Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning: Best Practices and Principles for Instructors

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning: Best Practices and Principles for Instructors

Kara L. Orvis (Aptima Inc., USA) and Andrea L.R. Lassiter (Minnesota State University, USA)
Indexed In: SCOPUS View 2 More Indices
Release Date: January, 2008|Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 352|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-753-9
ISBN13: 9781599047539|ISBN10: 1599047535|EISBN13: 9781599047553|ISBN13 Softcover: 9781616926724
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Decades of research have shown that student collaboration in groups doesn't just happen; rather it needs to be a deliberate process facilitated by the instructor. Promoting collaboration in virtual learning environments presents a variety of challenges.

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning: Best Practices & Principles for Instructors answers the demand for a thorough resource on techniques to facilitate effective collaborative learning in virtual environments. This book provides must-have information on the role of the instructor in computer-supported collaborative learning, real-world perspectives on virtual learning group collaboration, and supporting learning group motivation.

Reviews and Testimonials

This book takes an applied perspective of what the instructor can do to identify and manage learner-learner relationships in a CSCL environment.

– Kara L. Orvis, Aptima Inc., USA and Andrea L.R. Lassiter, Minnesota State University, USA

A wealth of references complement this collaborative effort by nearly 30 researchers, scientists, and educators.

– Book News Inc. (2008)

This book occupies a significant place in online education literature. It is based on empirical research supported by extensive, critically-analysed literature reviews that identify gaps and suggest areas of further research. The strong empirical basis of this text sets it apart from most similar texts in the discipline, which are based on secondary or anecdotal evidence. Moreover, the cutting-edge topics covered and the authoritativeness of the diverse and highly-qualified contributors make it essential reading for anyone in academia, government departments and research centres engaged in the theory and practice of computer-supported learning.

– Stephen M. Mutula, University of Zululand, Kwadlangezwa, South Africa Online Information Review, Vol. 32, No. 3

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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In collaborative learning, interaction among learners is essential for effective knowledge acquisition and increased understanding. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) environments often inhibit or causes problems with learner-learner interactions. This book takes an applied perspective of what the instructor can do to identify and manage learner-learner relationships in a CSCL environment. This information will provide insight to both corporate trainers and K-12 educators on how instructors can promote appropriate and positive learner-learner interaction in CSCL environments.

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) allows group learning to take place in computer-mediated environments. To receive the full benefit of social learning, collaborative learners must interact with each other, share information, and coordinate actions. Unfortunately, research has indicated computer mediation contributes to potential barriers to learner-learner interaction. Specifically, members of computer-mediated teams tend to experience slower development of trust, cohesion, efficacy, and shared cognition; all of which impact whether learners interact effectively. A concern for instructional developers and designers is how to foster effective learner-learner interactions in CSCL environments.

In 2006 Orvis and Lassiter wrote a chapter which proposed that instructors have the ability to influence and promote effective learner-learner interactions by identifying problems and stepping in to facilitate their processes. However, an assertion was made that CSCL course developers and instructors have not focused on the instructor’s role of promoting learner-learner interaction. Rather, attention has been paid to the choice of technologies used to support this interaction, even though research on virtual teams has found that a leader is able to influence the processes (e.g., coordination, information sharing) and relationships (e.g., cohesion, efficacy, trust) between team members (Zaccaro, Ardison, & Orvis, 2004; Orvis, 2004). That chapter incorporated virtual team and CSCL research to focus on the role of the CSCL instructor as a promoter, facilitator, and manager of positive learner-learner relationships and interactions. This was in part due to the minimal amount of published research on the topic of the instructor and how they are able to facilitate learner-learner interactions in a CSCL environment.

