Leading British distance learning institution improves search facility for staff and 200,000 worldwide students.

Exalead, a global provider of search-based business application (SBA) technology, today announced that Open University has selected its CloudView Search solution to enrich end user experience. The platform provides core search capabilities for the University's website, Intranet and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), to cater to the needs of its staff, tutors and visitors.

Incorporated as a university in 1971, Open University is the leading open admissions, distance-learning institution in the UK, with approximately 4,500 staff and 7,500 tutors. It has more than 200,000 students in over 40 countries studying for a variety of degrees and vocational qualifications ranging from short courses to PhDs. As a major e-learning institution, it is important to make the University's resources as easy to navigate as possible and to provide the best possible search tools to students and researchers.

"Search tools are essential to the University's academic mission. The public facing web presence is a large complex network of more than two thousand inter-linked websites, hosted on multiple domains, whilst the intranet alone consists of around three hundred sites," explained the Open University's Business Change Manager, Intranet, Nicky Waters. "Intranet search had been fairly neglected over time and there had been no real business management around it. This, combined with an older search tool, contributed to a poor end user experience. It was evident from feedback that we had to do something about it."

Following an exhaustive selection process, Exalead's CloudView Search was selected as it offered an exceptionally powerful and user-friendly search capability, coupled with the adaptability and scalability to make it suitable for such a large, and potentially complex project.

"Users can already find things easier and quicker. Feedback, particularly at the usability testing stage, indicated time and cost savings in the future," explained Waters. "Improved relevance ranking means that staff can actually find content which they had trouble finding prior to the implementation of Exalead."

Exalead's CloudView Search is an easy-to-use platform for creating search-based applications that access both structured and unstructured data such as instant messages, emails, web pages, and multimedia. With its innovative architecture, the CloudView platform provides core search solutions, which are feature rich and extremely easy to implement, thus providing a perfect combination of reduced administration costs and a better search experience for customers.

"CloudView Search provides a much more sophisticated user interface, with the right hand categorisation and filtering of results. It allows users to 'roll up' results, which prevents results from the same site from flooding the results interface," Waters concluded "It also saves users from having to scroll through pages and pages of results. Users can search across all University content at once, or alternatively, can navigate and drill down on a particular set of results."

The University is considering the technical possibilities afforded by Exalead CloudView Search in a project to make both audio and digital content fully searchable. It also plans to integrate existing document management systems using Exalead's technology.


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