When exploring what technologies were available to communicate the T-SPARC project we came across www.ning.com. Ning is a social networking platform upon which people or companies can set up their own social networks. It is a very useful tool as it has facilities such as online chat (similar to MSN), blog posts, forums and events, so it allows people to meet virtually. This is the exact tool we were looking to use with our Project Operation Group (POG) so they could discuss the project.
Unfortunately, there are some ‘unsightly google ads’ down one side once you enter the social network. We decided it would be beneficial to look into having an ad-free network because it would be more appropriate than having adverts for dating sites and weight loss tips running down the side.
There is an opportunity to have an ‘ad-free’ network which costs $24.95 per month (which is approximately £15.40 http://www.dollars2pounds.com) but we didn’t want to be tied into a finanacial agreement with an outside company so when we spotted that there was a chance to be ‘ad free’ for free with an educational scheme they were running we got in contact.
‘Ad-free Ning for educational purposes
To help educators benefit from Ning’s unique social networking environment, Ning has offered to remove the ads from educational networks which are geared toward students between the ages of 13 and 18 (grades 7 – 12).’
We decided to request ad-free Ning for educational purposes as we do have a reasonable amount of foundation year and HND students who are under 18 who we would encourage to use the service, but unfortunately due to the fact that the majority of our students are adults and we would not directly be using Ning to aid teaching the classroom, our request was refused. Therefore we’ll be using Moodle and Mahara instead as they are readily available to us and there is no need for financial agreements.
Thanks for the information. Unfortunately, it sounds like both a majority of your students are adults and that your social network’s focus isn’t directly on being itself n academic classroom educational supplement. Because of this, we are sadly unable to support your social network.
Our sincere apologies if this wasn’t clear when you created your social network. Please let us know if you have any questions.
The Ning Team
This ‘Baseline’ Review is the result of our initial findings for the T-SPARC project. We interviewed a mixture of stakeholders and made sure all six faculties were represented in the research (although not all interviews were captured on video).
The review is retrospective and is designed to describe context rather than to facilitate new processes or to develop new solutions to the problems outlined. We have decided to move away from the document process, speak to the people we want to assist and present our findings in an innovative and accessible way.
The majority of the content focuses on how the approval /reapproval process is in need of an overhaul due to the amount of documentation and time constraints which has led to a compliance culture that does little to promote innovation or to put the student learning experience at the forefront of curriculum design.
You can link to the review
Here signed in from Circle: http://jisc.sossoon.net/blog.aspx?bid=6508
Here signed in from Moodle: http://bit.ly/10O1kJ
When we started looking at Communications and how to engage with stakeholders there were a few questions which we needed to ask ourselves:
1. What do we want to achieve? (What are our objectives?)
2. Who do we want to talk to? (Who are the publics/ Stakeholders?)
3. How shall we say it? (What mechanisms shall we use to get the message across?)
4. How do we know we have got it right? (How will we evaluate the work?)
We knew what we wanted to achieve – that was to fully engage and involve our stakeholders, and we knew who the stakeholders were – both internal and external. We just had to think about how best to engage them.
Various form of communication were explored such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs, as well as social bookmarking and file sharing sites such as Newsvine, Stumbleupon and Reddit.
Some interesting sites that we stumbled upon were www.diigo.com and www.ning.com. Diigo is interesting as it has a facility to highlight specific pieces of text and also you can stick ‘virtual sticky notes’ onto web articles. Ning on the other hand is completely different. It’s a social networking platform so the user can set up their own social network. We initially thought that this would be a fantastic way for our Project Operation Group (POG) to meet virtually to discuss the project. After some further exploration of Ning we found that in order for Ning to stay free to the public they use rather unsightly advertisements down one side of the screen and to have an ‘ad-free’ network costs $24.95.
That put us off quite considerably as we thought that people would not want to view advertisements for ‘Over 40s dating clubs’ or ‘The ultimate weight loss drug’ when looking at a serious project about curriculum design that has the potential to affect a lot of people. When looking into this it became apparent that upon request Ning will grant an ‘ad-free’ space to educational users who are using Ning with children between the ages of 13 and 18. We have requested to be ad-free as we are using Ning in an educational capacity (although not with children) but we will see what happens.
Another problem we came across was that there did not seem to be anywhere to attach files to discuss within the T-SPARC social network. It later became apparent that we would first have to set up a group or an event within the network to attach a file to discuss but it did have some fantastic facilities including live chat (similar to MSN and Facebook chat) and the fact that the T-SPARC social network can be made private so only selected people would have access to the network.
An important way of engaging with the internal stakeholders we thought was to have a regular e-bulletin. We have decided upon the name ‘Sparcle’ to continue with the ‘sparc’ theme. We are still debating on the frequency of these e-bulletins but think with an addition of having a regular blog and regular tweets on twitter that the e-bulletin may only need to be once a month to sum up how the month has gone and to answer any questions that have arisen. It is through these questions and the stakeholders’ feedback that we will be able to gauge how well our initial engagement has gone and what we can do to make it better.