A new course & the untimely demise of the MAODE

First of all, some good news. On June 8th we launch a new microcredential course – 15pts at postgrad level so not _that_ micro I grant – on FutureLearn. Titled “Online Teaching: Creating Courses for Adult Learners” it is part of the OU response to Covid-19 and has been developed by Leigh-Anne Perryman, Rebecca Ferguson and myself. It has taken 5 weeks from proposal to delivery, and anyone who has developed courses at the OU knows that is light speed. It takes that long to decide on a title usually. I hope it’ll be useful for those studying it.

Now the bad news. Since I joined I have worked on a range of courses that make up their MAODE (masters in open and distance education). Indeed, it was to work on H806, the first course produced for the U.K. eUniversity that I joined IET, moving from the Technology Faculty, to work with Robin Mason. Unfortunately a couple of years ago there was a curriculum review, and criteria were applied to cancel any course that didn’t meet them. The MAODE doesn’t have high student numbers, but it made a profit, but without consultation it was axed, and is currently in ‘teach out’.

Over the past year we have been trying to reverse this decision. With the online pivot this has become especially pressing. We are all receiving daily requests for help, and while we do what we can with webinars, and advice, people are queuing up for expertise. I prepared a plan that would incorporate our excellent new microcredentials and revise the MAODE to quickly meet this demand. However it was rejected last week by senior management, and so it seems the MAODE will definitely go.

I have particular reason to be thankful for its existence having worked on many modules. For now, let’s celebrate some of its triumphs:

  • The first fully online course – before I joined, they ran it using custom built CMC software. T171 was the first UG one, but we learnt a lot from the postgrad version.
  • First online graduation ceremony – back 2000, this would still make headlines today if another uni did it.
  • Developed a workable learning objects approach – in H806 we created the activities as largely independent of each other and learners could select from them during a weeks study.
  • Implemented an eportfolio module – when these were all the rage, we piloted the OUs custom software for a portfolio based module.
  • Implemented an end of course conference – H818, which Chris Pegler developed ends with an online conference where students present the topic they have been researching. I wrote on this and thought it would never work, but under the careful guidance of Simon Ball, it does and is amazing every year.
  • Gained scholarships for Commonwealth of Learning students. We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of places sponsored by COL. having met some of these students, it’s humbling to see how transformational the MAODE is (these scholarships will now be lost).
  • First OU course to be delivered solely in FutureLearn. Led by Leigh-Anne Perryman we developed H880, and delivered it in FL.
  • Experimented with MOOCs. Before we had FL, we ran a block of H817 as an open course on the OpenLearn platform, the results of which helped inform much of our practice.
  • Championed accessibility – over the years the expertise in designing for accessible courses in IET has been a strong element in many of our courses.

What this list illustrates (and I’ve just picked a few highlights that I’ve been aware of, there are many more) is that the MAODE has been a platform for innovation within the OU. While I appreciate the MAODE will never be a big earner, its reach is significant. Like Eno’s quote about the first Velvet’s album, only a few 1000 may have taken the MAODE but they all went on to influence ed tech in their organisations. Students really love it and talk fondly of the course and it’s impact as this twitter thread demonstrates. But let’s at least celebrate all that the MAODE has given the University and its students. I will definitely mourn its passing.


  • Dominic Newbould

    A poor decision. A waste of intellectual capital, a waste of resources and a brutal shock to morale.

  • James Igoe

    I’m a third of the way there on the MAODE. I enjoyed H817 a lot and it’s helped me build my career as a Learning Technologist. I was hoping to complete the MAODE at the OU and am quite sad that this is not to be.

  • Denise Mcdonough

    Shocking. Crazy! Really sad for all those that need a reliable way to move ahead in their careers while continuing to work. Especially teachers that have so much to contribute after many years in the classroom. I know them, I am one of the lucky ones finishing my MAODE along side some brilliant teachers looking to do more. An MA is what is required to compete in the field not some ‘credential’.

    What happened to the ‘Open‘ in Open University senior management?

    Thanks for doing your darnedest Martin!

  • Uli Tiedau

    Really sorry to hear and hope the decision can be reversed. I thoroughly enjoyed my MAODE a few years ago and it comes in very handy now.

  • Caroline Ward

    I am on my last module of MA ODE it is a great shame as the course has been really interesting and provided background information that cannot be obtained elsewhere.

    Caroline Ward

  • John Pettit

    In the early 2000s, our then Vice-Chancellor stated it would be ‘grotesque’ if a leading online university such as the OU did not teach online and distance education.

    In 2014 the MAODE received a favourable result in the rigorous external 6-yearly Periodic Programme Review.

    In 2015/16 the MAODE was extensively examined by the then Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Before my retirement as MAODE Programme Director, I worked with colleagues to produce three lengthy and detailed reports to enable her to assess the viability and quality of the programme. Her assessment was largely positive.

    IET colleagues have continued to develop innovative modules, as Martin has detailed.

    The MAODE has been innovative and agile in its own teaching, and in influencing teaching both in the OU and, through its highly committed students, across many countries of the world.

  • Leigh-Anne Perryman

    Well put John. You left the MAODE in fine shape when you retired. I think I’ve done OK in looking after it thereafter. Interest in the qualification is higher than ever, and the delivery of H880 and our microcredentials on FutureLearn adds even more value and currency. Being in demand, pioneering, socially valuable, and a credit to the University clearly isn’t enough to save the MAODE.

  • Jonathan Baldwin

    I did my BA, MA and now PhD either distance and/or online. It taught me so much about improving F2F teaching.
    Because I never went to a traditional university I’m not bound by tradition – much of what I saw when I first started teaching seemed bizarre but everyone thought it was normal.

    I wrote something about why e-learning refuses to take off for an American book a few years ago, focused on the tech aspect rather than the pedagogy


  • Sarah Alcock

    I am one of the lucky ones who will *just* manage to complete MAODE before the final expiry in December 2021. I always wondered why it was being cancelled, what a shame to know it is a management rather than learner-driven decision. It is disappearing just when it is needed the most.

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