The Contribution of This Book

The purpose of this book was to pull together chapters which focus on the role of instructors in promoting learner-learner interactions in a CSCL environment. Our vision for the book was twofold: First, to provide a document which would help corporate trainers and K-12 educators learn how to promote appropriate and positive learner-learner interaction in CSCL environments, second, to promote additional research in the area of instructor-group interactions. To accomplish this goal, we bring together academics and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including business, communication, education, psychology, and information technology. In addition, this is a multinational effort with contributions from the USA, Greece, Poland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, we have incorporated the perspectives of practitioners, government researchers, and academia.

The Organization of This Book

This book has 14 chapters, divided into four sections. Here we briefly describe each section and its accompanying chapters.

Section I: Setting the Stage
The first section of the book includes two chapters which offer interesting findings and ideas to consider throughout the rest of the book.
In Chapter I, Traci Sitzman of the Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab in Alexandria Virginia, Katherine Ely of George Mason University, and Robert Wisher of the Department of Defense present results from a meta-analysis that compares the effectiveness of Web-based instruction (WBI) to classroom instruction (CI). They identify which instructional methods incorporated in WBI are the critical factors in determining trainees’ knowledge acquisition. Among those instructional methods were providing the appropriate kind of learner-learner interactions. Based on their meta-analytic findings, the authors of this chapter make several recommendations for web-based course design.
In Chapter II, Orlando Olivares, a professor at Bridgewater State College examines the similarities and differences between cooperative and collaborative learning. As part of this effort, he provides a brief history of CSCL and examines CSCL in the context of cooperative and collaborative learning. Dr. Olivares also make suggestions for how the instructor should approach the digital classroom based on the conceptual differences between collaborative and cooperative learning.

Section II: Student Development Case Studies
Section II is made up of five chapters which describe and draw conclusions from case studies involving CSCL environments. Although each chapter draws conclusions for what instructors could do to promote learner-leaner interactions, each case is supported by different technologies and/or focuses on different instructional methods. This section highlights the variety of approaches to studying this area of research.
In Chapter III, Stephanie Cawthon and Alycia Harris from Walden University report student and instructor reactions concerning how social factors influence learning outcomes during an online research lab. They use Community of Practice theory as a lens for this exploration. The chapter includes strategies used by the instructor, perspectives from students, and recommendations for ways to overcome obstacles to a successful online research community.
In Chapter IV, Stephanie Brooke of University of Phoenix presents the case method as one pedagogical approach for teaching online courses and promoting collaboration between learners. Pedagogical approaches to working with novice and seasoned online students are addressed. Further, the benefits of using the case method to promote learning in the virtual classroom are explained.
In Chapter V, Evelyn Johnson of Boise State University and Jane Pitcock of Walden University present a brief overview of the importance of social learning theories and existing research that support learner-learner interaction as an important aspect of learning. They then report and discuss findings from a qualitative study examining the use of an ecological assessment tool to evaluate an online course’s ability to support learner-learner interaction. Throughout the chapter, they focus on the instructor’s role in supporting learner-learner interactions.
In Chapter VI Erman Yukselturk and Kursat Cagiltay of the Middle East Technical University monitor the input, processes and outcomes of a selection of online learning groups, through semi-structure interviews. They focus on describing how such groups work collaboratively, how to facilitate them and what makes work in such groups satisfactory and successful. They find that group homogeneity plays a major role on successful group work as does the opportunity for face-to-face communication.
In the final chapter of this section, Donna Ashcraft of Clarion University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Treadwell of West Chester University examine problems instructors and students experience in collaborative learning by drawing on social psychological literature and their personal experiences in implementing on-line collaborative learning. They make propositions for how instructors should manage learner-learner interactions though a social psychology lens. The authors draw on their experiences with CORAL (Collaborative On-line Research and Learning) in order to demonstrate these phenomenon and recommendations.

