Monday, May 14, 2012

Interview with MBS Direct Digital’s Rob Reynolds

Posted on May 14, 2012 by Darren Weiss

EdCetera spoke with Rob Reynolds, director of MBS Direct Digital, about his take on the edtech industry. In this Q&A, Rob talks about his circuitous path through education to his current postion, the future of e-books in education, and why the biggest obstacle to improving education is the actual attempt to improve it.

What’s your background in the education industry? How did you get to where you are today?

I started out in a traditional role, as a professor of languages and literature at a small private college. Later I went to work at the University of Oklahoma and eventually migrated from an instructional role to one of instructional technologist and then administrator. While at OU, I began teaching designing and teaching online courses, and also wrote ancillary materials for textbook publishers. I left my life as a teacher/administrator to take a role in publishing and, later, left publishing to co-found an educational technology startup. That company was acquired in 2009, which is how I ended up in my current position as Director of MBS Direct Digital.


Having had experience as a teacher, what do you think the biggest challenge is to improving the way educators teach?

The biggest challenge facing teachers today is the explosion of information and the fact that they can no longer expect to keep up with their own knowledge domains or, more importantly, hope to know what information students really need to be successful. [snip]

What role do you see e-books playing in education in one year? How about 10 years from now?

Digital textbooks will continue to play an increasing role in education throughout the current decade. They will represent more than 10% of total textbook sales by the end of 2013 and more than 25% by 2015. Just as important, digital textbooks represent a much broader trend in education towards digital content in general. [snip].

As move out into the future, we will think less in terms of static, linear collections of content ..., and more in terms of discreet units of information that can be easily repurposed and used in a variety of product models. [snip]

What’s the benefit to open source educational content? Are there any open source initiatives that you think are on the right track?

The rapid transition to digital content in general is facilitating significant growth in the open educational content channel. Over the past year, we have seen increased funding for open source and open content work in education. [snip].


What do you think is the biggest obstacle to improving education/learning?

Ironically, the biggest obstacle to improving education/learning is the actual attempt to improve education/learning. I’m not sure we can start with our current assumptions about education and learning ... , and make a suitable journey to a learning destination that is truly improved and evolved. This belief has led me to focus on improving pieces of the learning ecosystem — content management, content rendering, and content authoring.

When you hear the phrase “future of education,” what comes to mind?

For me, the future of education means a shift from container-based and centripetal learning to containerless learning that is driven by centrifugal forces. We will move increasingly away from artificial constructs that emphasize unnatural learning networks to practical, real-life models that leverage our natural learning processes and networks.

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