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Business organisations and their environments

Business organisations come in all shapes and sizes, and form a central feature of our everyday lives. Our experiences of business organisations vary depending on where we are globally, but we interact with them daily in very personal ways. This module is inspired by the ways in which these organisations are conceived, function, survive and prosper in these turbulent times of the twenty-first century. It is a practical module, grounded in your own experience of business organisations as an employee, customer or stakeholder, and is designed to develop your personal and professional practice in diverse business environments. The module is taught mainly via the internet and you'll take part in an online collaboration with other students.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

We have considered how the internet impacts on the way we live every day and certainly on the way we work and interact with myriad business organisations. Web literacy and the ability to work collaboratively with others in an online environment are now core business skills. To offer you an up-to-date learning experience this module is presented mainly via the web making full use of the OU’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and keeping pace with the rapidly changing global business environment.

This module examines the environments in which business organisations operate. It also looks at how these environments shape, and are shaped by, the ways in which these organisations function. It does this by using theoretical ideas about (and models of) these relationships. You’ll learn by sharing and widening your experiences and analysing them in innovative ways around three key themes:

  • You’ll focus on the relationship between theory and practice. In its teaching and learning approach, this module encourages both reflection on practice and consideration of the implications of theoretical and ethical debates for the operation of businesses in the modern world.
  • You’ll explore the diverse and complex worlds of business: nationally and internationally; large and small; and between the diverse range of organisations that engage with business, including public bodies and the social economy.
  • You’ll use different theoretical models to investigate the implications of different ways of thinking about the business environment.

Key features of the module are that:

  • it explores current global, regional and local issues in business supported by relevant and interesting examples
  • it explores the current state of academic knowledge and ideas of some classic business scholars in a guided way
  • it makes creative use of online technologies to enhance the teaching and learning of business organisations and their environments
  • it challenges your thinking and perceptions of business organisations and their relationship with the society we live in
  • it unravels some of the wider debates and controversies that exist in theoretical and practical understanding of business organisations and their environments.

The structure of the module is organised into four blocks.

Block 1, Encountering Organisations, starts by asking you to assess your current knowledge and understanding of business organisations. It then helps you to develop your skills using the online tutor group forum to reach a shared understanding with your fellow students. You’ll use an online tool to develop your portfolio of skills and abilities. You will also work through an introduction to the module themes and discover ways you can reflect on your relationship and experiences of business organisations and their environments.

Block 2, The Evolution of Organisations, explores how the organisations we see today have been shaped. Against the backdrop of organisation theory, you’ll investigate the internal and external factors that shape business and that business seeks to influence. This will include theoretical analyses and discussions of some internal factors that influence the nature and direction of a business anywhere, like culture, structure, management and control. You’ll also explore the ways in which external factors, like national culture, external control (such as law and regulation), and technological and economic issues impact on the relationships between business organisations and their environments. There will be an online group collaborative activity preparing for the fourth tutor-marked assignment during study weeks 16-19. You will need regular access to the internet during the four weeks of this collaborative activity in February, a fact you may want to consider when making holiday or travel plans.

Block 3, The Context of Organisations, focuses on three sets of overarching debates and issues that are current in the world of business and continually impact on the performance of business organisations. These issues are globalisation, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and regulation. Each topic is explored through case-study materials and theoretical debates about the implications of these issues for business organisations.

Block 4, Re-encountering Organisations, considers what organisations may look like in the future. Are emerging organisational forms, such as open-source networks and social enterprises, just a transient phase? Or are such forms the start of a revolution in the operation of business? What are the implications of this for the business environment? How will changes in contemporary business impact how we work together?

Throughout the module, there is a strong focus on the practical implications of the debates you consider and how these link into your experience of the world of business. The main study materials will be delivered online with embedded audio and video links and via DVD and interactive study materials. This material illustrates the issues raised and links into tutorial discussion and activities to develop your understanding. The use of blogs and collaborative work will foster group learning.

Vocational relevance

The module will prepare you with practical skills that are in line with the QAA benchmark statement expectations for business studies.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


The module is for you if you want a general overview of modern business and the ways in which they relate to their environments. It makes as few assumptions as possible about what you already know and about your experience of formal academic study. However, this is an OU level 2 module and if you have no previous experience of studying business , it is strongly recommended that you first study An introduction to business and management (B100) (or its equivalent)

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2018.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 31/07/2015.

What's included

Main study material, four blocks in 29 weekly texts including extra resources and activity material, are provided online. Three module readers, a book of supplementary readings, a module guide and a DVD containing copies of the online video material are provided in a hard mailing.

You will need

The ability to play CDs and DVDs.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Large print versions of the study materials can be provided on request. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.