Which Of These 3 Private Social Networks Is Right For You?

There are boatloads of tools out there that can give you a private social network. From Edmodo to the upcoming Facebook Groups For Schools, there’s plenty of options. Most are free, but some are better than others. So we decided to comb through as many as possible in order to figure out which one is best, and for whom.

And rather than just list off these options in the form of a typical list (that’s so last week), we built a fun graphic that’s perfect for anyone considering a private social network for their school, classroom, or organization of any size!

Want even more? We take a closer look at a slew of other private social network options in the upcoming July issue of the Edudemic Magazine. Want it for a discounted price? Just subscribe today and you’ll get instant access as soon as it’s out!

BuddyPress

Free, but includes steep learning curve

BuddyPress is a free WordPress-based social network in-a-box. Or at least that’s what they claim on BuddyPress.org. I’ve personally installed about 4 different BuddyPress instances over the past year for various friends, work, and fun. I love staying on the bleeding edge of technology to see how it can connect people. BuddyPress does that… sort of. Unfortunately, it’s only been until recently that some high quality BuddyPress-enabled themes have been released. Check out Bounce as it’s one of the first responsive BuddyPress themes that features pretty much every bell and whistle you could need.

So the new themes are nice, but they’re not enough. BuddyPress could do a big chunk of the core functionality of Facebook but it’s just…not there yet. You can’t easily add images or video to your timeline. You have to rely on an array of plugins to increase functionality like Facebook Connect, and you have to be pretty technically skilled in order to use it. I’ve debated launching a BuddyPress instance for Edudemic but every time I get far enough along into building it, I get flat out exhausted and realize that it’s just too much work. I’ve (sorta) got a life, after all.

Edmodo

Free, easy to use, highly recommended

If you’re looking for a turn-key solution that’s been proven to work, you’ll need to know about Edmodo. I’ve seen Edmodo in action, used it as part of a class, and even examined the user-experience / functionality as part of an analytical classroom project. The good news: it all came out excellent. The only bad news I can think of: it looks like Facebook. However, it doesn’t act like Facebook. Students can’t chat or cyberbully, invite others to join their class, or really get up to much of any trouble.

In my experience, students happily use Edmodo as it was actually intended: to learn and communicate. It’s easy for the teacher to pull all the strings, enable / disable functionality, and for students to feel like they’re part of a safe online environment. What more could you want? In this day and age of online insecurity, it’s nice to know Edmodo has turned private social networking into something actually useful for educators.

Facebook Groups For Schools

Free, social, not great for actual learning

In a bid to “get back to its roots,” Facebook launched Groups For Schools. However, what it really did was simply launch a walled garden meant to take on Craigslist and itself. Groups For Schools are basically message boards where anyone with the correct .edu email address can talk to anyone else with that .edu address. Useful for selling a couch or finding a date, not useful for learning. I guess it could be used to find a tutor and therefore learn but that’s a stretch.

Facebook Groups For Schools has not quite matured to the point of Edmodo and I don’t think it ever will. So, use it if you want to quickly increase online social interaction at your school. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a solution for your single classroom.

8 Comments

  1. Pingback: mcmaken — web 2.0 - Thing 5 — RSS Feeds and Google Reader

  2. John Mansel-Pleydell

    June 25, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Wondering if you had tried Schoology? What about Moodle. I have been looking at these as well as the ones you suggest. As to looking like Facebook, I see that as a plus. Teachers will be more likely to use a tool that they are familiar with and that has been my limited experience with Schoology.

  3. Pingback: Which Of These 3 Private Social Networks Is Right For You? | Tommy found a real book.

  4. Kris Nielsen

    June 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    You forgot http://www.the21stcenturyteacher.com — a startup network where the teachers who sign up are building the site as they go. Check it out!

  5. Jeremy Greene

    June 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Ning is way better than Edmodo from my experience. Tried Edmodo in the Spring and was not impressed. I chose it over Schoology after reading a few reviews of both. But if you’re just doing social networking activities I recommend Ning and get the free service for educators put out by Pearson. Enjoy!

  6. Study Help Site

    July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    You should also check out http://www.StudyHelpSite.net – new, free website for teachers, students and parents. It is much more than a social network but has many of the desirable aspects of social networks (online communities that allow online discussion). The StudyHelpSite.net is designed educators, students and parents in mind.

    Teachers plan in-class activities and assignments, attaching documents, lesson videos, text book references and web links. These are then available to students and parents. Each user has a unique login allowing a unique experience for each user. Every user will see the content that is related to them. All “events” can have online discussions, allowing online discussion centered around particular topics.

    Give it a Try.

  7. Shahzad Saeed

    November 14, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Thanks Katie for wonderful writing. As you said there is a slight leaning curve for BuddyPress but it is extensible. Like you said there still there is no way to add images and videos on the timeline which is a must have feature for multimedia. But there are some great plugins available like BuddyPress Media which add almost every multimedia functionality similar to other social network like Facebook and Google+ provide.
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/buddypress-media/

  8. Shahzad Saeed

    November 14, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Thanks Katie for wonderful writing. As you said there is a slight leaning curve for BuddyPress but taking the fact that BuddyPress is free and extensible without any limits. Like you said there still there is no way to add images and videos on the timeline which is a must have feature for social network. But there are some great plugins available like BuddyPress Media which add almost every multimedia functionality similar to other social network like Facebook and Google+ provide.
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/buddypress-media/