Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Creating a Ning - What I have learned so far

Technorati Tags:

I created a Ning for the College of Education at NC State about 6 months ago. We officially unveiled it at the begining of the semester, and so far have over 150 members. I've run into some "stumbling blocks" that I'd like to share with others that are interested in starting a Ning themselves.

1) Public vs. Private
This has been a big issue with us, should our Ning be open or not? In the end (and after getting feedback from the faculty), we decided to leave the main Ning open, to allow users to dictate the transparency of their pages (private, only friends, etc.). Then groups can be closed as need be. This has allowed us to have poublic and private areas of the site - and so far is working quite well

2) Private Groups
The biggest issue with Private Groups is managing membership. For example, if you want to invite someone to join a group this is the process:
-They recieve invitation
-They join Ning
-They then have to request invitation to private group
-Group admin has to approve (even if you sent them the original invite)
-Then they have to confirm the invitation before they are added
This has added several days in the group process and in between the last two steps they seem to virtaully disappear from the management tabs.

Right now I've decided to manually confirm each photograph. This is a tricky area for me, normally we would request everyone submit a Photo Release form, but since these are all "Adults" posting photos themselves (not me posting them) it gets a bit well murky.

4)Group Page
I have issues with the design of the group page and I can't appear to change it without changing the apperance on the main page - this is annoying to me and others that want to customize their group pages.

5) Changing Text
You can actually change the Welcome Messages, etc. in Ning in the LANGUAGE TAB. This made no sense to me at first and took me awhile to figure out.

6)Premium Services
They are worth it. If you are dealing with kids, you can get the ads removed for free, but in our case we didn't qualify. But I don't have a problem paying $19.95/month to get them taken off. I wish I had actually gotten the custom URL in the beginning (its a bit late now I think) but otherwise the premium services are a good way to get "credibility" for a non-educational service like Ning. (When I say non-educational I mean that they are not JUST education - they have tons of sites associated with Ning - some not appropriate)

7) Purpose
Be upfront about the purpose of the Ning. In my case, this is not a replacement of a CMS. This is a supplementary area for classes and groups within the college. Ideally it is for those that share interests, but don't know each other, to be able to meet virtually. I think this becomes even more important with our influx of Distance Ed courses.

8)Keep tabs on your Ning
The best way for me to do this is through the latest activity RSS feed. This way I'm not getting a billion e-mails, but I still feel like there is a level of oversight for the website. One of the things people (and when I say people I mean faculty) have concerns about is the ability for anyone to put anything on the site. Keeping on top of the site (which by the way has had no issues so far - cross your fingers).

I've used Steve Hargadon as my guide through the world of Ning, and went to one of his sessions at NECC, but it really took getting into it before I understood what I wanted and what it could do.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Voices of NC

One of the great things about my job is the diversity of professors I work with. There are some new kids on the block (they've been here for like 2 years now, but I still see them as new :). that are doing some fascinating things.

The most rewarding thing I can ever do is introduce someone to a tool and just have them go with it. It is amazing to me what they will come back with and how far they have grown past what I can teach them. Now these two guys I could never assume to teach them anything, but they collaborate with me and I just learn so much. OK, so now I'm gushing, but I want to share this incredible project they are working on.

Voices of NC
is a project that is focused on understanding a sense of community and place with our surroundings. It has many strands, from language and dialect, to community and diversity. I had the opportunity to work with this group last year on doing podcasting and it amazes me where they have gone with it.

They key to all of this I think is how stellar their web presence is. They are not only doing exceptional work - they are sharing it! The teacher generated projects there, but also the curricular materials generated by the faculty.

I can't say enough good things about this project. It was great to be a small part of it and I hope they continue to do more!