CSCL — Computer Supported Collaborative Learning

CSCL — Computer Supported Collaborative Learning

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is considered as one of the most promising innovations to improve teaching and learning with the help of modern information and communication technology.

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) refers to learning situations mediated by technologies where small groups of 3 to 5 students are exposed to interaction in order to solve a complex unstructured problem or are required to design a project.

Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000

Furthermore, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is an innovative educational tool that brings the learners together and can offer creative activities of intellectual exploration and social interaction through taking advantage of exciting potential of Internet resources for significant transformation of learning.

Put briefly, CSCL is focused on how collaborative learning supported by technology can enhance peer interaction and work in groups, and how collaboration and technology facilitate sharing and distributing of knowledge and expertise among community members.

Hence, learning through collaboration means learning through interaction. Research in CSCL has established following different interaction models.

  • teacher-student interaction and students’ interaction in their work groups;
  • student interaction in work groups and intra-group emotional support;
  • student interaction in work groups and collaborative learning;
  • online collaborative tools and students’ interaction in their work groups.

Forms of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

Currently, CSCL is used in instructional plans in classrooms both traditional and online from primary school to post-graduate institutions. Different forms in CSCL may be used are as following.

  1. One of the most common approaches to CSCL is collaborative writing. Though the final product can be anything from a research paper, a Wikipedia entry, or a short story, the process of planning and writing together encourages students to express their ideas and develop a group understanding of the subject matter.  
  2. Interactive Tools like blogs, interactive whiteboards, and custom spaces that combine free writing with communication tools can be used to share work, form ideas, and write synchronously.
  3. Technology-mediated discourse refers to debates, discussions, and other social learning techniques involving the examination of a theme using technology. For example, wikis are a way to encourage discussion among learners, but other common tools include mind maps, survey systems, and simple message boards.
  4. Group exploration refers to the shared discovery of a place, activity, environment or topic among two or more people. Students do their exploring in an online environment, use technology to better understand a physical area, or reflect on their experiences together through the Internet. 
  5. Virtual worlds like Second Life and WhyVille as well as synchronous communication tools like Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams etc. may be used for this kind of learning. Educators may use Orchestration Graphs to define activities and roles that students must adopt during learning, and analyzing afterwards the learning process.
  6. Problem-based learning is a popular instructional activity that lends itself well to CSCL because of the social implications of problem solving. Complex problems call for rich group interplay that encourages collaboration and creates movement toward a clear goal.
  7. When Web 2.0 applications (wikis, blogs, RSS feed, collaborative writing, video sharing, social networks, etc.) are used for computer-supported collaborative learning, specific strategies should be used for their implementation, especially regarding (1) adoption by teachers and students; (2) usability and quality in use issues; (3) technology maintenance; (4) pedagogy and instructional design; (5) social interaction between students; (6) privacy issues; and (7) information/system security.

Role of e-Tutor in CSCL

For effective implementation of CSCL, students need (among other things) an e-tutor who, acting as a facilitator, coordinates discussions, promotes participation, stimulates interaction, and helps to face any problem or difficulty that arises during group work.

Most obviously, the instructor must introduce the CSCL activity in a thoughtful way. The design should clearly define the learning outcomes and assessments for the activity. In order to assure that learners are aware of these objectives and that they are eventually met proper administration of both resources and expectations is necessary to avoid learner overload.

Once the activity has begun, the teacher is charged with kick-starting and monitoring discussion to facilitate learning. He or she must also be able to mitigate technical issues for the class. Lastly, the instructor must engage in assessment, in whatever form the design calls for, in order to ensure objectives have been met for all students.

Unfortunately, most e-tutors have no experience with the techniques used in CSCL. Generally, teachers with experience in teaching traditional face-to-face classes are assigned the task of CSCL, assuming that they only need to learn to use technology and that the techniques used in the traditional classroom are equally applicable in CSCL. Focusing exclusively on technology undoubtedly comes from an erroneous vision because, according to Olivares (2007), technology should be seen as only a tool within the reach of e-tutors, being first of all necessary to understand the behaviors of teachers that facilitate computer-supported collaborative learning, and then whether to look for those technologies that support their work.


Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Stanne, M. B. (2000). Cooperative learning methods: A meta-analysis. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.


Phases of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)

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