AskERIC: Education Information with the Personal Touch



Résumé, summary

AskERIC is a human-mediated question answering service and an electronic virtual library. AskERIC intends to be the educator's first and most important contact with the Internet, providing information to help education practice and Internet reference. AskERIC makes it possible for educators students, parents and others to request and receive information to help them do their work without leaving their desktop computers.

Discipline, subject :

interdisciplinarity telematics télématique interdisciplinaire

Public :

formation d'adultes Erwachsenenbildung adult education formazione degli adulti tous publics alle Leute general public per tutti

Contacts :

Plotnick, Eric

4-194 Center for Science & Technology, Syracuse Un

Tel : (315) 443-3640
Mail :
Fax : (315) 443-5448

Pédagogie, pedagogy :

AskERIC is a project sponsored by the ERIC system, a 29-year-old program of the US Department of Education and is dedicated to providing high quality information to the education community. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology at Syracuse University realizes that electronic communication is an efficient way to deliver information to the growing number of people with access to electronic mail and the Internet. AskERIC delivers all services through the Internet electronic network. All one-on-one human communication with AskERIC users is done through electronic mail. The AskERIC Virtual Library is accessed by users through Telnet, Gopher and World Wide Web. AskERIC bases future development on users' needs. The Virtual Library began a few months after the question answering service, because it became clear that people would like to be able to help themselves to many of the Internet resources. The Virtual Library is accessible to Internet users through all available Internet search and retrieval mechanisms. New resources are added to the site based upon questions received at AskERIC. Two examples of being user responsive are the addition of Internet projects for K-12, and penpal and keypal information. Another Virtual Library feature created in response to user input is "Network Information Specialist Tools "- a self service way for users to search for their own answers. AskERIC is also a registered World Wide Web server providing users access to the Virtual Library in hypercard and multimedia.

Apprentissage, learning :

AskERIC serves as the model for other Internet question - answering services such as "Ask the Young Scientist" and "Ask Prof. Math." AskERIC is working with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry to place environmental curricular materials on the Internet. AskERIC is the Internet home for the Discovery/Learning Channel's complete schedules and descriptions of their educational series. AskERIC is the Internet site for the special project, "The Promised Land." AskERIC hosts the lesson plans for the PBS science series Newton's Apple. AskERIC is one of the Internet sites that hosts CNN Daily Lesson Plans. AskERIC hosts lesson plans from NASA's SIR-COED Education Program. Lesson plans published in the school library media specialist journal, "School Library Media Activities Monthly" can be found on the AskERIC Virtual Library. AskERIC is the Internet host for full-text information on adult literacy from the international organization, Laubach Literacy.

Enseignement, teaching :

The creators of AskERIC believe it is the first and only service of its kind. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology had always offered information services to users, through question answering (primarily telephone and mail) and dissemination of printed material. Prior to AskERIC, the Clearinghouse answered about 5,000 user inquiries every year. (Other components of the ERIC system also answer user inquiries.) AskERIC was originally conceived of as question answering and electronic library service that would use the power and convenience of electronic mail and the Internet to help more people get ERIC information more efficiently. AskERIC has answered over 15,000 questions, and has recorded over 550,000 direct connections to its Virtual Library since November 1992. Since AskERIC began in November 1992, the demand for the service has grown dramatically. Ease of use and user satisfaction are the probable reasons for this growth. In some states, AskERIC is offered as a "main menu item" on the state electronic education network. This means that educators simply log on to their accounts, see the AskERIC option, and use a single keystroke to initiate an electronic mail message to AskERIC. User satisfaction is evident in the many positive statements received and the repeat uses of the service. It appears that people are quite eager to seek information to help them solve daily problems when the process is made so convenient and simple. The AskERIC Virtual Library is accessed by direct user contact with equal ease and satisfaction.

Technique :

AskERIC utilizes five SUN workstations and six Apple Power PC's to facilitate e-mail transmissions for the question and answering service, and for archiving retrievable information in the electronic virtual library. Anyone in the world with access to the Internet is a potential user of AskERIC hosted at Syracuse University. TO Access AskERIC: i) Q&A Service: send e-mail to - ii) Virtual Library: Gopher or FTP: Mosaic, Lynx or WWW client, open URL and connect to: or Telnet to: and type "gopher" at the "login" prompt. The AskERIC research and development (R&D) team applies emerging tools and technologies to deliver services and provide on-demand access to a full range of electronic media. Currently the AskERIC team is working on: expanding the AskERIC Virtual Library to provide image, sound, and video resources; providing free Internet access to the ERIC bibliographic database using friendly, high-performance retrieval software; creating a full-text electronic collection of the documents in the ERIC database; and experimenting with new Internet products to ascertain their value for serving educators.

