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Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits
Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits

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5 The benefits of studying a multidisciplinary qualification

Moving on from looking at how key issues can be addressed by more than one subject, you will now go on and explore the benefits of studying a single, multidisciplinary qualification, like The Open University’s Open qualifications [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . A multidisciplinary qualification provides you with a unique opportunity to gain a knowledge and understanding of a range of different subjects and their approaches. You can then apply the skills that you gain from a multidisciplinary qualification to help you to understand connections between different subjects and how to transfer that knowledge across subject boundaries.

This approach leads to a deeper learning and understanding, and ultimately interdisciplinary thought and understanding, which can be beneficial in many areas of life, including the workplace. It is that building of knowledge that can allow for deeper understanding and highlight the patterns that are common between different subjects.

Part of the reason some people choose to study single-subject qualifications is to become an ‘expert’ in that particular subject and they believe that this will be more valued by employers because many jobs require specific expertise. However, the disadvantage of this is that they join a group of similarly trained experts who are also competing for those roles.

One of the strengths of multidisciplinary study is that you choose the subjects that you want to study and therefore you become a particular type of expert in your own right. For example, at The Open University, there are very few students studying towards an Open qualification who do the same combinations of courses and therefore each student is unique, with their own set of specialities. You will meet some of these students later in the course. So, rather than being a ‘generalist’, you become an ‘individual specialist’. The challenge of this is to be able to explain your unique expertise to potential employers so that you stand out from the crowd. Again, you will explore this in more detail later on.

For now, here are some of the wider benefits of choosing to study more than one subject that apply to a range of personal and career-related contexts:

  • Motivation – learners are highly motivated as they have a vested interest as they are usually pursuing topics that are of personal interest to them. As a result, the content is often rooted in life experiences, giving an authentic purpose for the learning and connecting it to a real world context. Consequently, this can lead to more meaningful, purposeful and deeper learning experiences.
  • Breadth of knowledge – students are able to consider the many and varied perspectives across different subjects from which a topic can be explored.
  • Acquiring new knowledge – exploring topics across a range of subject boundaries motivates students to pursue new knowledge in different subject areas.
  • Creativity – knowledge and application of different subjects can lead to greater creativity.
  • Making connections – worthwhile topics of research can fall in the ‘spaces’ between the traditional academic subject areas.

Activity 3 Identifying the benefits that are important to you

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

In the following space, note down which of these benefits are most important or relevant to your own situation, and why. You may wish to revisit and add to these notes after you have completed the course.

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As is often the case when reflecting on our own situation, there isn’t a right or wrong answer but hopefully you have identified what is important to you in terms of the benefits of studying different subjects.