Sam Weller Learns to Read : the origins of the reading public 1830 – 1870

E-Learning, Victorian literature

Brief description

This project developed and piloted resources for a module on Victorian popular culture across two institutions.


Sam Weller Learns to Read developed undergraduate work in the field of popular literature providing students with access to texts through a web-based resource domain commonly available to students at both Edge Hill and Salford . The module website included as a key feature a learning domain in which students were able to conduct cross-institutional discussion, only some of which was tutor facilitated. The other feature of the project relevant here is the assessment regime: students worked in small groups towards a project specification and then to a project.

Project design

The resource element of the web was well-received. However, the interactive cross-institutional discussion element of the web had to be very carefully planned and student timetables and access to computers across the two institutions couldn’t always be synchronized successfully.

Key findings

The project raised a number of issues about the challenges of cross-institutional work. Time limitations became an issue and the plan to video some expository lectures and talks so that the expertise of the teaching team could be shared across institutions did not take place. It also raised issues about preparing, organising and deploying teaching material on an electronic data-base, the strengths and limitations of electronic data bases and about using primary material within undergraduate teaching.

Learning outcomes

The project has been tested by students and colleagues on campus at the University of Salford and at Edgehill College . As a result of this project, versions of the module are still running at both institutions. The project was extremely valuable in providing students for the first and only time in their undergraduate programme with some sense of the issues involved in approaching non-canonical texts through the sociology of literary production.


Project Leader

Professor Brian Maidment
University of Salford
Manchester M5 4WT

Professor John Simons
Edge Hill College of Higher Education
St Helens Road
Lancashire L39 4QP

Project research assistant: Dr. Margaret Forsyth


Completed May 2003