Indiana U Partners with ChaCha for Academic Search

[Editor's note: This article is being maintained for archival purposes only. An updated version of this story with more up to date and accurate information can be found at http://www.campustechnology.com/articles/49548/.]

Indiana University has partnered with Internet search service ChaCha, also based in Indiana, to create an alliance for developing research tools and services via the Web. IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who made the announcement, was previously on ChaCha's board of directors, though, according to a ChaCha spokeswoman, he resigned the position when he became president-elect of IU "so as not to have any conflicts of interest."

The purpose of the switch to ChaCha, according to IU, is to "develop a better understanding of how guided search can best serve the complex needs of students, faculty, and academic researchers."

ChaCha combines machine-based searches with human guides, who are available to help narrow searches and answer questions via chat. As part of the deal with IU, the university's librarians will become guides "to help the IU community conduct searches through a live instant message chat interface, identify exactly what information the user is seeking, refine the search for the user, and then display only the most relevant results."

According to a report in the Indiana Star, the adoption of ChaCha will be an exclusive one, bumping Google from all searches on the university's various sites. That move was supposed to have taken place by today. However, as of press time, the university's main portal and library sites are still running on Google Search Appliances.

Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology at IU, said in a prepared statement, "The current practice of machine-based search is an essential tool, but alone it is insufficient for domains of specialized expertise and the needs of scholars."

In terms of implementations, the university said it is working on projects immediately and in the near future. The immediate projects include adopting ChaCha for the university's search portal, though, as noted, that does not seem to have taken place yet. Other, as-yet undisclosed projects are underway for launch y the fall semester.

Some of the potential opportunities for the ChaCha partnership, cited by the university, include:
  • Expanded roles for IU librarians to help with guided inquiry;
  • Tutoring;
  • "Improved Web content strategies;" and
  • Student internships and scholarships.
We'll bring you more information about the partnership and IU's deployment of ChaCha technologies in the coming weeks.

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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