Social networking has been prodded and probed for its educational value but many educators have shied away from integrating public venues like Facebook into learning experiences. Ning, a social networking site that allows for the easy creation of *free* closed social networks, is becoming increasingly popular amongst educators. The recent publication of Educause Quarterly features an article about how a French Literature and Civilization in Translation course at the University of Connecticut utilized Ning to improve student success in many areas.
I particular appreciate the comments shared by students that include the crucial value of personalization in a learning experience. I believe higher education will fully engage students and pull them into relevant learning connections when students feel welcomed, comfortable and connected in their learning environment. Being online for this generation has never been not a sterile, flat, disconnected experience. So a learning experience should not be that way either. Here is a student comment from the article:
“I found Ning to be something very different than I have used before in a class. Here at UCONN, we have the discussion boards on HuskyCT, but with Ning we were able to add people from all over who shared an interest in French Literature. Also, we were able to decorate our personal pages with our specific interests. I would say seeing what other people wrote in their posts helped my writing. I could also see a different perspective on the topic which helped me by knowing what other writing styles students were using.”
The students were required to enter the Ning network outside of class time and share required writing assignments in a social network setting. The collaborative learning environment of Ning resulted in increased accountability (over submitting assignments solely to a professor), improving the students’ preparedness for class and strengthening the students’ overall writing skills.
Have you used Ning or another social networking site to enhance your students’ classroom or online learning? If so, please share how this research compares with your own experiences or reflect on your feedback about the article which you can read in its entirety here.