Case study: Research Matters - using Blackboard to collaborate on funding bids


Faculty of Arts, University of Bristol

Tools used


Karen Ferris,


To set up an online method of peer review (between academic colleagues) for funding applications.  With the aim of diversifying awarding bodies and to increase the number of successful applications for external funding.


We were contacted by the Research Office in the Faculty of Arts to see if the e-learning team through Blackboard could design a 'secure online resource' to assist the process of applications for funding. The requirements for this included:

  • Providing a facility for peer review of draft proposals
  • Information on funding bodies and the application process
  • Guidance for writing a winning proposal
  • Guidance on economic costing
  • Contacts within the University
  • Communication of funding opportunities and workshops for staff
  • Information held in one place and easily accessible
  • Communication channel for reviewers
  • Access to colleagues with more subject or proposal writing experience
  • Ability to allow non university staff visibility and submission access

What was done

A Blackboard unit called Research Matters was created for the Research Office.  Training was provided to meet the original requirements.  The Digital Education team worked collaboratively with the Support Team and enabled them to:

  • Set up and design the unit
  • Add and amend content in the unit
  • Use the communication tools
  • Facilitate the process of online submission
  • Enable the provision of timely feedback online

Key to the success of the project was the ability of staff to post a draft of their proposal and receive feedback from their peers. This has been achieved through use of the Grade Centre in Blackboard.  (The Grade Centre in Blackboard acts as a central point of information for online submission). Through a submission point less experienced members of staff are able to submit their proposal online and it is instantly accessible for review.  Feedback can then be added to the document or typed directly into the Grade Centre and an 'alert' email is sent indicating that it has been returned with comments. 

The 80 reviewers are provided by the Digital Education Team with a secondary user name enrolled on the unit.  This allows staff to assume both the role of applicant and reviewer within the same unit. The ID is then used to act as a reviewer on proposals submitted by their peers.  Once agreeing to review a proposal, the brief is to provide feedback within 7 days.


The course is now in its second year of use and has seen a marked increase in the instances of success in gaining funding.  During the first year of use the success rate for funding increased, securing £1 million of new grants.