Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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Succeeding in postgraduate study

5.6 Engaging in collaborative group work online

Working in a group is an activity which some people really enjoy, and others find difficult. Working online adds another dimension to this.

Activity 9 Some advantages and disadvantages of online collaborative group work

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Think about some of the advantages and disadvantages of working in an online group in an asynchronous learning environment. What do you think these might be? Note these down, and then reflect on the discussion that follows.

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If you already have some experience with online group work, you may have picked up a few of the points listed below. Even so, it’s still worth taking a look at these and reflecting on them further. We’ll be exploring some of the issues shortly.


  • Convenience: you are able to participate wherever you are.
  • Potential to be more equitable: some people will prefer the privacy of the online environment.
  • Allows for a considered response: you are not put on the spot to give a reply, you can take your time, and you can be more reflective about your posts.
  • There will be an instant record of the discussion, so there is no need to take notes.


  • Unless you are using video conferencing software, you are unable to use verbal or physical flags like body language and facial expressions.
  • There will not be an immediate response.
  • Non-participation by some people.
  • Confusing threads: people starting new topics, not making themselves clear, or multiple points in one post.
  • Techniques that work face-to-face often do not work online (e.g. humour or irony), so how you phrase your response is very important.

Let’s explore issues that may arise around participation, asking difficult questions, dealing with different views and approaches, and organising and managing discussion threads on forums.

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