This study aimed to compare the efficacy of collaborative learning in face-to-face and online groups. Fifty psychology majors learnt the same professional skill (a community evaluation methodology) in two seminars taught over a two month period by the same teacher online and face-to-face. Participants in both seminars achieved similar growth in level of professional competence, academic self-efficacy, social self-efficacy and self efficacy for problem solving among members. Post-course evaluation of collaborative experience showed no significant differences between online and face-to-face seminar participants in perceived social presence, cooperation and satisfaction with the learning experience. Our results support the claim of advocates of third generation distance education methodologies that computers can be an effective enabler, not only of independent learning, but also of collaborative learning. Furthermore, computer-supported collaborative learning environments are as efficient as collaborative learning in face-to-face seminars in developing social presence and increasing professional competencies and self-efficacy. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.