Stahl, G., Koschmann, T. & Suthers, D. (2006). Computer-supported collaborative learning: An historical perspective. In R. K. Sawyer (ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (p./pp. 409-426), : Cambridge University Press.


Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) was defined by the authors as the merging between learning science and the way people learn together using computers. CSCL is designed to address the challenge of combining the technology and education. The significance of the study was for authors to review the history, development and future of CSCL. The authors also analyze the common understandings of different aspects related to CSCL. Learning using technology is complex because in the 1990s software forced students to learn as isolated individuals. On the other hand, when it comes to learning in small groups there are two types of group work. First, cooperative learning where partners split the work between each other, and second, collaborative leaning where partners interact and negotiate ideas together at the same time (Roschelle & Teasley, 1995). The authors categorized CSCL into three methodologies. These three methodological traditions are experiment, interactive and descriptive design. The authors concluded the study by encouraging disciplinary backgrounds and having a large number of professionals from variety of different knowledge to benefit from CSCL.

Summary of Key Points

  • The beginning of CSCL
    1. From a conference in 1983
    2. Using CSCL in artificial intelligence tutoring system in 1996
  • According to Koschmann (2002b), the traditional concept of learning are:
    1. Learning is a response to and recording of experience
    2. Learning is a change occurring over time
    3. Learning is a process that can not be available to direct inspection
  • Learning within CSCL:
  1. Learning is done through collaboration with other students
  2. Students don’t learn directly from the teacher
  3. The role of the computer is to support collaboration by providing media of communication and scaffolding for productive students interaction. Examples of media communication include: email, chat, discussion forums, videoconferencing and instant messaging.
  1. The role of technology is not to provide instruction but to promote collaborative inter action
  2. The software is designed to support and not replace teachers
  • CSCL is often conflated with E-learning
    1. Resources and materials provided have to have a motivational and interactive context in order to be effective
    2. Online teaching requires a lot of effort by teachers such as motivating students and providing guidelines
    3. CSCL stresses collaboration among students where they express questions
    4. CSCL is also used with face-to-face collaboration and doesn’t have to be in the form of E-learning

Design Principles

  • The purpose for design in CSCL is to create:
    1. Artifacts that encourage the practice of being a team member
    2. Activities that enhance the meaning of collaborative learning
    3. Environments that ensure working as a group
  • CSCL design requires more multifaceted forms of design, such as:
  1. Bringing in expertise from various disciplines
  2. Theories from different majors
  3. Practices from various disciplines such as:
    • Design that address curriculum: pedagogical and didactic design
    •  Resources: information sciences and communication sciences
    •  Participation structures: Interaction design
    •  Tools: Design studies
    •  Surrounding space: Architecture

 Discussion Questions

  • 1) Can CSCL replace the role of teachers in classrooms?
  • 2) How did CSCL start?
  • 3) What are the issues related to the merging of technology and education?

Additional Resources

Gerry Stahl’s professional & personal web network http://gerrystahl.net/cscl/index.html


  1. Koschmann, T. (2002b). Dewey’s critique of Thorndike’s behaviorism. Paper presented at the AERA 2002, New Orleans, LA.
  2. Roschelle, J., & Teasley, S. (1995). The construction of shared knowledge in collaborative problem solving. In C. O’Malley (Ed.), Computer-supported collaborative learning (pp. 69-197). Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag.



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