No more Ning

April 15, 2010

No more Ning

Well that’s not factually correct, what the title should be is “No more free Ning”.

It would appear that Ning are phasing out the free service to allow them to focus on those customers who pay for the premium service.

So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity.  We will phase out our free service.  Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.  We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale.  And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

A mistake I think on Ning’s part.

Now I am not opposed to paying for premium services, if I like a free service and the Pro or premium version offers more and I perceive it as value for money I will pay.

On this blog for example I pay for the VideoPress and extra storage. I have a Flickr Pro account. I pay for the premium version of Remember the Milk. If I reached the limits I would probably pay for the premium version of Evernote.

If there are limitations on the free account or added features on the premium account then I will happily pay out money. It would appear that many others do the same.

However in all the examples I have given, as well as the paid Pro version there is also a free version. People will try out free services, if they like them and want the added functionality they will upgrade.

As Ning have decided to phase out the free version, I think this is where they are making a mistake. With no free version, you will find that key individuals won’t try the service and upgrade later… Well maybe Ning is already well known enough that this won’t be an issue. Hmmm I am not so sure. Anyone remember Gabcast? Originally a free service, went paid for only and now having checked recently it is hardly used compared to services such as Audioboo or iPadio.

Without a free version that can be upgraded I wonder if people will start using Ning or even continue using Ning if other services offer more for the same sort of cost.

So now I need to think about what to do about the Ning sites I have created. If there is a demand (and I can get funding) I may upgrade to the premium version, but I know this won’t be the case for all of the sites I have.

So what alternatives are there?

One that is been talked about on Twitter is Elgg.

Elgg is open source social networking software that provides individuals and organizations with the components needed to create an online social environment. It offers blogging, microblogging, file creation and sharing, networking, groups, news collection using feeds aggregation and a number of other features.

Wikipedia

Though of course though the software is free (open source) you will need a hosting service and the sort required for Elgg isn’t going to be free. If you are lucky your institution may have the capacity to host an Elgg service for you.

I have mentioned Crowdvine before on the blog, it was one of my top ten tools in 2008. I have used it at conferences like JISC and ALT-C.

As well as their premium services Crowdvine also have a free version.

CrowdVine builds simple and powerful social networks for events and groups to help people connect and meet. Use us for your conference, event, or organization.

Interesting though that JISC moved from Crowdvine to Ning for JISC 2010. Wonder what JISC will use for JISC 2011?

Another one that I have found, but not used is SocialGO.

SocialGO allows you to build a custom social network, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned developer.  No software, hosting or coding required, as our team offers full support for your social networking site.

As with Crowdvine there are cost plans and a free plan.

So Ning is no more, well the free Ning is no more.

Does it really matter that much?

I have  talked before about inappropriate advertising on services and why sometimes a paid for service may be better.

One of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever. Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Advertisements

Accessibility

February 25, 2010

Even a simple Word document is more accessible than a printed/written handout. With an electronic document, the learner can very quickly change the typeface, the colours (background and font) , the size of the text, it can also used with a screen reader

Using learning technologies can improve accessibility to learning content for a wider group of learners. Understanding how to present resources to ensure that they are accessible is important for all staff.

Well worth looking at the JISC TechDis website.

The JISC TechDis Service aims to be the leading educational advisory service, working across the UK, in the fields of accessibility and inclusion.

Our mission is to support the education sector in achieving greater accessibility and inclusion by stimulating innovation and providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology.

There are some nice case studies on the JISC RSC YH Excellence in Inclusivity site.

Welcome to the JISC RSC YH Excellence in inclusivity portal which has been developed to help promote best practice and share knowledge to support enhanced inclusivity. This portal provides a simple route to accessing a range of case studies which show how inclusivity has been enhanced through the use of appropriate technology.


Rewiring Inclusion

January 21, 2010

Rewiring Inclusion: Strategies, tools and techniques to promote barrier-free learning

A national one day conference in Nottingham at the National College on Tuesday 9 February 2010, with an optional evening session on 8 February. Organised jointly by the Association for Learning Technology and JISC TechDis.

With an outstanding range of workshop sessions, and plenary contributions from:

· Google’s Julian Harty – “Wave, Chrome OS, Online Docs, and Android.
What impact will they have on the environment for learning?”;

· Jane Seale from the University of Southampton;

· Yahoo! Europe’s Artur Ortega – “The Yahoo! approach to accessibility”;

· Dónal Fitzpatrick from the School of Computing at Dublin City University – “The contribution that computer science is making on inclusion”;
· Peter Hartley from Bradford University;

· Alison Mills from The Manchester College – “How a large urban college has taken inclusion to the heart of its operations”;

· James Clay from Gloucestershire College.

