It would be great if everyone spent 12 hours per week (6 hrs per topic x 2), but at least 1 hr per day is pretty realistic.
The discussions are really valuable but find a strategy that works for you. Do a close reading on a few and participate. Skim the rest. I use Delicious or Diigo to save bookmarks and notes about sites that I would like to revisit later. That way I am more comfortable skimming them, rather than feeling pressured to read the entire article. This is one way to speed up the process and look at many more links. This will help you learn to be selective in finding important references.
The group projects are cooperative – the good parts of group work while minimizing the bad parts. 2-3 people contribute. The deliverable is better than individual work but without the usual problems. While there are points for cooperative effort, each contributor is graded individually.
Most people don’t work alone in the real world. More people are having to work together online. This is a really good introduction to online cooperation to get results.