Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is a research topic on supporting collaborative learning with the help of computers. It is related to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW).

CSCL supports and facilitates group processes and group dynamics in ways that are not achievable by face-to-face, but they are not designed to replace face-to-face communication. This type of learning is typically tailored for use by multiple learners working at the same workstation or across networked machines. The purpose of CSCL is to scaffold or support students in learning together effectively. This system can support communicating ideas and information, accessing information and documents, and providing feedback on problem-solving activities.

The most resilient features of the evolving field of CSCL include an emphasis on collaborative aspects of learning as well as individual ones, an identification of social interactions as an important element of knowledge construction, a focus on the learner(s) and their activities, a shift towards technological environments that promote authentic group learning, and finally, an increasing role for all technological artifacts that form a global network. People promoting CSCL generally target the acquisition of higher-order thinking skills, problem solving abilities, epistemic fluency and the collaborative improvement of knowledge within a field of practice. This demands the analysis of processes (rather than just products) within complex and authentic contexts. CSCL is much more ambitious than previous approaches of ICT-support in education. It is therefore more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of CSCL activities. Nonetheless, all actors involved in ‘e-learning’, and more specifically in CSCL processes, – from policy makers to everyday practitioners – need to have evidence of whether, how and when expected improvements in learning take place. Significant effort is required to provide systematic evaluation of innovative projects, the specific experiences within an action/research framework, the new CSCL systems developed, and so on.