93 Roles in Online Discussion Groups

Roles in Online Discussion Groups

Structuring Asynchronous Discussion Groups through the use of Role Assignment

“With respect to the introduction of roles, it can be concluded that introducing roles is a valuable structuring tool, especially if roles are introduced at the start of the discussions and faded out at a later stage” (De Wever et al., 2009,  p. 185).


Defined Roles: 

  1. Starter - The starter is required to start the discussions, to add new points for other students to build upon, and to give new impulses when discussions taper off.
  2. Moderator - The role of the moderator consists of monitoring the discussions, asking critical questions, and probing others’ opinions and thoughts.
  3. Theoretician - Students assigned the role of the theoretician are required to introduce theoretical information and to ensure that all relevant theoretical concepts were used in the discussion.
  4. Source Searcher - The role of the source searcher consists of seeking external information about the discussion topics to stimulate other students to go beyond the scope of the available text (or coursework).
  5. Summarizer - The summarizer is expected to post interim summaries during the discussions and a final synopsis at the end, which would focus on identifying dissonance and harmony between the key discussion messages and concluding.
Overall, any student could be allowed to perform these roles and corresponding activities, however, students with a specific role were asked to pay explicit attention to the activities related to their assigned role.




De Wever, B. B., Van Keer, H. H., Schellens, T. T., & Valcke, M. M. (2009). Structuring asynchronous discussion groups: the impact of role assignment and self-assessment on students’ levels of knowledge construction through social negotiation. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(2), 177-188


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