About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Using Nings for classes

I've been reviewing my use of the Ning for this semester and trying to analyze the results. This is just a first pass through analysis. However, I was much more pleased with the use of the Ning than I was with the courseware our school uses.

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.

The advantages:

  1. 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."
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Many students created a personal profile that helped to create a sense of identity outside of class.

Disadvantages:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

6 comments:

maggieverster said...

I love Ning as a classroom tool as well and have invested in removing the google adds and replaced it with sponsored adds of educational companies which support my teachers thereby generating funding for my projects.

I tried to use it as a course platform and it was an absolute disaster. Granted, it was with teachers who were by definition not "digital natives" and they got terribly lost as well as lost focus as they were to busy interacting on walls and forgot to find their way back to the group forum I specifically created for the workshop.

What I do like is that you can evoke all the power of web 2.0 (videos, podcasts, forums, blogging, rss, widgets and twitter) in one place. Cool.

V Yonkers said...

As I teach at the university level and most of my students are used to the ads on facebook, many just ignore the ads.

I think it is true of any course platform that students can get lost. I used blackboard and my students complained about the 1300 postings they had to sort through. I wonder if it is possible or if anyone has used a good instructional design to structure Nings so students are led through activities they HAVE to complete as a minimum standard for the course.

There is always a question of balancing the choices Web 2.0 allow with achieving (and assessing) the learning goals needed to give credit for a course. I'd be interested in any ideas others might have on this.

jennylu said...

I'm glad you had success Vivienne. It sounds like the students adopted it well and the fact that you preferred it to the university software says a lot. I continue to be impressed by what can be achieved with ning as a learning platform. Thanks for the comments you have left on my blog over the last few months.

jennylu said...

Sorry, Virginia, not Vivienne. Did I write Vivienne?? Honestly, I can't remember now that I've hit send, but if I made a mistake please accept my apology!!

Jeff said...

I too have used Ning with great success. One of the biggest disadvantages is that I am not able to "track" student progress as administrator i.e. there isn't a "history" of use. Does anyone know if they are coming out with one?

V Yonkers said...

Jeff, I'm not sure about the new Ning, but with the old one, you could go to "member" and see all of their postings (they listed them chronologically) the same as you do with facebook.