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!
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.
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.
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.