Unit One: What is Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and why use it?

Unit Goals

By the completion of this unit you should be able to:

  • identify 21st Century skills and how they impact today's students
  • Define computer-supported collaborative learning

What is all the buzz about "21st Century Learning?"


With rapid globalization and constantly emerging technology, our world is changing. This means that the skills that students need when entering the real world are also changing. Teacher-centered, pencil and paper based-lessons might still have their place, but it is clear that pedagogy needs to evolve along with our changing world.

In the past decade, a movement has emerged promoting the necessity of teaching 21st century skills in classrooms. These skills retain the value of basic core literacy skills, such as reading and writing, but also expand to other essential skills that are not always prioritized in traditional teacher-focused instruction. These skills, crucial to success in the 21st century environment, include collaboration, critical-thinking, communication, and creativity.

Before proceeding, complete the following tasks:

552987.gif 1. View this short video to familiarize yourself with 21st Century Learning Skills

552987.gif 2. Read this article on 21st Century skills: File:Framework for 21st Century Skills.pdf

Reflective Journal #1:

Stop%20sign.png After viewing the above video clip and reading the brief article, reflect on the following questions in a half-page journal response. Afterward, share your thoughts and reflections face to face with a colleague.

  • How are the new 21st Century Learning skills beneficial to students?
  • Do you already incorporate 21st century learning into your classroom?
  • How do you feel about using more project-based, student-centered activities than teacher-focused instruction?

What is Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)?

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning is a strategy for educators to encourage social constructivist learning opportunities through online activities. It was originally explored as a way to use technology and the internet to make collaborative learning and the social construction of knowledge into an easier and more accessible process (Stahl 2006). When using CSCL, teachers take advantage of available technologies to engage students in collaborative social projects.

Because we know that collaboration is an essential 21st-Century skill for both academics and the workplace, CSCL becomes an enriching tool for both educators and learners. Using CSCl, students can collaborate and construct knowledge with a much broader range of peers, because location and time are no longer barriers. Collaborators no longer have to be in the same room or even in the same continent to work together on a shared task.

Stop%20sign.png Quick review:

Describe an activity that you have either used before or heard of that might count as computer-supported collaborative learning. Discuss your example with a colleague to determine how it fits the definition of CSCL and if it benefits students.


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 (pp. 409-426). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. File:CSCL English.pdf

icon-criticspicks-no-text.png Finished with Unit One? Move on to Unit Two: How - and why - should I use CSCL to teach writing?

Link back to CSCL Mini-Course