updated 12:00 am EST, Thu January 19, 2012
Will expand to cover web courses, more
Wolfram Research, well known in education and academic circles for its Wolfram Mathematica product and Wolfram|Alpha statistical search engine, has launched a dedicated portal for educators and students called the Wolfram Education Portal that is planned to offer online web courses, teaching materials, interactive textbooks, videos, demonstration slideshows, community features and more. The company is teaming up with the CK-12 Foundation to produce free content.
At launch, the site has just a few offerings so far, including full materials for an Algebra course and part of a Calculus course as well as links back to other Wolfram pages such as the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, which showcases Mathematica's abilities. It is likely the company wanted to launch the service ahead of tomorrow's education-focused Apple announcement, which will focus on e-publishing, in order to attract the attention of students and educators first. While Wolfram's plans for the service overlap somewhat with Apple's own iTunes U, the two companies have a strong relationship and are not expected to clash over the new portal.
The site is clearly aimed at educators and students, and will lean on the CK-12 Foundation to provide open-source K-12 materials which will then be blended with Wolfram technologies to make them into more dynamic presentations. The Algebra I textbook, for example, has been augmented with links to Wolfram|Alpha, widgets, interactive Mathematica demonstrations and more.
The portal is currently in beta and will eventually feature problem generators and other tools to create personalized content. It will also make use of Wolfram's Computable Document Format (CDF), which like ePub3 aims to make interactive authoring easier. The company plans to work with the CK-12 Foundation to add guided learning features, feedback and analytics abilities into teaching materials. The service requires a free Wolfram account and downloading the CDF player.