This page originally authored by Dave Johnson and Kevin Kaiser (2007).
This page has been revised by Jarrod Bell (2008) and Yvonne Chamberlain (2008).
The collaborative model underlying instruction and learning in Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is derived from Piaget's (1985) constructivism and growing social constructivism (Bauersfeld, 1995; Cobb, 1994), Vygotsky's socio-cultural theories (Newman, Griffin, & Cole, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978), and situated cognition (Lave & Wenger, 1991)(1). Constructive cognitive development and collaborative learning are a good fit with the CSCL environment. Casey and O'Connor state; "Piaget felt that interaction between peers is equally shared. This contrasts adult - child or teacher - student interactions where usually the former is in control and the latter characteristically follows what the former professes, thus not following his/her own natural learning process". The purpose of CSCL is to scaffold or support students in learning together effectively in a variety of computer supported environments and involves the cooperation of one or more people sharing a common goal through the use of computers over a network.
Classroom Applications of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Environments
CSCL is one of the most promising computer-mediated instruction models and has the potential for improving team performance through enhanced peer communication, structuring group dialogue and decision making, recording rationales for choices, and facilitating collective activities (Dede, 1996)(1). Collaborative learning requires the participation of individuals working together to build knowledge, provide feedback and support each other's learning.
The research on CSCL environments has shown this form of learning to be successful. Shell et.al reported that students in classes where CSCL communities were more fully established reported more knowledge building goals and activities, more question asking, and higher perception of collaboration with fellow students. Students’ reports of knowledge building, strategic learning, and perceptions of the classroom were also associated with their classroom achievement. Shell et al suggest that implementing practices and technology supportive of CSCL communities can foster increased student knowledge building and enhance students’ perceptions of collaboration in regular classroom environments. Research by Springer et al (1999) indicates that on average students at all levels of education learned more and had more favorable attitudes toward learning when working in small collaborative groups than individually in either technology-mediated learning environments or traditional classrooms. CSCL environments are becoming popular in online learning, classrooms, and corporate training. There are many practical examples of student / teacher based CSCL environments. Some of these examples include:
Knowledge Forum is used by both elementary teachers and graduate students. It provides a unique way of distributing knowledge from learners to teachers, and teachers to learners. By utilizing a knowledge building community consisting of both teachers and students, the community of learners access the same database and utilize a varied and extensive database of knowledge. While Knowledge Forum is rooted in constructivism, it resides heavily in an inquiry based setting where the student is more distant from the teacher in a knowledge based forum. Where constructivism is goal based, Knowledge Forum is idea based.
Wiki environments are collaborative spaces where anyone can freely contribute and edit the information within a particular wiki site. What makes wiki unique from other web based forms of information and discussion is that multiple contributors can use, edit, and place information on a topic. Some examples of Wiki environments include: Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and Wikimedia Meta-Wiki.
MediaWiki is software that powers many Wiki environments.
Course Management Systems
When used properly, Course Management Systems (CMS), also known as Learning Management Systems (LMS) can provide collaborative learning opportunities . Some of the tools in CMS's that enable collaborative learning include discussion forums, discussion management, file exchange where students can share the contents of their personal folders with other students, and real-time chat. Some examples of course management systems that include collaborative learning opportunities include:
Another example of a Student / Teacher CSCL is:
Note: The CMS accronym also often refers to Content Management Systems
Along with Learning or Course Management Systems various pieces of software enable synchronous and asynchronous communication outside of the shell of the LMS. These pieces of software are often necessary as shell tools available in a given LMS may not be suitable for voice, or video enabled chat. Other than email clients here are some examples of web and client based connective software and hardware. In the list below the letters in brackets after the link or name indicate whether it is a web based tool (w), client based and needs to be installed to a local computer (c), hardware (h), or server side software (s) or a combination depending on use.
Chat (text, audio/video)
Computer Desktop Sharing
Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) (c)
Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) (c)
Virtual Networking Client (VNC) (c)
For a complete list and links see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_remote_desktop_software
While CSCL offers many new aspects to collaborative learning, there are aspects of CSCL that pose particular issues. One such issue is the limited amount of face to face learning that is common among traditional learning practices. While CSCL can be a hybrid of both face to face and computer learning, it is mainly centered around computer interaction. The reliance on computers and technology in general poses a very real issue for CSCL. This can hinder the learning process if the teacher or student struggles using technology to collaborate learning. Ruth Wilson states, "However, some feared that increasing the quantity of course material delivered electronically may actually inhibit access: students' technical skills vary, and less competent computer users could be disadvantaged." (Wilson, 2006). In an attempt to overcome these types of obstacle, Wilson recommends, "However, barriers impeding progress were identified across all subjects and at all three institutions, namely a lack of time, skills and support available to lecturers wishing to implement their e-learning ideas. The same obstacles were identified in other UK HE institutions two years previously, and do not appear to be shifting rapidly enough to meet requirements." (Wilson, 2006) The main issue of the rapidly changing CSCL environment is one that can be overcome with proper management of the learning environment in order to keep up to the pace of CSCL.
1 Taken from X. Christine Wang, D. Michelle Hinn, and Alaina G. Kanfer Potential of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning for Learners with Different Learning Styles Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Volume 34 Number 1 pg 72-85.
Bauersfeld, H. (1995). The structuring of structures: Development and function of mathematizing as a social practice. In L. R Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in education (pp. 137-158). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Casey, Tom. O’Connor, Rory. Collaborative Learning and Computing in the Irish Secondary Education System. Dublin City University. Retrieved Jan. 27, 2007 from www.computing.dcu.ie/research/papers/MCE/1998/MCE-2198.pdf
Cobb, P. (1984). Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspective on mathematical development. Educational Psychology, 76, 1051-1058.
Dede, C. (1996). The evolution of distance education: Emerging technologies and distributed learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 70(2), 4—36.
Lave, J., & E Wenger. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Newman, D, P Griffin, C Cole. (1989). The construction zone: Working for cognitive change in school. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Shell, Duane F, J Husman, J Turner, DM Cliffel, I Nath, N Sweany. (2005) The Impact of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Communities on High School Students’ Knowledge Building, Strategic Learning and Perceptions of the Classroom. Journal of Educational Computing Research, Vol. 33(3) 327-349
Springer, L., Stanne, M.E., & Donovan, S.S. (1999). Effects of small-group leaming on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21-51.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wilson, Ruth, (2006). E-education in the UK. Texas Digital Library. Retrieved March 1, 2007 from: http://journals.tdl.org/jodi/article/view/jodi-100/90