Opening Up Systems

A Review of Systems Teaching in the Open University
  • Graham Paton


For over a decade, the Open University’s systems courses have provided a sound foundation for undergraduate students wishing to use systems concepts to help understand the complexity of the modern world of technology. Indeed, the justification for creating these courses is precisely that this complexity can only adequately be grasped through the employment of systems concepts and that their understanding facilitates effective action. At the start of any consideration of the pedagogic approach to systems concepts however there are two particularly difficult problems. The first is whether to teach systems concepts overtly or covertly. The overt approach would design a course around the major systemic themes of communication and control, emergence and hierarchy. These concepts could only be brought to life and illustrated effectively by extensive use of case studies and examples from the everyday world; nevertheless such enlivening illustrations would be secondary to the main structure of presentation. In contrast, the covert approach would reverse this relationship. The courses in this category would be structured around some issue or case study and the way in which this subject matter was explained would draw in systemic concepts, without necessarily making a big show about them.


System Group System Concept System Idea Soft System Methodology System Thinker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Paton
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open University, South West RegionBristolUK

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