In the last eight years, we have seen popularity towards studying BTEC subjects more than double. Nowadays, more than one in four students going to university do so with BTEC qualifications, with UCAS studies showing that universities across the UK accepted 381,965 BTEC applicants in 2016. This is the highest recorded number of acceptances known to date.

The one-size-fits-all industrial classrooms are long gone and people no longer turn their noses up at less traditional methods of learning. Improved attitudes towards the matter are a reflection of BTEC students’ success in higher education. Pearson, a British multinational publishing and education company, found that 89% of BTEC undergraduates achieved a first or second class degree at university.

Technology has had a large part to play in making learning a more inclusive experience for people of all different talents. And it’s visionary organisations like Pearson, who provide educational solutions to teachers and students, that have utilised technology in order to break down barriers for 21st century learners preparing for their future.

“By putting technology at the heart of learning, we aim to support, motivate and inspire every educator and every learner.” - Pearson

Pearson recognise the benefits of combining the digital world with studying resources. A blend of content, curricula, assessment, and training all on a readily available and easily accessible system would undoubtedly make learning more engaging and effective.

This is why they approached BrightLemon when they wanted to create a website suitable for Pearson High National students around the world.



Created in parallel with the development of the new Higher National qualifications, Pearson wanted the Higher Nationals site to be the home of a great number of resources that could be used by students to get the most out of their Higher National experience.

What they aimed to create was a student portal, with access to course specific core textbooks, apps to work on their CV, and opportunities to improve their study skills by completing online learning modules targeted at common development areas.

The main pillars of the website’s content would be core textbooks, career empowerment, study skills, modules, and forum.




Drupal was an excellent fit for a project like this, because the platform had a complex polyhierarchical structure of terms within its taxonomy. This combined with the management of different content types, customised permissions based on role, and two third party integrations made Drupal the obvious choice of CMS for this project. Drupal’s built in modules and API make all of the above easy.


During development, BrightLemon’s team were faced with the problem of loading the thousands of taxonomy terms from the School’s vocabularies.

Each vocabulary has 4 levels:

  1. Subjects
  2. Programs
  3. Units (Shared across multiple Programs within one vocabulary)
  4. Learning outcomes 


When certain pages were loaded, all of these terms were called. This caused the server to run out of memory and ended up displaying just a blank page. To avoid this, the developers removed the schools vocabularies for Drupal’s node creation and added a nice new AJAX-driven interface. From which, the the user can navigate gracefully through the four levels of taxonomy, one by one, without reloading the page. Thus, avoiding the memory problem, as it now only loads a few hundred terms at a time.


An excellent user experience is always the number one priority for BrightLemon. In order to achieve this on this project, the team implemented:

  • Content tagging system
  • Surfacing of Ebsco’s vast amount of content
  • One click enroll/unenroll
  • Responsive design for mobile devices


The most important features of this site are the tagging system, the reading list functionality and the integration with the EBSCO Host Discovery Service.

EBSCO is a content library, which BrightLemon’s dedicated developers integrated with Drupal through a module provided by EBSCO. Through the Higher National Global tool, users will be able to search the EBSCO library. This library contains millions of useful books, articles, journals, videos etc. Users can then tag, categorise, or bookmark resources of interest.

During this project, a significant contribution to the Drupal community was made by the lead developer at BrightLemon, Vincenzo Gambino. Vincenzo successfully created a module that creates a dedicated Edit Password page. He also patched the EBSCO module.

Each client project is completely unique and brings about new learning experiences for the developers, every time. On this occasion, they found that AJAX-driven pages created the best possible user experience.

There is even the possibility for the site to grow and advance even further in the future, with the room to explore an activity feed for the user to see as part of their profile. Or there is even scope for the site to become more interactive, by allowing users to upload blog posts, add each other as friends/connections, send messages and recommend content to one another. Pearson and BrightLemon have collaborated to create a platform with infinite possibilities.

The Pearson Higher National site was, overall, a success and an enjoyable circumstance for all of those involved.

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