Visions of CSCL: eight provocations for the future of the field

Alyssa Friend Wise, Baruch B. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The field of CSCL is at a critical moment in its development. Internally we face issues of fragmentation and questions about what progress is being made. Externally the rise of social media and a variety of research communities that study the interactions within it raise questions about our unique identity and larger impact on the world. To illuminate the complex issues involved and the multiple perspectives that exist on them, we conducted an iterative and generative consultation with members of the CSCL community through individual interviews and public interactive presentations. The result is a series of eight provocations for the field, each presented as a dialogue between the Provocateur/Provocatrice (who seeks to shake up the status quo) and the Conciliator (who seeks to build on the achievements of our current traditions). The provocations address the debated need for six things: one conceptual framework to unite our diverse tools and theories (#1), prioritization of learner agency over collaborative scripting (#2), scrupulous scrutiny of when “collaboration” and “community” are said to exist (#3), the pursuit of computational approaches to understand collaborative learning (#5), learning analytics and adaptive support to be a top priority in the field (#6), and the expansion of our focus to seriously address social media and large-scale learning environments (#7). In addition, the provocations highlight two areas in which perhaps we should desist: the attempt to reconcile analytical and interpretative approaches to understanding collaboration (#4), and the goal of achieving tangible change in the education system (#8). There are no resolutions offered in this paper; the interchanges presented are designed to lay out the complex constellation of issues involved and can be considered a dialogue that we are still in the process of having with ourselves as individuals and together as a community. We stress the urgency and importance for the field of CSCL to take up these questions and tensions, and critically, to work towards decisions and resultant actions. Our future as a scientific community — our very existence and identity, depends on it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-467
Number of pages45
JournalInternational Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Adaptive support
  • CSCL
  • CSCL methodology
  • CSCL theory
  • Collaboration
  • Collaboration scripts
  • Computer-supported collaborative learning
  • Conceptual frameworks
  • Design principles
  • Educational data mining
  • Educational impact
  • Formal schooling
  • Informal learning environments
  • Large scale learning
  • Learner agency
  • Learning analytics
  • Mass collaboration
  • Online communities
  • Qualitative research approaches
  • Quantitative research approaches
  • Scalability
  • Social networks
  • Sustainability
  • Tool design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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