Showing posts with label ning alternatives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ning alternatives. Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Piazza - Not Just Another Message Board System

Over the years I've reviewed quite a few services that offer teachers the ability to create private message boards for use in their courses. Here's a handful of those services. Today, I learned about one that tops all of those services.

Piazza is a free service that teachers can use to create message boards for their courses. Piazza message boards offer more than just the standard question and answer format found in the old free Ning packages, but not quite as many features as a paid service like Blackboard. Some of the highlights of Piazza are tracking of student use, options for having multiple instructors and or teaching assistants in each course, and collaborative editing of messages. Piazza also offers the things that you might expect like basic announcement posting.

When students response to a question posted by a teacher they can work with other students to edit that response. So rather than having a bunch of similar responses to sort through students can work together to develop a cohesive response. Teachers can weigh-in directly on each student response with a simple thumbs-up or they can actually comment and edit student responses. And like any good message board system, responses to messages in Piazza can be threaded.

To help instructors keep track of unanswered questions from students, Piazza offers great filtering tools. When they sign into their courses, just like in email, they can click to instantly see the latest unread messages, latest replies, and latest unresolved questions.

Applications for Education
For educators that are looking for a little more than a bare-bones message board system, but don't have the resources for a system like Blackboard, Piazza could be the end of that quest. To help teachers and students stay connected from just about anywhere, Piazza offers free Android and iPhone apps.

I learned about Piazza through Jessica Cam Wong's excellent Make Use Of post about the service. She wrote about it from the perspective of a student. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fridge - Create Cool Private Social Networks

In the past I've written about some good services teachers can use to create private social networks for their classrooms and schools. This afternoon I found another  service that makes it easy to set up your own private social network, it's called Fridge. Signing up and creating your first private social network on Fridge takes just a couple of minutes. Once you've created your account and network you can invite people to join your network. You can create multiple separate groups within your Fridge account. The video below explains the benefits of Fridge.

Applications for Education
The option to create and control multiple groups within your Fridge account could be useful for teachers like me that teach multiple sections of the same course. That feature enables us to monitor and participate in the online conversations taking place in each section without having to create and manage multiple log-ins.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toonti - Create Your Own Social Network

Toonti is a new free service for creating your own small social network. Using Toonti you can create a private or public social network. If you choose to make your network private, only the people you invite and approve can join and interact with the members of your network. A public group is open to anyone who stumbles upon it. In your Toonti network users can create profiles, interact with each other through message boards, share media, or create an online study group.

Creating your own social network with Toonti takes only a few minutes. Watch the video below to learn more about Toonti.

Toonti is still in beta so there are some quirks. Toonti works best in Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Applications for Education
Toonti and similar services can be used by teachers to create a small network in which their students can have online study/ homework help groups. Similarly, build your own social network tools can be used by school administrators to create networks in which they can interact with parents and parents can interact with each other around school-related issues. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wack Wall is now Wall.FM

WackWall, a free service for creating your own social networks, has changed its name to offers all of the same great features that it offered when it was called WackWall. I reviewed WackWall in August and you can read that post here.

Applications for Education
If you were a Ning user who was left without a network when they switched fee structures, is an alternative you might want to explore. could be useful for created an online environment in which you, your students, and their parent can share information related to your courses.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Lefora - Create a Free Message Board Forum
Ning Ends Free Networks - Try These Alternatives

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WackWall - Build Your Own Social Network

Through Kelly Tenkely's excellent blog I recently learned about WackWall. WackWall is a service that anyone can use to create a social network. Some of WackWall's key features are message boards, customizable user profiles, private messaging between community members, and Facebook connect integration. Facebook connect integration means that people can sign in to their WackWall accounts using their Facebook credentials.

The free version of WackWall does set a limit on monthly bandwidth usage, but for most classroom situations that limit shouldn't present an issue. If you have someone in your school willing to maintain a server for you, you can download and run the WackWall software for free.

Applications for Education
If you're looking to create a small network in which you can share information and interact with your students and their parents, WackWall might be for you. WackWall could also be used by PTAs or booster organizations to connect their members.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vanilla Forums - Open Source Forum Software

Vanilla Forums is free, open source software that anyone can use to host an online message board community. As you might imagine message boards powered by Vanilla allow your users to create member profiles, give you administrative control, and the ability to create sub-forums. Vanilla Forums software can be downloaded and installed on your own server(s) or you can use one of the hosting packages offered by Vanilla. The hosting packages range in price from free to $199.

Applications for Education
Since Ning went to a fee-based model, many people have been looking for alternatives. If you have someone in your school that can install Vanilla Forums on a server, Vanilla could be a good way to build a school message board. You could also explore the free hosting package offered by Vanilla to see if that suits your needs.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Ning Ends Free Networks - Try These Alternatives
Lefora - Create a Free Message Board Forum

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Now Live - Archive Your Ning Network's Content Now

Ning's April announcement that they were discontinuing their free services left many people wondering what would happen to their networks' content if they didn't upgrade to a paid plan. On Monday, Ning announced that they were developing a tool that would allow network creators to download all of the content of their networks. That tool is now live. To use the Ning network archiver you will have to install it on your computer, you can download it here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Free Ning Accounts for Educators

Ning caused quite a commotion last month when they announced that they were planning to discontinue their free services this summer. Today, Ning announced what the new fee-based plans will offer. None of the options appear to be all that reasonable for a classroom setting. The good news though is that an unnamed company in the education market has stepped forward to sponsor free accounts for K-12 educators. The free accounts will be the equivalent of Ning's fee-based Ning Mini service. Read more about the Ning Mini and free education accounts on the Ning blog.

Ning Mini won't replace the old free Ning accounts, but they should still be useable for classroom settings. Though with a cap of 150 members it probably won't be useable for building a community Ning around a whole school or PTA.

If you'd like to explore some free alternatives to Ning, please read this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lefora - Create a Free Message Board Forum

Last week's announcement from Ning that they're discontinuing their free service has some educators looking for alternative ways to host message boards and social networks. Lefora, a free message board service that I first explored in 2007, is one alternative to Ning worth considering.

Lefora allows anyone to create a public or private message board in three easy steps. To create a message board hosted by Lefora, click "create a forum," create a user name, then select the layout of your forum. Your forum will be hosted as a subdomain of Users of your forum can create profiles complete with avatars, biographies, and links to their blogs or other social networking profiles.

Applications for Education
Lefora could be used by PTAs to create discussion forums for parents. Lefora could also be used by teachers to create message boards to extend discussions beyond classroom hours.

Here are four other Ning alternatives you may want to explore.