Drawing on research supported within the Scottish 'Applied Educational Research Scheme' this paper explores the use of the Virtual Research Environment (VRE) in developing 'communities of enquiry' in Scottish education and research. It focuses on the role of VREs in influencing collaborative working and educational research. The paper uses three vignettes to illustrate the ways in which VREs have the potential to transform the processes of collaborative enquiry and research in education, by offering new ways of conducting research and engaging various stakeholders (the policy, practice and research communities). The paper argues that, while initially the work conceptualised VREs essentially as tools to support communities of enquiry, it has become clearer during the analysis of emerging data from the project that VREs are developing as new environments in which participants engage and generate new forms of knowledge. They pose ethical dilemmas and challenge the status and analysis of data. The authors conclude that practitioner use of VREs needs to be recognised as a legitimate approach to collaborative working and that virtual dimensions to communities of enquiry require careful nurturing if they are to prove successful.