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Succeeding in postgraduate study
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5.6.4 Managing forum discussion threads

One of the most difficult things to do in any group work is to keep the group focused and on track. In face-to-face settings, stronger voices may try to make their opinion heard, and the conversation could go off at a tangent. The same can also happen in online spaces. If you are facilitating a group activity, you need to manage the threads in a way that will succeed in maintaining focus. You may be more successful in engaging participants if you agree some ‘ground rules’ as part of your strategy for managing discussion topics. At the beginning of the task, agree how threads will be managed. This will also make summarising the task or group activity much easier.

Activity 10 Managing forum discussion threads

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

In order to keep your task focused, match up the options for how you might manage conversations. Using the following two lists, match each numbered item (solution) with the correct letter (scenario).

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. 3. Agree on one point or topic per thread, and encourage people to comment in the appropriate thread.

  2. 4. Encourage one thread per discussion point, and set a limit to the number of threads.

  3. 2. Set priorities at the outset. Decide whether the majority will rule, or whether it would be better to gather agreements and disagreements in different threads.

  4. 1. Start off your forum with threads to begin discussions on different topics.

  • a.C. There are so many differing points of view, and the group cannot reach a consensus.

  • b.D. You need to organise discussion by topic.

  • c.A. In one thread there are so many points that it is difficult to keep track of the discussion. Comments are starting to go off at a tangent.

  • d.B. There are a large number of threads. They are becoming fragmented and it is making it difficult to pull the relevant points together in one place.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = c
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = a
  • 4 = b


Managing comments may sometimes prove to be difficult. If you are facilitating a group activity, you may need to make some decisions and remind the group to keep on track with the agreed rules. One way forward could be for the majority view to hold.