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Try our experimental recommendation tool

Updated Wednesday 6th December 2017

Looking for something interesting from OpenLearn or our sister services? Try our experimental tool.

What's this?

It's a new tool which uses semantic search to suggest relevant content from OpenLearn and beyond.

How does it work?

Search by text

You paste some text in the box, and hit 'search'. The app will then analyse your text, work out what you're talking about, and suggest some items on OpenLearn and our sister services which might be related to your query.

The more text you can feed the query, the better its responses are likely to be. 

You'll be shown the subjects that the system thinks your text is about - you can remove ones which you feel are a bad fit, and the list of content will be updated as you do so.

Likewise, the selected content will show you other themes - you can add these to your search, too, if you wish, to help narrow down options.

Search by topic

Want to focus on a single topic? Start typing the word in the search box - autocomplete will suggest  topics as you type. 

(Be aware that autocomplete suggests topics from the wider world, and not just those covered by OpenLearn content.)

You can add further topics from suggested content to refine and shape your search.

Search by URL

Want to find content that relates to a webpage? Just copy the URL from your browser, and paste it in the search by URL box. The tool will look up the page, attempt to understand what it's about, and pick content relating to that page.

Because webpages can contain huge amounts of data, the system limits the number of terms it uses to drive this function.

Be aware that some of the structure of the page can be brought back which you might want to remove from your terms to improve your results - for example, the name of the publishing website, or the names of social sharing services promoted on the page.

What does DiscOU search?

DiscOU searches the editorially published content on OpenLearn ('Open Content'); it also includes the free courses that are found on the site ('Open courses'), Badged Open Courses, and the audio and video originally created for our iTunesU service ('podcasts') featured there. In addition, experimentally, DiscOU is also searching the BBC iWonder guides and a limited number of BBC/OU co-productions accessible via iPlayer Radio. If you are using the system on the OU campus network, and are a logged-in user, you will also be able to search our production video and audio archive held on site ('videofinder'). 

How is this different from just searching for keywords?

Because your text is analysed semantically, the results should be better - DiscOU can understand the difference between rowing a boat and rowing with an argumentative person, for example.

How else can I refine results?

You can also choose to add or remove which part of the site results are from, or the types of content (OpenLearn, OpenLearn courses, podcasts and - for OU users - Videofinder) to see exactly what interests you.

I'm not really seeing any results that make sense

It could be that you're asking for a subject we don't have much content about - we've got thousands of hours of items to explore, but there are some areas we know a bit less about - basketball; small animal veterinarians; souping-up Ford Fiestas, for exmaple.

I'm not seeing any results at all

We might be having technical problems - please email us at to let us know

Give it a try, and see how it works for you - and let us know via our survey or in the comments section if there's anything we can do to improve the experience for you.


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?