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Business functions in context

This module focuses on the essential organisational functions of human resources; marketing; operations management; information management; and accounting and finance. You will examine their key practices, processes and thinking, and their contributions to organisations and their operations – with an emphasis on practice-based learning. You will explore activities undertaken by functional specialists, and develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, numeracy, information literacy, and written and oral communication. By the end of the module, you’ll understand how and why distinct business functions have developed and how they are integrated; their structure and operations in different contexts; and their role in organisations’ interactions with their environments.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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

The module is structured into seven blocks. The first block is a general introduction, and the last provides integration and consolidation. The remaining five blocks cover the five functional areas.

Block 1 Introduction – familiarises you with the approach of the module, its values and assumptions and develops the concept of practice-based learning. It includes a brief outline of each function and an explanation of how its contribution will be developed in later blocks. A major case study from the retail sector is introduced.

Block 2 Operations Management – focuses on the role and purpose of the operations function and the impact this function can have on organisational strategy. It explores the most important design decisions within operations management and explains the challenges inherent in planning and controlling operations. The importance of taking a supply chain perspective within operations management is also emphasised, as well as the role of performance measures and quality management.

Block 3 Marketing – explores the nature of marketing and the importance of understanding the complexities of the marketplace. It looks at the marketing environment and its impact on marketers; addresses how marketers can formulate their marketing strategy to ensure their products and services satisfy customers’ needs and compete effectively.

Block 4 Accounting and Finance – is concerned with how accounting information is provided to and used by managers to make informed business decisions and exercise control. It covers financial accounting, cost and management accounting, and financial management.

Block 5 Human Resource Management (HRM) – explores how the term HRM has developed and the type of activities and issues that the HRM function is concerned with. HRM has become a key feature of any manager’s job as the responsibility for team and individual performance has been pushed down the organisation. Accordingly, this block explores the link between HRM and business strategy. It also identifies the main aspects of the employment relationship and the key activities involved in ensuring that an organisation is adequately resourced with people who can perform the tasks required of them.

Block 6 Information Management – covers all aspects of managing information within organisations. It introduces information as a key resource and explores the purpose of the information management function. The role of information in various forms of decision making is examined along with the ramifications this can have for organisational sense making and organisational power. It explores how information management systems reshape business processes and fuel organisational change.

Block 7 Conclusion - draws conclusions about the roles of functions within organisations, and the importance of their interactions. It will also assist you to complete your assessed work.

A feature of this module is that it makes use of an integrative approach in bringing out the inter-connectedness of the five business functions being examined. This will be done through case studies and online group activities which examine, reflect and contextualise the functions that may be undertaken in a whole range of situations. These situations could include your workplace; a voluntary organisation where you are an unpaid helper; your own office; the home of a client; or even in your own home.

Vocational relevance

The module will prepare you with practical skills that are in line with the Quality Assurance Agency’s benchmark statement expectations for business studies. It also aims to enhance employability as the curriculum is of benefit to students in the employment market and also relevant to many studying for their own personal development.

Outside the UK

This module is relevant to business students in both a UK and non-UK context.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material. They will mark and comment on your written work, and you can ask them 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:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This module is for those who want a general overview of business studies – to learn more about the world of business and how it operates. It makes as few assumptions as possible about what you already know about business or 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 2017.

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 05/08/2015.

What's included

The seven blocks are delivered on the module website and include links to various essential resources including outside websites. These blocks are also provided in a print-friendly format. You will also receive five printed textbooks.

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. Musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. 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.