grow yourself.

by: Dawn Sweet, Instructional Development Services Manager

It came as a great surprise to us last week when Ning announced that they would begin focusing 100 percent of their company on enhancing the features and services they offer to paid Network Creator accounts and plan to phase out free services. To date very little information has been released regarding new fee structures and plans for educators.

Ning’s latest blog post states, “Since announcing that we are now focusing 100 percent of the company on enhancing the features and services we offer to paying Network Creators and plan to phase out our free service, we’ve received a lot of feedback from Network Creators. We’ve heard from free and paid, business and nonprofit, educators and artists. We’ve been interacting on Creators, reading your comments on the Ning Blog and taking in your tweets. And, we’ve been listening to all of your ideas, suggestions and concerns.

We’ll share all of the details of our new offering with you, including features and price points, on May 4.”

We know that many of you currently use the Ning platform, and like us, you are going to be looking for a new free home for your social networks.  Let me introduce you to an excellent tool that provides many of the same features you have grown to know and love with Ning, and much more!
Spruz is a free service that allows you to create your own website or social network. Since it is a free network you will see minor advertising on your page, but it is isolated to one area within your layout.

Like Ning, Spruz offers features such as, photos, videos, text boxes, discussion forums, blogs, RSS Feeds, and etc. But wait, there’s much more to this tool. . .

Customizable Layout – On Spruz you can choose from a variety of page layouts and column settings for your network. You can make a change on the fly, and all elements will update and move accordingly.

Knowledgebase – Spruz allows you to create your very own Knowledgebase to provide your members informative information customized to your network features and content. This could include but is not limited to troubleshooting information, articles, white papers, user manuals or answer to frequently asked questions.

Downloads Page – you can make a downloads page so that you can post files for the public to download from your website. Free accounts are limited to 10MB of space.

Google Site Searchbox – This element allows your site visitors to post quick messages on your site, works simular to a chat box by automaticly updating as people post.

Voting Poll- You can place this element on your network to collect feedback from your members.

HTML Code Box – allows you to add custom HTML, Javascript, Embed code, Music, Videos or anything else you can think of.

Site Activity Tracking– easily track visitors of your network, and activity in your site forums without adding additional tools or code.

File Manager – unlike similar networks, Spruz offers an easy to use File Manager. Monitor your expended file usage, organize files by folder, and upload files quickly!

Network Moderation – There are many built-in features that allow for complete and secure moderation of the activities taking place on your Spruz network.  For example, you can manually approve all memberships or require that members receive an invite from the network administrator, select which profile features are visible to members, moderate forum postings, and assign various administrative roles to your members.
Tech Tips:

by: Dawn Sweet, Instructional Development Services Manager

Creating your Spruz Network:

1.)  Log on to http://www.spruz.com

2.)  In the fields provided, enter a Site Title and a Site Address.

3.)  Click the Start button.

Enter Site Title and Address

4.)  You will be prompted to create your Website Name and Domain Name.

5.)  Once you have completed this step, click the Create My Site button.

Website Name and Domain Graphic

Enter Website Name and Domain

6.)  It will take a few moments to create your site.

7.)  A content wizard will then open to guide you through the set up process.

8.)  You will receive a verification email, which you will need to read and use to confirm your creation.

Using Page Tools to Modify Your Network

Page Tools Graphic

Any modifications you want to make to the elements, contents, or design of your network can be achieved by using the Page Tools toolbar. Click on the Manage Site link near the center of the page to open the Page Tools.

Add Element – choose this feature to add elements such as HTML code boxes, RSS Feeds, blogs, event boxes,        discussion forums, member groups, video and photo collections, voting polls, and comment boxes.

Add Widget Graphic Add Widget – this tool leads you to a variety of pre-designed widgets that you can add to your network. Widgets  provide even greater functionality to your feature rich network.

Page Layout Graphic Page Layout – allows you to adjust the layout of your page columns (5 available options), as well as, the alignment of   your network features, and widgets.

Page Options Graphic

Page Options – this tool allows you to modify your page link names and navigation behaviors.

Delete Page GraphicDelete Page – allows you to delete the current page.

Add Page Graphic

Add Page – allows you to add a new page to your network.

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