The processes of knowledge building, the interaction and participation of students in an online collaborative learning environment and the relations among them are investigated. The investigation involved a procedure carried out over 14 weeks in an online collaborative learning environment. During the procedure, the knowledge building process was executed over Knowledge Forum and the planning process over Moodle LMS. The scaffolds, quantity, content and quality of interaction and participation, and relations between scaffolds and the quantity of interaction and participation were reviewed. The participants were 145 prospective teachers. In this research, a convergent parallel design method was employed. Data were collected from multiple sources, including the log records and the content analysis of Knowledge Forum postings. Development was observed in terms of the use of opinion building and expressing forms and note creation and build-on of the students in the knowledge building processes within the online collaborative learning environment. Furthermore, most of the academic content and the quality of interaction and participation were indicators of progress of the individual student and groups of students. There was a significant increase in the quality of interaction and participation from the beginning of the term to the end of term. It is suggested that the 14-week knowledge building process contributed to learning. It was found that there was a significant relation between the use of opinion building and expressing forms and the creation and build-on of notes by the students. Results show that the course offered in an online collaborative knowledge building environment contributed to opinion building and expression, the quantity, content and quality of interaction and participation, and thus the learning of students. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.