I've just completed Exploring History: Medieval to Modern 1400-1900 (A200) with the Open University, so I thought I'd post my thoughts on it for anyone contemplating taking it next year. The basic course materials are shown below - there are six blocks and two set books. There are also numerous articles that you have to access via the OU's student portal throughout the course. It's a second level 60 credit course, it's a compulsory component of the OU's degree in history, and it's no walk in the park.
You'll have guessed from that '1400-1900' in the title that it covers a lot of ground. As the description on the OU's site says, the course covers: 'fifteenth-century France, Burgundy and England during the Hundred Years’ War; the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century; the civil wars of the British Isles in the seventeenth century; slavery and serfdom in the Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the development of nation states in western Europe following the French Revolution; and European imperialism in Africa'. Topics are linked together by three themes: state formation; beliefs and ideologies; and producers and consumers.
If you're thinking that so broad a date range must result in numerous topics being only briefly touched upon without the course going into any great detail, you'd be wrong. There's no brief touching here... There's a whole lot of detail and an information overload that comes very close to exploding your brain. In short, when it comes to taxing the old noggin, this is a bugger of a course. It is also, I might add, fascinating and sometimes highly enjoyable. I say 'sometimes' because it's too complex and demanding a course to be constantly enjoyable while you're battling through it. Also, some topics are more interesting than others for individual students (I really enjoyed the last block, Nations and Imperialism 1870–1900). Basically, it's one of those courses that you curse about a bit while you're doing it and look back on fondly, as I'm doing now that it's over.
If you loved history at school, well this course is nothing like that. If you're looking for a course that tells you what happened in the past, this isn't it. This course is in the business of creating historians... It plonks a whole heap of primary (and secondary) sources under your nose, teaches you the skills you need to interpret them, and insists that, after you've interrogated them to within an inch of their lives, you come to your own conclusions about them. And there are no wrong or right answers, there are only well-reasoned arguments.
We Brits have a rich and marvellous (and also somewhat murky) past, and I've come away with a much better understanding of it and appreciation for it, which I didn't imagine was possible as I was already a mad history nut.
By the way, if you are taking Exploring History, or thinking about doing so, there's an excellent series of Yale lectures entitled Early Modern England, by Keith E. Wrightson, available on iTunesU, that complements the OU course very well indeed. Wrightson is very easy to listen to, and if you like those you'll love the OU blocks about the Reformation and English Civil Wars. The Yale lectures came in very handy when I was revising for the exam.