Ning in the education department: The writing’s on the blackboard

Ning in the education department: The writing’s on the blackboard
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As educators and students head back to school, we wanted to highlight a few ways Ning is used in the classroom as an e-learning tool. The goal with any community is to foster and drive conversation and learning, in meaningful and engaging ways, bridging the online conversations with the real world ones happening in the classroom.

We’ve heard that students and teachers really like the social aspects of services like Facebook, yet want a separation from their Facebook identity when it comes to the classroom and learning. The beauty with a Ning Network is that every student (and teacher) has their own profile page, showing their Latest Activity and content posted, blogs and discussions within the Ning Network. The profile is specific to the community, separate from their online identity elsewhere and is a safe way to share within the comforts of their Ning Network. Ning Creators can add profile questions that students can answer – helping students get to know each other.

Since the layout and features used is totally customizable, posting a course syllabus or weekly assignments on the Main page, which all members see upon signing in, is an easy way to disseminate and share information with students.

A discussion forum using a media-rich embed from SoundCloud to listen to music

As we highlighted in the Ning POV, Forums is our most popular feature, and offers educators a great deal of flexibility in terms of how to structure the conversations for classes, lectures and sections. We’ve seen specific discussions based on readings or assignments, and we’ve seen students create their own discussion topics based on general themes and topics, allowing them to dive into threaded or chronological debates with peers, sharing various points of view, and bringing that conversation along with them into the classroom. Discussion starters and anyone responding can embed media-rich content such as YouTube videos, podcasts, music, images, and links to cited sources across the web.

We recently came across a Ning Network for art classes at Yarmouth High School in Maine. Students are using the community to upload their artwork, turn in assignments and cross-share their work with students in China. The end result is a repository of student work, open discussions, and transnational learning:

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7 thoughts on “Ning in the education department: The writing’s on the blackboard

  1. Sean Nash

    If you’d like to look at a public networks that pushes the forum as far as I have seen it… For my money (literally), as an Instructional Technology Specialist (and Marine Biology instructor) there is no other product available today that allows the full breadth and depth of html-rich media embeds in the REPLIES to a forum prompt. Yes, that’s right… full multimedia embeds even four threads in on a discussion. This has allowed me, as an instructor to push kids toward creating really rich resource threads for debate of critical issues, and the development of a bit of information literacy while finding and vetting their own resources (or not.)

    In fact, I keep that particular network alive as a model even though I haven’t taught the course since May of 2010. Check out the analytics. Though we haven’t done a thing there since that time, traffic still flows in from search engines due to the content that we co-created during those two years. To this day, the site gets an average of 600-1,100 hits per 24 hour period. Pretty amazing stuff.

    Another classroom network worth taking a peek at is my Marine Biology network. This network is featured in two popular textbooks when online networks are mentioned. It is featured in “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” by Will Richardson in the section about using Ning in education, and it was also highlighted as an examplar in “Meaningful Learning with Technology (4th Edition)” by Jane Howland, et. al. A quick pop in to that network will show that not only is it used by current students, but that it also serves as a hub for communication that is even frequented by former students now working in the field, earning PhD’s, etc.

    I have a million tools as my disposal, and money is no real issue. I’d say that my students and I use more online digital tools in the course of our learning than 99% of all classrooms… and yet with all of the free options out there, I still return to Ning to maintain a rich place for learning, debate, and connections that have extended my classroom not only beyond the school year, but beyond the boundaries of even high school.

  2. Taranvir

    Really good stuff, would like to take it to schools in India, please send all details.


    CEO, Founder
    The Achievers Programme

  3. Luci

    HI, Jason,
    I have a Ning account for an online class that I run about 4-5 times per year. It’s really great to see this post, because I think my use of Ning is most similar to the teachers you speak about here. The Forum is my most valued tool.

    On that note, I have a question that I was hoping someone could answer:

    1.) Is there a way that I can clear the slate of the Ning site between one class and the next so we can have all new forums and conversations without having to delete the categories entirely and start over?

    1. Jason Rand Post author

      Hi Luci,

      Glad to hear you’re using the Forums and it’s working well for your classes! Great question. While there isn’t a way to simply wipe clean older discussions, you have a few options.

      – You can feature particular forum discussions based on if the class is active. Featured discussions will appear at the top of main forum page.

      – You can create a new “archived” category for any of the older classes. For instance, if you have a category for homework assignments, if there is a discussion from the previous semester, creating a new category for archived homework assignments and setting the discussion to this category will move it. Your other categories will remain. To add or change the categories, head to the main page of the Discussion Forum and click “Settings” — add your category, save changes, and you’re all set.

      – Taking a different step, you can create a group for each class. Groups can have discussion forums, but these are limited to within the group and are a bit more lightweight than those happening directly in to the Discussion Forum feature.


  4. Kristin

    I recommend using Ning for PTA collaboration…I haven’t gotten much traction yet but that’s what I’m hoping to do!!

    1. Jason Rand Post author

      Hi Kristin,

      Very cool. Keep us posted once things are up and running. I’d be happy to check it out and provide feedback too! We have many Ning Networks used by boards and governing bodies (such as HOAs, non-profits).


  5. M Tariq Malik

    Ya we have already done all of this at our site that is for virtual University of Pakistan students 🙂
    What’s Here?

    VUSTUDENTS is social networking website created for the students of Virtual University of Pakistan with an aim of providing educational support in terms of subject oriented material such as assignments, lectures, quizzes, etc so as to facilitate both the students of Virtual University (VU) as well as students of other universities worldwide since 2009.

    We have big Members Community and is growing exponentially For Contributing and Getting Knowledge.
    The site also contains a small flash based chat panels which serves as a platform for live discussions as well as social chat.


    Beside Providing the educational support we are also providing the every possible entertainment like

    Blog Forum Videos
    Photos Groups Chat

    Our Community has also Live FM Radio to facilitate the students for enhancing their skills as well as to take opportunity for doing something they love to do
    Desi Rox Live FM Radio

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