Ning, Elluminate and what I know now…

Two events of the past week have brought some things sharply into focus for me. One is the discussion surrounding the monetisation of Ning, and the other is the problems I am having with my computer and Elluminate. Yes, they seem poles apart, but bear with me, I’ll explain the connection. (at least I hope I will!)

I surprised by all of the fuss surrounding Ning’s decision to begin the process of charging for what were previously free networks. I’ve seen tweets suggesting it will be the death of Ning. I just don’t think that will be the case. I think Jason Rosenthal and Marc Andreesson are making sound business decisions that will probably guarantee the continuation of Ning rather than its demise. In fact, if decisions like this aren’t made by providers of what are currently free open source software alternatives, then we may well see more applications we use in schools go the way of bubbleus or flowgram.

There’s no doubt in my mind that monetisation of services and content is the biggest issue facing the Web today. We’ve seen Rupert Murdoch make noises about charging for newspaper content and I’m sure we will see more moves in this direction from other providers. Darcy Norman, an Educational Technology Consultant from the University of Calgary, made the following observations about the impact of Ning’s decision;

WordPress/BuddyPress and Drupal and any of a long list of others can provide the functionality of Ning. But, in order to protect yourself from another potential service change/interruption, you really need to provide a server. At some point, you need a Dreamhost account or something similar. You need to copy files to the server. You need to configure a database and tweak things. This is where the people that use Ning in the first place are lost. They can’t/won’t do this. We can argue until we’re blue in the face, saying it’s easy, saying it’s cheap, saying it’s necessary, but the vast majority of people simply don’t want to manage the technical layers beneath what they see in the web browser. Ning is betting the company that these people will reach for their credit cards to prevent having to deal with technical stuff.

Darcy’s right. I won’t be doing this. I don’t want to manage the technical layers. What I want to do is help my students make connections and understand that this provides them with a new way of looking at how we can learn today. That requires a considerable effort in building a community of learners. An effort that means I don’t have time for the technical layers. So, if I want to use a platform that enables me to do this, then I guess I’ll be paying. And you know what, there’s a part of me that thinks I should. People invest time and money providing us with platforms that we are utilising and they deserve compensation for their efforts.

So where’s the connection with Elluminate, you may ask? Well, I spent close to five hours the other night trying, with the help of some wonderful people (Anne Mirtschin – you are one of life’s angels on earth – you truly are! So are you John Pearce!), to troubleshoot an error message that was stopping me from accessing Elluminate rooms. Was I any closer to an answer at the end of those five hours. No, I wasn’t. I had to postpone the start of lessons in Students 2.0 as a result of it all.

So what’s been brought into focus for me?


I don’t have time to work through issues involving the technical layers and I certainly don’t have time to learn everything that people working the back end of computers know. I work the front end, and I don’t mind having to pay something to make sure it works smoothly for me.

11 Replies to “Ning, Elluminate and what I know now…”

  1. Jenny, Can we help with your Elluminate connection issues or is this an internal support problem? Let me know the specifics.

    – Beth at Elluminate

  2. A clear message, Jenny. I’m still partly in denial about paying but what you say makes sense. I think that if we use Ning and the hundreds of other Web 2.0 applications then we should keep a sharp eye on trends to be informed. What I hope is that school leaders and the community will take too long in realising the potential for connected learning so that lone educators are not trying to make sense of everything on their own, and ending up responsible for monetary changes just because they have advocated the use of Ning.

  3. Hi Jenny,
    Well said. I think that it is not unreasonable to be asked to pay for a good service, one that enables us to improve learning experiences in a safe environment. The spaces that Ning has been giving us have seen many teachers begin to work with, and see the benefits of, collaboration and many want to keep this as part of their learning and teaching armoury. I only want there to be a reasonable educational price option rather than one very high business option.
    Good luck with Eluminate. We still have some issues at school as well and now that the SLAV PLN program is about to start it will come to a head with 7 new people needing to use it. Perhaps it will also be good to have people other than the library staff expecting to use it! I know that the CEO is supporting the use of Elluminate in schools so there is no excuse

  4. Sorry, word omission…
    Meant to say –
    “What I hope is that school leaders and the community will NOT take too long in realising the potential for connected learning so that lone educators are not trying to make sense of everything on their own…”

  5. Hi Jenny

    So timely – we talked about this in the Edublogs webinar last Friday. Btw if I can help re Elluminate give me a shout – use it all the time with regional students & also with the Edublogs Webinars on Fridays am. Also various blog posts re the webinars & using aspects of Ellum


  6. Yes, others in our PLN are having this same conversation. You’ve brought up a good point that many people can’t keep up with the technical background upkeep to keep a network alive, so it might be best for them to consider paying NING.

    I also agree that NING will NOT be affected if none of the educational networks pay. They state in their blog on this topic that over 75% of their revenue comes from fewer than 10 ning networks, so they won’t miss us.

    My concerns are always about reliability over time, the ultimate cost and dedication to one brand.

    As a librarian, I think it would be right in line with what you probably already do. Maybe you buy EBSCO online services, Discovery Network or various online magazines? It would be great if school administrators would help staff fund these memberships.

    Thanks for bringing up a core reason for buying premium services from NING and explaining it so well.

    1. Yes, Sheryl, I agree that a subscription to Ning would be part of our budgeted subscriptions to services like Ebsco and the like. I can see this happening for many Web based services. It is just going to require a rethink. Instead of subscribing to just content, we’ll subscribe to services that enable us to create the content.

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