One of our StoryChaser educators (jpatten) posted a great question in the forum on the StoryChasers learning community, and because I want to share a rather long answer I am posting it here. The question was:
I will be implementing a Federal EETT grant this year with some of my 5th grade teachers (science). Part of that grant communication component is going to be the development of a online learning network. Originally, I had planned on using Ning. Now I hear Wesley mention that he feels Drupal has some advantages over Ning. I’m curious as to what people feel some of the advatages are of using Drupal over Ning?
This is a GREAT question, and relates closely to some questions Miguel Guhlin asked in response to a post I shared titled “How can our school set up a team blog for teachers?” In that post I was outlining options for using either WordPress or Blogger as a platform for a teacher team blog, which at some point might also include students. This question of “Drupal versus Ning” focuses on the type of learning community is similar to the “WordPress or Ning” question, because Ning is included in both questions and it is important to differentiate not only platform functionality, but also the goals and purposes which are served (or can be served) through each environment.
Before I answer Miguel’s question, I want to point out several things. First, my own experiences creating and managing learning communities up to this point have been limited to using Ning, Blogger, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress. The last three I mentioned are all open source projects, Ning and Blogger are not.
Blogger and WordPress are designed to have more narrow functionality: Blogging. Both Ning and Drupal have been designed for different purposes, but both are well-suited for people who want to create and facilitate online learning communities. Joomla is a great tool, but from what I’ve read, heard and experienced it is less oriented toward learning community building than Ning or Drupal.
In a comment to my post about platforms for teacher team blogs, Miguel asked:
1) How easy is it to backup a Ning you’ve created if you decide to walk away from Ning?
2) How easy is it for you to setup a Ning on your own server if you do decide to walk away?
3) Does Ning have an education only location that at least has the obligatory “.org” label so that it won’t be blocked, unlike the “ning.com” that is in some districts?
4) How many administrators can you setup on a Ning?
These questions get to the heart of some differences not only between Ning and WordPress, but also Ning and Drupal. As an open source project, the content within a Drupal site is much more portable and flexible. You can’t work with data in Ning directly on the backend site, like directly in mySQL, as you can with Drupal. Drupal is more complex to setup and configure, but is MUCH more flexible. Particularly because you have open access to your data, Drupal is the more flexible platform if at some point (as Miguel says) you want to pick up your and move it elsewhere.
I don’t think you can “set up a Ning on your own server,” to answer Miguel’s second question. You can register a custom domain and have your Ning site resolve to that domain, but the Ning itself and its data will reside on the Ning servers from what I understand.
Ning does NOT have an “education only” location that is treated more generously by school content filters. Many schools I work with here in the midwestern US block all Ning sites, and we’ve had difficulty getting school IT folks in some cases to just unblock our Ning subdomain (http://celebrateoklahoma.ning.com) for our statewide oral history project. In some cases content filtering systems apparently won’t let a subdomain be unblocked, in other cases IT people don’t know how to do this, and in others they simply don’t want to. In terms of the administrator question, I think you can setup as many administrators as you want on a Ning, but there are some features which are ONLY accessible by the person who created it initially.
I think the biggest differentiator, in addition to needing your own server or commercial host to run Drupal, is that you need to be willing to do some tweaking and configuring if you opt for Drupal that involves using ftp to upload modules, configuring them, and doing more technical back-end stuff than you need with Ning. Ning is setup so just about anyone can create and manage a website. Drupal requires developers to be directly involved. That developer can be YOU, but the question is whether or not you want to be or get that “geeky” to tweak configurations, modules, etc.
The Drupal Education Group is a good resource to consult when looking at Drupal for specific education settings. If you are wanting more of a learning management system to be used in student courses, you certainly want to consider Moodle instead of Drupal. My post from June “Moodle as ‘the killer app'” has a great conversation thread discussing Drupal versus Moodle, and John Jones’ presentation on Drupal from mid-June in Wichita (available as a podcast) is also a good resource on this discussion I can point you to.
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.
On this day..
- Contrasting Video Messages: Goodnight iPad and Cheryl and Morgan: Learning Independence - 2013
- Professionally Mobilize Your WordPress Blog with PluginBuddy Mobile - 2012
- The Hobbit in Five Minutes [Video] - 2011
- Look for innovations which change the script - 2010
- A delicious facelift, skypecast drawbacks, and a new Flickr site - 2008
- links for 2008-07-31 - 2008
- Drupal dabbling begins - 2008
- Glimpsing the future of television - 2007
- Whitelisting websites - what a pain! - 2007
- Quick iTunes Backup - 2007