Section III: Professional Development Case Studies
CSCL environments are not exclusive to the K-12 or college courses. CSCL is increasingly being used to develop professionals in the workplace. The selection of chapters in Section III present approaches and lessons learned within the context of CSCL professional development efforts.
In Chapter VIII, Ellen Nuffer of Keene State College examines principles of adult learning and cognition as well as theories and perspectives on collaboration that inform best practices in supporting faculty as they find creative ways to work together. These best practices are examined in their applications to faculty collaboration using course management system software. Four projects are described and analyzed. Recommendations are then discussed.
In Chapter VIIII, Eileen B. Entin of Aptima, Inc., Jason Sidman of Aptima, Inc., and Lisa Neal of eLearn Magazine discuss considerations and tradeoffs in designing and developing an online teamwork skills training program for geographically distributed instructors and students. The chapter focuses on supporting active engagement of learners and meaningful and thoughtful learner-learner interactions for a professional training program. The authors propose lessons learned in leveraging the advantages of both self-paced and group learning, providing opportunities to practice the teamwork concepts being trained, creating social presence, and promoting interaction and reflection among the course members.

Section IV: Diversity in CSCL Environments
Diversity is a topic which is becoming increasingly important as technology enables collaboration to take place over barriers of time and space. Multinational collaborations offer an additional challenge to learner-learner interactions and instructors in CSCL environments. The fourth section of this book offers three chapters which investigate the influence of diversity on real world student collaborations.
In Chapter X, Michailidou Anna and Economides Anastasios of the University of Macedonia discuss the impact of diversity (culture, gender, race, class and age) in learner-learner interactions in CSCL teams. They pull from the virtual teams literature and assert that instructors must take into consideration the factors that influence individuals’ diversity and invent new ways to implement successful collaboration, particularly in cross-cultural learning collaborations.
In Chapter XI, Janice Whatley of the University of Salford, Elena Zaitseva of Liverpool John Moores University, and Danuta Zakrzewska of the Technical University of Lodz introduce peer reviewing as a form of collaborative online learning which encourages students to engage in reflective critical evaluation of each other’s work through participation in online discussion. They describe two cases in which this method was applied and discuss challenges particular to a multi-national collaborative setting.
In Chapter XII Derrick L. Cogburn of Syracuse University and Nanette S. Levinson of American University report on a nine year case study of collaborative learning in cross-national and cross-university virtual teams. They define a triple track approach to the opportunities and challenges of cross-cultural collaborative learning. The authors analyze alternative delivery modes, identify best practices, and highlight critical success factors including trust-building, cross-cultural communication, and collaborative learning champions. Finally, they examine trends such as increasing cross-sector collaboration outside of academe and make suggestions for additional research.

Section V: Looking Forward
The chapters in this section offer some interesting research areas moving forward. Specifically that of shared cognition in CSCL environments and the role of instructor assessment in managing learner-learner interactions.
In Chapter XIII, Marissa L. Shuffler of the University of North Carolina and Gerald F. Goodwin of the Army Research Institute explore the concept of shared mental models within the context of CSCL environments. They present the challenges that a dispersed environment brings to establishing a shared understanding among online learners and explore what instructors can do to address challenges and facilitate the development of shared knowledge amongst learners.
In Chapter XIV John LeBaron of Western Carolina University and Carol Bennett, the WRESA Elementary & Middle Grades Curriculum Coordinator, discuss the issue of self-assessment in CSCL environments. The chapter outlines recommendations on how instructors can assess whether they are actually managing leaner-leaner engagement in the ways they intended. They advocate the use of multiple data sources collected over time. This chapter offers an interesting area for further research.

Though this book highlights research being conducted on the instructor’s role in CSCL environments, much of that research is anecdotal in nature. Although we learn valuable lessons from these studies and gather additional insight into the problems facing CSCL instructors and proposed solutions, we propose that there is also a role for more rigorous research. Broad categories of research may include: • Identifying what about learner-leaner interactions in collaborative learning environments are important for individual level learning • Identifying what about these interactions are important for collective or group learning • Examining the influence of dispersion and computer-mediation on learner-learner processes • Further specifying ways in which an instructor can effectively facilitate learner-learner processes