Postgraduate Certificate in Systems Thinking in Practice

The Open University

Program Description

Postgraduate Certificate in Systems Thinking in Practice

The Open University

Postgraduate Certificate in Systems Thinking in Practice

The postgraduate certificate course will help you to develop your understanding of the nature of complex problem situations and how they can be tackled. It seeks to change the way in which you think about the situations you face by using insights from cognitive science. You will learn to think more holistically, understanding the roles other people play, taking account of the interconnectedness of all the components making up the problem situation and working more collaboratively. You will examine key systems thinkers which will enable you to relate their ideas to your own practice.

This postgraduate certificate qualification will give you new ways of thinking about and approaching a task or situation. Every person brings with them their own perspective, which means that we all see things in different ways. The discipline of systems thinking gives you the tools to challenge your approach to complex situations; to consider the roles other people play; to assess how all the different components within that situation are related; and to provide you with the skills to think more holistically and to work more collaboratively to avoid systemic failures. These tools have an established track record of success in enabling the tackling of complex, messy problem situations which may cross multiple discipline and skill boundaries.

Educational aims

In this certificate, we aim to:

  • introduce systems concepts and theories that can be used to make sense of complex situations
  • define the distinctive nature of Systems Practice
  • enable you to use a range of systems methodologies in your own practice
  • equip you with the skills to design and carry out systemic inquiries to improve situations
  • demonstrate the importance of ethics, social learning and critical thinking in systems practice
  • show how multiple stakeholder perspectives can be taken into account in systems practice
  • enable you to contextualise your own traditions and practice among those of others.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

You gain knowledge and understanding mainly from the study texts, with supporting material provided via reference texts, forums and web-based resources. You will be able to assess your own progress and understanding by using the in-text problems and exercises within each unit. Associate Lecturers (part time tutors), who are selected for their knowledge of the subject area and experience in its practical application, support your learning by phone, letter, email or online conference when required.

The principles and methods will be described in the study texts with many examples. You will be provided with practical activities such as blogging to develop your cognitive skills in the field of Systems Practice. These skills are delivered through the core study materials with worked examples and exercises. The emphasis is on supported individual learning.

Your skills will be assessed in the assignments and examinations of the various modules. Assignments are carefully designed, complex pieces of work, which will test your ability to analyse situations and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of Systems Practice. The programme is aimed at people with a professional interest in Systems. It is assumed that you will have already gained some of these key skills in the workplace. The programme does, however, provide the opportunity for demonstration and further development of these skills through the research project.

You are expected to work largely under your own direction, reflecting on your own performance, identifying your own learning needs and developing learning strategies. You are encouraged to reflect on the response to your assignments in order to improve your understanding and your performance in future assessments.

The programme introduces you to various situations from which you can learn. Assignments develop your skills in learning, communication, and understanding of problematic and complex situations. Communicating this activity to your tutor in a coherent form is a requirement of assignments while tutor feedback on these supports your learning.

You will be encouraged to participate with other students and tutors using electronic conferencing to discuss both study specific issues and related topics of wider interest.

Formal assessment of the modules is by way of continuous assessment in the form of TMAs (three for each of the 30-credit modules in the core and a similar proportion across the rest of the curriculum).

The University wishes to emphasise that, while every effort is made to regularly update this site, the material on it is subject to alteration or amendment in the light of changes in regulations or in policy or of financial or other necessity.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

You gain knowledge and understanding mainly from the study texts, with supporting material provided via reference texts, forums and web-based resources. You will be able to assess your own progress and understanding by using the in-text problems and exercises within each unit. Associate Lecturers (part time tutors), who are selected for their knowledge of the subject area and experience in its practical application, support your learning by phone, letter, email or online conference when required.

The principles and methods will be described in the study texts with many examples. You will be provided with practical activities such as blogging to develop your cognitive skills in the field of Systems Practice. These skills are delivered through the core study materials with worked examples and exercises. The emphasis is on supported individual learning.

Your skills will be assessed in the assignments and examinations of the various modules. Assignments are carefully designed, complex pieces of work, which will test your ability to analyse situations and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of Systems Practice. The programme is aimed at people with a professional interest in Systems. It is assumed that you will have already gained some of these key skills in the workplace. The programme does, however, provide the opportunity for demonstration and further development of these skills through the research project.

You are expected to work largely under your own direction, reflecting on your own performance, identifying your own learning needs and developing learning strategies. You are encouraged to reflect on the response to your assignments in order to improve your understanding and your performance in future assessments.

The programme introduces you to various situations from which you can learn. Assignments develop your skills in learning, communication, and understanding of problematic and complex situations. Communicating this activity to your tutor in a coherent form is a requirement of assignments while tutor feedback on these supports your learning.

You will be encouraged to participate with other students and tutors using electronic conferencing to discuss both study specific issues and related topics of wider interest.

Formal assessment of the modules is by way of continuous assessment in the form of TMAs (three for each of the 30-credit modules in the core and a similar proportion across the rest of the curriculum).

The University wishes to emphasise that, while every effort is made to regularly update this site, the material on it is subject to alteration or amendment in the light of changes in regulations or in policy or of financial or other necessity.

Career impact

The knowledge and skills developed through this postgraduate certificate course will provide benefits in a wide variety of economic sectors to you as well as to your employers or other organisations. Applications exist in any organisation where complex processes exist and where a change is required, including, for example, manufacturing and IT. Managers at all levels will find the ability to approach complex problems from a systems perspective to be a useful addition to their management and leadership skills portfolio. If you are self-employed you may also find the knowledge developed enables you to take a more objective and innovative view of the systems you have already created and how to change these for the future.

Entry requirements

To start this programme, you should normally hold a UK bachelors degree, or equivalent. If you do not hold a bachelors degree then you may be permitted to link modules to this qualification once you have demonstrated the ability to study at postgraduate level by successfully completing one of the modules.

Because of the demands that study of the programme will make on you we recommend that you study no more than 60 credits a year, particularly in your first year.

You will also need to be proficient in English, to an IELTS standard of 6.0. If you are unsure you will be able to take a free English test as part of the registration process.

Modules can count towards this diploma for a maximum of eight years after we have stopped presenting them.

There is no time limit for completing the certificate but we cannot guarantee that the same selection of modules will continue to be available.

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 20 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.

Read more about this programme on the Open University website here

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The Open University
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Aug. 2016
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1 - 8 years
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Start date Aug. 2016
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