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The Open University (OU) offers employers a range of ways to support employees in developing their confidence in learning and set them on a path to work and career-related qualifications. The Open up your learning podcast series explores the different options available to employers. In this episode we take a look at the MA/MSc Open.
The OU launched a new qualification in 2018 with a dual focus on employment-related learning and lifelong learning. The MA/MSc Open, also known informally as an Open Master's, is a multidisciplinary and innovative qualification, one that employers and employees can very much tailor to suit their individual and evolving learning needs.
The Open Master's is the focus of one of the OU’s recent podcasts in its Open Up Your Learning podcast series. This series looks at how the OU is driving access to education and developing workforce skills, all shaped around the needs of both employers and employees.
The podcast looks at what makes this qualification unique and how it can benefit employers. Corporate learning journalist Martin Couzins chaired the discussion, and he was joined by a panel of experts from around the OU – Jay Rixon, Qualification Manager, Payam Rezaie, Qualification Director, and Simon Tindall, Head of Skills and Innovation.
The qualification has been designed specifically to offer a high level of flexibility and choice, which is what makes it so innovative. Rather than requiring learners to specialise in just one discrete area, there is the scope to mix and match and personalise the learning to individual needs and interests. And that can happen over the course of study – neither the employer nor the learner is locked into a particular study area.
Learners have access to a broad range of subjects – say the arts and humanities and business and law, all within the same qualification - enabling them to combine career goals and development needs with personal interests.
There is the facility to specialise in one of four broadly related academic subject areas - arts, humanities, music and language; education, psychology, health sciences and healthcare; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and business, finance, human resources and law. There are also some further professional development modules, which are very employer focused, covering areas such as leadership, management, strategy and innovation. Rixon says it is up to the employer and/or learner to choose what route they take. “The framework offers both career driven, so professional interest, academic and personal interest routes into the qualification,” she says.
Having this diversity of study, whilst also enabling participants to hone in on areas of particular interest or importance, makes the Open Master's a very attractive proposition to employers and employees alike. “It’s ideal for those interested in broadly related fields of study,” says Rezaie. “It’s particularly suited to those who want to develop a range of transferable skills associated with postgraduate study, but also to tailor their academic studies to include professional development modules. For example, in leadership and management, strategy, innovation or CPD.”
Rezaie says it also suits people who don’t have a specific career goal in mind, but are interested in lifelong learning and want to pursue a Master’s in order to expand their subject knowledge.
As the world of work is changing very rapidly, it is really important that organisations and individuals can adapt and take a multidisciplinary approach to work. Tindall says employers increasingly want and need a workforce with a diverse range of skills and experiences. “It’s more about looking for high level generalists, rather than over-focused specialists,” he says.
The MA/MSc Open facilitates constant upskilling and reskilling, which enables employers to stay relevant as the world of work changes and keep employee skills up to date.
And because the qualification is so flexible and wide-ranging in its scope, employers are able to offer learning programmes that have appeal across the workforce. “I think the real advantage here is that we’re able to utilise these different choices of course options to build programmes that suit multiple employees,” he says. “So you’re able to offer something from an informal level to every employee and then equally, build things that are more focused on those employees that you wish to develop into more senior roles, for example.”