Once the group activity is complete, you may be required to summarise the outcomes. Summarising is a very useful skill to learn. Try practising it when you are participating in forums for personal use. Here are a few practical points to consider when summarising online forum posts:
- The summary should represent all contributions, and not simply your own views.
- Try to correctly interpret the comments made (do not embellish the group’s outcomes with your own thoughts).
- You should extract the key points made, and draw out conclusions.
- Short, concise points containing the key pieces of information will work better than an extended piece of writing.
In writing the summary, you will also need to have understood what parameters were agreed at the start of the discussion.
- Is it a summary of what everyone thought?
- Is it a summary with a decision to be made?
- What did you agree about making the decisions?
In this section we considered how group discussions could be managed online, explored some differences between online and face-to-face group discussions, recognised some of the difficulties of managing online group discussions and ways of overcoming them, and reflected on how to summarise online group discussions. There is no simple ‘magic formula’ for online group activities, but we hope that the guidance provided here will help to improve your own participation and practice, and benefit you in your postgraduate studies.