Société, society :

AskERIC has achieved its goal of becoming an active library/information service on the Internet, and its level of use has exceeded all expectations. The service began in November 1992 with one full-time professional and a technical consultant, and now requires six full-time professionals , two part-time technical specialists and remote "telecommuters". User response has been overwhelmingly positive: Massachusetts: "Mary Beth, Thank you for your prompt and comprehensive response to my inquiry. ASKERIC is an absolutely amazing, impressive and valuable resource - I look forward to future interchanges!" California: "You people are great! I say thanks a ton because that seems to be about the size of your answer to my question. I am very glad your service is available. Keep up the good work!" "I can't tell you how much I appreciate the services your organization has been able to provide. It has saved me time and frustration. Thank you for everything you are doing." Texas: "I really appreciate the info you forwarded on the topic of home schooling--the teacher really didn't know where to begin her research, so you were a tremendous help to her." Washington, D.C.: "Thanks, Tracey, for digging up the address of Education Alternatives. You saved me an hour's trip to the library." From a Virtual Library user: "I just logged on for the first time. I cannot believe the resources available to me as a classroom teacher. Thank you for this incredible resource. You will hear much more from me!" Honors: AskERIC was selected as a finalist for a 1994 Computerworld Smithsonian Award in the field of Education & Academia. AskERIC was selected as one of the top 15 education related resources on the Internet in an article in Internet World magazine (1995, January. p40-41).

Culture :

AskERIC began as a menu option on three state networks and has expanded to eight states and British Columbia. Currently, AskERIC receives questions from thousands of people from all 50 states and around the world, and the number of potential users increase as more states are offering AskERIC as a main menu item. AskERIC is currently receiving and answering 500-600 questions per week.

Institution :

The AskERIC Virtual Library is a prime example of collaboration between university, government and private enterprise to promote remote access to educational information throughout the world. AskERIC recently became an official SunSITE, sponsored by Sun Microsystems Incorporated. The SunSITE repository at Syracuse University is accessible through the AskERIC Virtual Library at the address: in the uniform resource locator (URL) prompt as a Mosaic tool. Popular gopher items such as lesson plans are directly linked to the Web site. AskERIC's Web home page features collaborations with NASA and Newton's Apple and points to their lessons plans. Five other organizations regularly contribute to the collection of lesson plans. The AskERIC Virtual Library archives the interactions of 18 listservs including LM_NET (Library Media), K-12 Super Computing, and Edtech. Collaborations within Syracuse University include close association with Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC) and the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Computer Applications and Software Engineering (CASE). Joint efforts with Personal Librarian Software and NPAC have made it possible for the AskERIC project to provide on-line searching of the ERIC database using a customized Mosaic/Lynx interface as well as through Z39.50 clients.

Logistique :

AskERIC delivers all services through the Internet electronic network. All one-on-one human communication with AskERIC users is done through electronic mail. The AskERIC Virtual Library is accessed by users through Telnet, Gopher and World Wide Web.

Remarques, remarks :

Future AskERIC plans include: (1) Having more states add AskERIC as a main menu item on their networks thereby reaching the greatest number of education professionals, (2) designating at least one full-time AskERIC liaison in each participating state to assist in the delivery of service and provide input regarding local needs, (3) actively involving other ERIC system components in the delivery of question answering services, especially when those components possess expertise in some relevant subject area such as assessment, school administration, gifted and special education or science education, (4) providing services on commercial networks, accessible via the Internet such as America On Line and GTE Education Services, (5) establishing a system where states contribute to the cost of the service, and (6) working with the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center at Syracuse University to apply new high performance computing and communication applications to improve AskERIC services and resources. Advice: A successful information service is user-driven. AskERIC analyzes trends in questions and develops resources for the Virtual Library based on these trends. The lesson plan directory and a user-friendly mosaic interface for searching the ERIC database came about as a response to user needs. Be user-responsive! Quality control is extremely important. Standards for responses to AskERIC questions were developed. Submissions to the Virtual Library are refereed. It is important to standardize procedures for responding to inquiries and it is important to maintain current and effective policies for reviewing what is posted on the net. Maintain quality! A research and development component is essential in order to maintain a cutting edge. The latest developments in technology are utilized to provide the best possible service for our clientele. Be innovative!