Ning is an online platform, used primarily for creating private or closed social networks. Unlike other popular social networking applications such as Facebook or MySpace, which are open for all to join, Ning allows users to create private networks for a particular group of online users. The network can be kept as private or as public as the creator desires, and each member can be granted different permissions and given different roles in the general running of the network. Ning is being increasingly used in the educational field as both a tool and platform for collaboration. Users can opt to either take part in other members' social networks or create a network from scratch of their own.
To start exploring Ning, log onto http://ning.com. You will be immediately prompted to Sign In and to Create a new social network. You can choose a name for your network, and also the network's URL (they don't necessarily have to be the same). The URL is subject to availability.
Once you click on Create, you will be prompted either to log in with your existing Ning account or else sign in for a new membership.
Now you can really start customising your Ning Network. First, describe what your Network is going to be about, and choose a language and country.
Next, you can start adding, removing or simply moving your network's features. Decide on what shortcuts you need to have upon loading, and what comes before and after. Usually, it is advisable that the members' blog posts are visible immediately when one logs onto the network. The Network's latest activity should also be allowed a prominent space on the network. Another important consideration is whether or not you want to allow synchronous chat on the network.
The final stage is to customise your Network's appearance: choose a theme and customise the colours according to your taste. Click on Launch, and your new Social Network is ready to roll!
At first glance, a Ning network may seem less straight forward than say, Facebook, however if you are used to Facebook's interface you will soon get the hang of Ning. On the top there are a series of Tabs which open onto other pages: My Page, Blogs, Events, etc. Take some time to explore each page. But first, make sure to customise your personal page on Ning, by adding details, photos, etc. On My Page, you can also access your Network's Private Messaging (e-mail) and add other network members as friends. To view the other members of the network, click on the Members Tab.
The network's discussions can be found in the Forum page, and the Network's upcoming activities can be accessed from Events. In the case of Events, one can opt to have events which are open only to specific members of the network, that is, by invitation only.
Ning Networks allow easy uploading of both photos, videos and blog posts. Depending on how you arranged your page features during setup, the relevant pages can be found on the top tabs and also on the Main Page. Photos can be added by uploading the actual picture files; in the case of videos, you must copy and paste the video's embed code (such as a video from YouTube, TeacherTube or Vimeo). Each person can have his/her own blog on the network, and blog posts will appear both on the Main Page and on the personal page (My Page) of the person uploading the blog.
How safe is Ning?
You can have two roles on a Ning Network: the role of Administrator if you are logged into a network you have created yourself, or the role of Member if you can have been invited to join a network created by somebody else. Another important thing to take note of is that if you are the Network's Administrator, your interface will look slightly different that if you are merely a Member. If you are the network's administrator, you will of course have extra privileges and be able to re-arrange the network's elements. You will also be able to determine who does the edits, and, in extreme cases, ban persons from your network. Ning can allow you to have a 100% private network - that is, private except for the users who have been specifically invited and approved by the network's administrator. These security settings are of utmost importance if you are planning to use Ning with young learners.
Network permissions can be determined by clicking on the Manage tab, and then on to Members to define members' roles, and on Network Privacy to determine who can view and join your network.
The Administrator can also opt to change the tabs at the top of the page: thus re-arranging page elements and accessibility.
Ning Networks in Education
Ning has been used extensively in education, for collaboration purposes and for creating safe, private networks for students to work in. There are a number of good networks which illustrate how Ning can be used within the educational setting, both locally and abroad. Take a look at these two excellent networks, created by educators for educators...
For more information about Ning Networks, go to: