Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is an emerging branch of the learning sciences. It is concerned with studying how people can learn together with the help of computers.
As we will see in this chapter, such a simple statement conceals considerable complexity. The interplay of learning with technology turns out to be quite intricate. The inclusion of collaboration, computer mediation, and distance education has problematized the very notion of learning and called into question prevailing assumptions about how to study it.
Like many active fields of scientific research, CSCL has a complex relationship to established disciplines, it evolves in ways that are hard to pinpoint, and it includes important contributions that seem incompatible. The field of CSCL has a long history of controversy about its theory, methods, and definition. Furthermore, it is important to view CSCL as a vision of what may be possible with computers and of what kinds of research should be conducted, rather than as an established body of broadly accepted laboratory and classroom practices. We start from some popular understandings of the issues of CSCL and gradually reveal its more complex nature.
CSCL Within Education
As the study of particular forms of learning, CSCL is intimately concerned with education. It considers all levels of formal education from kindergarten through graduate study as well as informal education, such as in museums.