This article discusses the effectiveness of using an approach based on a virtual learning environment (VLE) to enhance the close-reading skills of first-year English undergraduates. The first two sections explore the practical and theoretical issues involved in adopting such an approach; the third describes the design and functions of a VLE close-reading resource designed for this purpose; and the fourth and fifth elucidate the methodology and findings of a two-year research project which aimed to evaluate the resource’s effectiveness. Analysis of the findings shows: first, that student usage of the resource is significantly enhanced by tutor recommendation; second, that student usage strategies are highly instrumental (i.e. that students disproportionately choose texts likely to feature in the end-of-year exam); and third, that the expansion of the number of particular kinds of worked examples would increase the usefulness of the resource. The implications of these findings for use of the VLE resource are discussed.
- close reading