Valedictory Lecture

After just under 19 years today is the very last day for Professor Simon Buckingham Shum in his KMi office. Arriving here at the very beginning of the Open University’s Knowledge Media Instute in 1995, Simon has risen from Research Fellow to a full Professor as well as serving as a KMi Associate Director (Technology).

His research over the years has been inspired by Doug Engelbart and his vision of augmenting human intellect through computers acting as a mediators. In that time he has created a tremendous legacy of highly impactful computing systems including: Compendium, D3E, JIME and Cohere.

His work has been deployed widely in diverse areas, ranging from arguments to refute racist literature, to tools for resolving general election debates and supporting NASA experts in communicating with Mars-based scientists in future space missions. His Compendium system also played a prominent role in the OU’s REF Computing submission last year.

His latest work has been focused on learning analytics – a strategically important area to the OU. His contributions to this area included: founding the Society for Learning Analytics Research, serving on the OU strategy group in the area, advising FutureLearn on MOOC analytics, and writing a policy document for UNESCO.

In the introduction to his Valedictory Lecture earlier this week Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean declared:

"Simon has played a leading role in shaping the three biggest leaps the OU has taken in the field of social learning: OpenLearn; SocialLearn; and Futurelearn," and

"The big challenge for all of us in education is how we can best prepare our students for this hyper-connected world. This is the challenge that Simon continues to grapple with." 

Simon also contributed to KMi’s social life and soul mainly through darts where he became the OU darts champion and writing and performing raps. Several of the AKT project (a 7.5M pound 6-year EPSRC project) plenaries began or ended with one of Simon’s raps, and he also famously wrote a rap for an impromptu hen party held for Professor Carole Goble when she was a Keynote at one of our Semantic Web Summer Schools.  

Simon is leaving us to take up the post of Director of the Connected Intelligence Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (co-incidentally our Vice Chancellors alma mater) and Anna de Liddo will now take over his research group pushing forward his work.

Simon’s research has always had a strong underlying social and inclusive agenda. The OU’s publicly declared mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas: promoting educational opportunity and social justice. This could have been written with Simon in mind. He will be sorely missed by us all.

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Simon Buckingham Shum
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Simon giving his Valedictory Lecture
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Simon cutting celebratory cake with Zdenek Zdrahal