For those of you who are following the updates about the new Ning business plans, centered around the company's interest in eliminating their free services, an announcement was made this week. Ning is now offering several layers of services -- Ning Mini, Ning Plus and Ning Pro -- which each include a core set of services. I encourage you to preview the side-by-side comparison of these paid plans.
While there is no integrated "free" option for educators extended through Ning, they announced that they've received an offer from an educational company to fund free "Ning Mini" networks (normally priced at $2.95/month or $19.95/year) for K-12 educators. The Ning Mini networks exclude the "groups" option and allow for embedded videos but there is no option to upload (which could create challenges or add complexity to student-generated content projects with video).
I'm feeling disappointed, as the lack of free networks is still a move against open, educational experimentation across the board. And there is a message embedded in the support of free networks for K-12 with an exclusion of higher ed completely (which isn't even acknowledged in the Ning announcement).
To learn more, read the original Ning announcement, the FAQ, and Steve Hargadon's insightful and helpful interpretation.