How it was used:
I used the ning as a resource for my classes. Both sections of the course on speech presentation used the same Ning. My purpose, as I explained to my classes, for the use of the Ning was to answer questions about coursework and assignments. I also kept all of the student blog assignments in one place and students were able to upload videos of their presentations on the Ning.
- Students were much more interactive on line, often jumping in with answers to other students' questions. This meant that I did not have to monitor the Ning several times a day so students would have answers to the questions. However, I did find they wanted my reenforcement, so I would post something like, "that's correct. Thanks for the help."
- As the administrator, I was able to review videos without making them public. I had difficulty accessing YouTube private settings and many of my students did not want to upload their work for public display.
- I was able to have all of my students blogs in one place. In addition, some blogs were read by others in the class (even though they did not comment) and the "popularity" feature on Ning allowed me to see which ones were being read.
- There seemed to be a greater level of community. Students would leave messages for each other (which I could see), sometimes class related, other times just personnel. For example, one of the student's found another's paper from another class. She contacted the student through the Ning and made arrangments to return the paper.
- I was able to send mass emails to the email addressed identified by the students (rather than the office school email) which meant they were more apt to get and read the emails.
- Many students created a personal profile that helped to create a sense of identity outside of class.
- I still needed to keep on top of the Ning and show a strong presence. Towards the end of the semester, especially, students stopped using it unless I told them I was posting something.
- The two classes stayed pretty separate on the Ning which tells me that the community on the Ning is just an extension of the community developed in the classroom. Therefore, I think it is important to create a sense of community in the classroom for the Ning to work.
- Some of the features on the Ning didn't work with some of the computers (i.e. some of the videos took so much time to upload that they "timed out", the discussion threads feature). Because Nings aren't supported by our school, we, the users, were on our own.
- Sometimes, when there was a lot of activity on the Ning, it was hard to keep track of that activity. I could imagine this might have been the same with the students.
- I feel that the upgraded version might have had features I would have preferred, but as I am only an adjunct, I don't have an budget to invest in such software.
Overall, I much preferred the Ning over other web-based software I've used for my classes in the last 6 years. My overall favorite ever was the now defunct Prometheus. I have yet to see the syllabus features that this program had. My favorite was an automatic date feature in which the instructor would put in the dates of the classes or the start and ending date along with the days the class met, and a template would be generated. It was simple then to fill in the information for each class including readings, assignments, and links to resources for the class. After, the instructor could add files and notes about the class.
I would strongly recommend the Ning of in classes. I will be using it next semester, hopefully trying some new things as I get used to each of the features of the software.