IT services firm Version 1 Software has completed a contract for the Institute of Guidance Counsellors to web enable its national courses database.
The project, worth an estimated €170k to Version 1, involved designing and building a website providing information on all third-level and adult education courses.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors developed Qualifax, its courses database, in the Eighties, originally as a floppy disk and in recent years as a CD-Rom, with the support of all universities and various other course providers. It has been used by every school in the country and by students researching third level or other courses for more than 20 years. It is currently being expanded to include all adult education courses available nationally.
Since its transformation into a daily updated website, it is now accessible via the internet at www.qualifax.ie.
Version 1 was selected to develop the website functionality. Before the project, the data collection process was very labour intensive and time consuming with individual floppies being mailed to all colleges and course providers, on which course details were entered. This information was then returned, manually reviewed, uploaded and verified. Finally, the information was burnt on a CD for circulation.
The project aimed to develop a more automated mechanism using a secure intranet for the collection and verification of data, so that both Qualifax and its information providers could easily update information.
“Colleges can directly edit their own course information online as it becomes available,” said Tom O’Connor, director at Version 1. “This allows Qualifax to concentrate on data cleaning as opposed to data entry and provides a more efficient system for managing course data.”
All course information is still available on CD-Rom, for schools and individuals who may have limited internet access. The CD was re-written to work with a copy of the online database and is easier for Qualifax to produce than before.
Version 1’s solution used a combination of off-the-shelf and custom-written software. The use of open source technologies including PHP, a scripting language used in web development, and MySQL, an open source relational database management system, eliminated the cost of software licences.
By Brian Skelly