A Complexity-Grounded Model for the Emergence of Convergence in CSCL Groups

  • Manu Kapur
  • John Voiklis
  • Charles K. Kinzer
Part of the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Series book series (CULS, volume 12)


We advance a complexity−grounded, quantitative method for uncovering temporal patterns in CSCL discussions. We focus on convergence because understanding how complex group discussions converge presents a major challenge in CSCL research. From a complex systems perspective, convergence in group discussions is an emergent behavior arising from the transactional interactions between group members. Leveraging the concepts of emergent simplicity and emergent complexity (Bar-Yam 2003), a set of theoretically-sound yet simple rules was hypothesized: Interactions between group members were conceptualized as goal-seeking adaptations that either help the group move towards or away from its goal, or maintain its status quo. Operationalizing this movement as a Markov walk, we present quantitative and qualitative findings from a study of online problem-solving groups. Findings suggest high (or low) quality contributions have a greater positive (or negative) impact on convergence when they come earlier in a discussion than later. Significantly, convergence analysis was able to predict a group’s performance based on what happened in the first 30–40% of its discussion. Findings and their implications for CSCL theory, methodology, and design are discussed.


Group Discussion Group Performance Emergent Behavior Problem Scenario Early Exchange 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The work reported herein was funded by a Spencer Dissertation Research Training Grant from Teachers College, Columbia University to the first author. This chapter reports work that has, in parts, been presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences in 2006, and the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Conference in 2007. Our special thanks go to the students and teachers who participated in this project. We also thank June Lee and Lee Huey Woon for their help with editing and formatting.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of EducationSingaporeSingapore

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