For my class, IT 780 at the University of Southern Mississippi I was required to create a social network using Ning as the platform. I had some experience in being a Ning user before I created my own Ning network. My IT 780 class is using a Ning network. I also belong to a professional organization, NBEA (National Business Education Association) which has a Ning network.
For my assignment I decided to create a Ning network I could use in my class that started on March 22nd, Introduction to Business. It is a face-to-face class and I need a place for out-of-class discussion and communication. The social network is very easy to create. There are many templates to choose from and I think I tried them all before choosing the one I am using. It was quite easy to arrange the layout by clicking and dragging content place holders from one side to the other. Ning allows for as many text and descriptive boxes as needed which was nice because I could put the information about the class as well as an area where students could link to my website where they could get course materials such as PowerPoint presentations. I set up several items on the Forum including a request for each student to write a bio and forum for discussion questions. I then invited the class to participate and the results were surprising. I had students posting their bios, albums of photos and friending each other even before the class started. Since they are mostly Freshmen I was surprised how eagerly they adapted to the Ning. The NIng network has been extremely easy to maintain and add more content as the need arises. It has definitely been an asset to my teaching this class.
The bad news is yesterday the new President of Ning announced there will no longer be any free accounts on Ning. Their new strategy is to concentrate on their premium customers so all free accounts will be asked to pay or to transition from Ning. I think Ning is such a great tool for educators and I would hope he would allow free education accounts but that is not clear as of today. Meanwhile I know I will continue using NIng as the students like it and it is a great way to communicate. Follow the link below for an update on Ning.