Full programme for the event [1 MB PDF]

A large print version is available.

The conference will focus in particular on browser technologies, Web2.0, e-learning, and mobile learning, and on the benefits these can offer to
all users, including those with disabilities or learning difficulties.

All sectors were represented in the workshop proposals and we are delighted that Independent Specialist Colleges were successful in being
selected to present alongside Universities, FE colleges, Project Consultants, and JISC Regional Support Centres.

Costs to attend:
£120 members of ALT
£160 non members of ALT
£100 dinner, bed and breakfast at the National College

Booking deadline:
Tuesday, 2 February 2010 – http://www.alt.ac.uk/conferences.php


Wherever you are…

November 12, 2009

Wherever you are…

Wherever you are you can participate in the Innovating e-Learning 2009 JISC Online Conference.

The JISC Online e-Learning Conference 2009 takes place between the 24 and 27th November.


A conference with a difference

November 2, 2009

Those of you who know me will know that I quite like online conferences and have participated in a fair few over the years. JISC are running another of their innovating e-learning conferences this November.

The JISC Online e-Learning Conference 2009 takes place between the 24 and 27th November.

Innovating e-Learning 2009 is just around the corner

Book now for the fourth JISC online conference ‘Thriving, not just surviving’ 24-27thNovember!

What are the challenges facing 21stcentury institutions? What opportunities does technology offer to help overcome those challenges? You can contribute to these debates in the company of leading thinkers, broadcasters and academics.

The 2009 programme features keynotes from:

Charles Leadbeater, (leading authority on innovation and strategy); Nigel Paine(writer, broadcaster, organisational learning specialist and former Head of People Development at the BBC); Rhona Sharpe(Oxford Brookes University) and Helen Beetham(JISC Learners’ Experiences of e-Learning theme); Peter Bradwell(Demos) on The Edgeless University.

Sessions include Brian Lamb(University of British Columbia) on opening up educational content, Graham Attwell, Martin Weller(The Open University), Rob Howe, (University of Northampton) debating the demise (or otherwise) of educational institutions, Becka Currantand colleagues (University of Bradford) on using new technologies to engage and retain students, Alan Staley (Birmingham City University) on acquiring workplace skills while on course, John Kirriemuirand Kathryn Trinder(Glasgow Caledonian University) on making the most of virtual worlds in teaching and learning, Mike Neary(University of Lincoln) onengaging key stakeholders in the design of physical learning spaces.

Looking for something else? You can also follow new work by JISC projects on transforming delivery of learning with mobile and web 2.0 technologies, and engaging employers and professional bodies in the design of the curriculum. James Clay(Gloucestershire College) returns as the conference blogger, guided tours of Second Life and opportunities for hands-on experience of innovative learning environments and resources in the Have-a-Go area complete a rich and innovative conference programme.

Innovating e-Learning 2009welcomes delegates from further and higher education in the UK and overseas. Proceedings take place in an asynchronous virtual environment so can be accessed wherever and whenever is convenient to you. Keynotes will be delivered live in Elluminate, a collaborative web conferencing platform (recordings will be available post-session).

Innovating e-Learning 2009 is a simply unmissable conference experience. Find out more and register now at www.jisc.ac.uk/elpconference09

Delegate fee: £50

There are a few advantages of online conferences over traditional face to face conferences, feel free to add to them in the comments.

With an online conference it is feasible to go to all the presentations and workshops even if they are at the *same time*.

If you are a reflective person, then like me the question you actually want to ask the presenter is thought of as you travel home on the train, with an online conference you have a chance to reflect and ask that question.

You can attend a meeting at the same time as attending the conference.

You can teach a lesson at the same time as attending the conference.

You can watch Doctor Who at the same time as attending the conference.

You can attend the conference at 2am, useful for insomniacs and those with small children.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college.

You can see presentations again, you can pause them, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

The coffee is usually better.


Future of Learning Workshop

August 24, 2009

At the RSC SW Summer Conference, myself, Mell Turford and David Sugden presented a workshop, which we entitled the future of learning.

Here is the video of that workshop.

Obviously there are “gaps” in the video when the delegates are doing “stuff” but some of the talky bits are quite good.


Advantages of an online conference

August 3, 2009

I was going through the media I had uploaded to my blog when I found this.

This was a video I made for last year’s JISC Online Conference when I was the official conference blogger. It outlines some of the advantages of online conferences.

The blog, Letters from the Edge was well received last time and the good news is that I am going to be blogging again at this years online conference.