A Syracuse University research center is planning to resurrect parts of AskERIC, the popular electronic database and question-and-answer service for educators, after federal officials pull the plug on it next month.
The demise of AskERIC, scheduled for Dec. 19, is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to make its Educational Resources Information Center, or ERIC, system more efficient.
With more than a million reports, studies, and hearing transcripts, ERIC is the nation’s largest electronic education library.
AskERIC, with 4.5 million visitors a week, has been one of its most popular features. (“Plans to Alter ERIC Set Off Alarms,” May 28, 2003.)
To keep the service going, the Information Institute of Syracuse is moving the information collection to a new electronic home. Known as the Educators Reference Desk, the new site will give educators free access to most of the information they get now through AskERIC.
One missing element, though, will be the customized question-and- answer service that has been ERIC’s most-used feature. With the loss of federal support, the institute no longer has enough staff members to field individual queries.
“We know we still have a lot of users who depend on resources such as the lesson plans,” said R. David Lankes, the executive director of the institute, which helped develop AskERIC and has run it for 11 years.
“We would like to take the investment the Department of Education has given us and make it a platform to support the education community,” added Mr. Lankes, who is an associate professor of information studies at the private university in Syracuse, N.Y.
Besides more than 2,000 lesson plans, the database contains 3,000 “pointers” to education organizations, Web sites, and discussion groups on particular topics, answers to 200 frequently asked questions, and briefs on hot topics.
Users will be able to find it on the Web at www.eduref.org.
“You can think of this as sort of a resource guide or a Yahoo-esque service,” said Mr. Lankes, referring to the well-known Internet search engine.
Meanwhile, the ERIC system itself, while still in transition, will continue to be available at www.eric.ed.gov.
There, users can do database searches, find calendar listings of education-related conferences, get full texts of research studies, and buy ERIC tools and information tapes.