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Introduction is website that allows learners to search for, to compare and to apply online for a range of programmes and modules available on a flexible basis within a range of higher education course providers in Ireland. is part of the HEA Strategic Innovation Fund project: Flexible Learning. This project represents 14 institutes of technology including DIT, and a number of other higher education course providers.

The aims of this project are to double the number of part-time and flexible learning students within the IOT and higher education sector. is a central component in the realisation of this objective, providing a single location where the flexible learning content of the sector can be promoted.

Problem Statement

Non-traditional learners choosing a course of study (such as leaving certificate students) are reasonably well served by the information and supports available to them to aid in their decision. From in school guidance councillors to the various websites and volumes of information produced by the media each year around application time there is quite a lot of information and advice available to this category of students.

Unfortunately for learners not within this category (those wishing to go back to education or pursue education while in still in employment) the level of supports available on how to further their education is much less. is a small but important part of the solution to that problem. is about connecting the right person (non traditional learners) with the right information (flexible learning courses) in the right format (classroom, distance, online courses) at the right time (part-time, full-time, evening courses). Features designed around 3 core features; search, compare and apply. These were identified from extensive user requirements analysis and acceptability testing as the most important features that users want in a site like A typical user journey through would see the learner search for courses that interest them, then review and compare those courses, finally if they are happy with their selection they can apply online through


The search interface was designed from the outset to be as easy to use as possible, learners can execute a search over all courses in the database by entering their query in the search box on the home page. There is also an advanced search option which allows the user to specify more search criteria such as providing institute, delivery method and academic area.


When searching for learning items a user can choose to save an item that has interested them to their account for later review. The user can also choose to compare two learning items side by side. This feature allows users to quickly and easily compare learning items based on the information provided by the institutes offering the courses such as; course contents, delivery method, duration or cost.


The applications engine allows a user to apply for any course listed on the website through a single interface. A useful feature is that once a user submits an application we offer to save their information so that if they wish to apply for another course at a later date we can automatically populate the application form using the saved information.

Course Recommendations

Another core and unique feature of BlueBrick is the course recommendation system. This system allows to provide users with automatically generated recommendations about courses which might be relevant to their needs.

Course recommendations are generated through the use of various technologies drawn from the semantic toolbox such as Natural Language Processing, Latent Semantic Indexing and community classification of courses. is capable of automatically classifying courses based on the employment and educational histories of users that apply for or show interest in courses listed in the database. then uses these community classifications when generating search results and recommendations for other users.