Ning reversal: will remain free for teachers

Matt Bowman · May 4, 2010 · Short URL:

Unnamed educational company to sponsor educator-founded networks.

 In mid April, Ning made the controversial announcement that it was shutting down all free networks, a move that sparked considerable punditry about the perils of freemium services.

The announcement was followed by an outcry from non-profit organizations and teachers that had invested significant time building communities, but didn't have the budget to upgrade. Over 1000 educators signed a petition to "keep Ning free for non profit and educational use."

On Tuesday, those petitioners got their way. CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote on the Ning blog that the company had "heard from many Network Creators who use Ning in theclassroom as an integral part of their curriculum. I am particularlyexcited to announce that a major education company will be sponsoringNing Mini Networks for educators in primary and secondary education. Ning will remain free for K-12 educators and their students. We’ll have details on this program soon!"

The sponsored Mini networks can be used for primary and secondary teachers, and can be used for students 13+ in high school.  Ning's terms of service will continue to limit membership on Ning networks to age 13 and up.

Ning also announced their pricing plans, which include "NingMini" for $2.29, ideal, Rosenthal says, for non-profits.

Not all educators are completely satisfied with the solution, however. Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0, is a bit leary of the sponsored solution:

The "major educational company" that has no name could be good or bad. I'm assured it will be good, but I can imagine more than one largeeducational company whose providing Ning Mini networks for free wouldbe looked upon with suspicion.  What's also not spelled out is whatkind of control that company will have, their ability to market ormessage to the creators and members of the networks, and if there willbe any advertising by that company on the networks.

Network owners who are not satisfied with their options will have the option of exporting all their data for hosting elsewhere when the new pricing plans launch in July. Owners will have 30 days from that point to choose a pricing plan or export their content.

Users can migrate their data to other services like KickApps (free to start, with tiered pricing for traffic), BuddyPress and Posterous. VatorNews correspondent Reena Jadhav says her company nuAlerts will also do a free data transfer for operators looking for a new free home.

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