I don't often use this blog for personal reasons, but two colleagues are leaving the OU, and for various reasons I can't make either of their leaving dos. So, to assuage my guilt, and also to publicly acknowledge and thank them, I'm blogging it. I'm sure it's better than a fountain pen as a leaving present.
The first colleague is Ross MacKenzie. Ross works in what is called Learning and Teaching Solutions. They do all the content creation stuff from editing to DVDs to running the VLE. In fact, it was Ross who succeeded me as VLE Director – I'd come up with a solution based on an open architecture, which Ross very sensibly translated as a decision to go with Moodle. This single decision did an awful lot for open source (many other universities took it as a cue that it was okay to adopt Moodle), and also for the Open University it was important to embrace open source. Part of the story of the OU over the last 15 years has been to engage with changing definitions of what it means to be 'open'. And the VLE was a big part of this.
Ross is unusual for a technical chap in that he is helpful and likes to say yes. Arguably this makes him unqualified for the changing world of educational IT (I'm joking IT friends! Sort of). He is also a very good photographer, and plans to do more in this line. He has been going for nearly 3000 days continuously over on Blip, check out his photos there and on his blog (he likes to travel to cold, inhospitable places).
The second colleague is Tony Walton. Tony has worked in the strategy office and alongside various PVCs. For a few years I worked on a number of projects which Tony was charged with leading. I used to joke that a coffee with Tony was a dangerous event since you'd end up on a strategic project. When I list the projects I worked on, mainly because of Tony, you'll appreciate the impact he's had on the OU as well as on my career: Getting the initial Hewlett funding for OpenLearn; developing a new Broadcast Strategy that moved away from TV and led to the founding of our Open Media Unit; the VLE which saw us move to a centralised elearning system; SocialLearn which was the OU's first engagement with social media (and a forerunner to FutureLearn in many ways).
As with Ross, these projects have all helped the OU engage with what it means to be open in 21st century. Like Ross, Tony does not have typical administrator traits, I won't stereotype (again) but he's helpful, unflappable, unassuming and enthusiastic about his tasks.
Tony and Ross, it's been great working with you – enjoy your retirements (or in Ross's case, new career), the OU will miss you (wipes tear from eye). Here's a retirement card for you both to share: