @seanbanville Once Open Source becomes better known, there’ll be more free apps including Ning replacements

At this point, I am not sure that there are any viable alternatives for educators to easily create social networks that include all the features Ning used to offer for free. In the meantime, I suggest checking out other free classroom tools to see what is applicable to you and your students. Blogs, schoolrack, engrade, facebook, and twitter all offer free and valuable tools for educators to communicate and share with students and parents. Unfortunately, it might require educators use, create, and connect multiple types of accounts to create anything that remotely resembles the features Ning used to offer for free. This could be time consuming, require additional tech expertise, and educators could hit walls due to district site censorship.

Want to share you own reflections, insights, or classroom tools? I appreciate your comments!

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