For those who missed the President’s Day Tea, here are the highlights:
Amber Nichols-Buckley and Dominic Ashby introduced us to Ning, a free social networking site that can be used for class communication and file sharing. Visit ning.com to check it out!
The signup is very easy, and you can customize the basic module as much or as little as you want. Your students don’t have to sign up for the site if you keep it public, but there are some advantages to keeping it private and sending emails to your students to “friend you” to enroll.
Other issues we discussed include… time! Amber suggested it’s easy to get “backlogged” with work if you don’t check in regularly with assignments and posts, but you also save time because you can make general posts to the students’ pages rather than individually responding to every post, as you might with a journal. You can also set up group pages so that your students can address specific people and posts more regularly. The potential for misuse of the space or potentially offensive language was also discussed, and so far the instructors have not seen such behavior. It’s suggested that you create a policy on your syllabus or on the space specifying the intended use if you think this might be a problem for your classes. Amber also indicated that her class willingly signed up for the space before classes even started, so the students do feel comfortable exploring the space on their own and setting their own paces.
Why use Ning? It’s similar enough to Facebook to provide a level of comfort and create a sense of community, but you as the instructor can decide to more actively “patrol” without feeling you’re invading your students’ space, as you might with Facebook. Amber also assures us that her students produce “formal” as well as “informal” writing in this space, and the students enjoy using the space for collaborative revision activities.
We recommend trying Ning, particularly as the university starts to move away from Blackboard. If you have any questions, feel free to email Amber (email@example.com) or me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we’re happy to provide more feedback.