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Living in a globalised world

It is commonplace now to say that the world has gone global. Whenever we buy food and clothes, listen to music, or watch the news, we can see how different parts of the world, often thousands of miles apart, are connected together. And with these multiple and various connections comes a sense of the world as being a complex and exciting place. This module will help you to understand that complexity, giving you some key geographical concepts which help to make sense of the processes and patterns shaping our globalised world.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

This innovative geography-led module will give you an understanding of some of the challenges of globalised living. Everyday living in today’s globalised world can feel challenging, even confusing at times, with distance no longer a reliable indicator of our involvements in the world. Some of your closest relationships may be stretched across continents, and held together with letters, phone calls or email; yet you may pass people in the street every day without giving them a second glance. Global political concerns are becoming more extensive but also more controversial. On the one hand, charities and other organisations are as likely to be campaigning for the rights and welfare of people on another continent as they are for people from your local area. On the other hand, wars are waged to rid people of 'outsiders'.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we’re all involved in these complex, global situations, where the ‘right’ course of action isn't always clear. These debates are hotly contested in the media and in everyday life. How should we react to calls to build global relationships with people living far from us? Do we also have responsibilities to other living creatures that share the planet, and to the world itself, with all its potential resources and dangers?

The module is divided into four blocks.

Block 1

The first block begins by looking at a place where various kinds of global relations come together, but also where they are forcibly challenged: the border between Mexico and the United States. The module uses an online video to enable you to see and hear the everyday experiences that make up this globalised place, from would-be migrants to border guards, from factory workers to factory bosses, from environmental activists to humanitarian workers. You’ll also see and hear how the natural environment is intervening in these experiences, using, as examples, the conflict over access to scarce water resources, and the commercialisation of Mexico’s bio-diversity by US corporations.

Block 2

This block uses print and audio materials to explore the growing demands living in a globalised world makes on us. It argues that these demands, and how we respond, are reshaping the world and its geography. Some of these demands are overtly political, made by campaigning organisations. One example of this is the demand that affluent consumers take some responsibility for the exploitation of the workers who make the goods they buy, often living in poorer countries. But other demands are encouraged by certain kinds of technology: the internet's request for chat and intimacy, for example. Further kinds of demands are made by nation-states, or by migrants. What these demands have in common is that they are about getting us to define ‘closeness’ and ‘distance’. Physical distance can be overcome by telephone calls and emails; but what kinds of virtual closeness appear in its place? Many campaigning groups assume that the development of common causes will bring people from different parts of the world closer together. TV news offers us other kinds of global proximities, by bringing events from around the world into our living rooms. Most of your work in thsi block will be topic-led; topics range from the impacts of the global media and international migration, to issues posed by international humanitarian disasters and factory ‘sweatshops’ in far-away places.

Block 3

Through print and audio materials, Block 3 takes a closer look at some of the uncertainties of living in a globalised world. Just why are so many demands being made on us now? And why is responding to those demands so often difficult? One reason for these current uncertainties is that we are not acting alone in making the world we see around us today. As well as the complexities of politics and technologies, this block examines the unpredictable natural environment. Concerns about climate change and biodiversity are reminders that humans are not the only actors on the planet, and that our actions are entangled with processes found in nature. The block also argues that globalisation is not simply about the many flows that circulate the globe: goods, money, people and cultural influences, as well as non-human flows like ocean currents and winds. The block is also about the continuing importance of territories and borders to the world’s development. Indeed, our attempts to open up the world can also create the need to build protective boundaries to mark out areas of privacy. Again, your work in this block will be topic-led. Areas covered include climate change, tax havens, biodiversity and the search for new medicines, the growth of new social movements, and issues surrounding ethical food consumption.

Block 4

The final block summarises the module by asking you to return to the case study explored in Block 1: the Mexico-United States border. Using an online video, you'll look with fresh eyes at this case study and see how the concepts of proximity, distance, territory and flow, help you to make sense of this place and its particular character. You'll also be asked to consider how these ideas can be used to shed light on the responsibilities associated with living in a globalised world.

This is an OU level 2 module and is an ideal step on from level 1 study with the OU. You will learn or consolidate a variety of study skills on this course. In particular, you’ll learn how to assess the evidence used to support different arguments, and how to apply the module's geographical concepts to a wide range of examples, including examples from outside the module.

Vocational relevance

The module gives a general introduction to geographical and environmental issues and will support training towards a range of vocational interests and careers. The appeal of geography stems from its broadly based and multidisciplinary flavour; it is highly regarded as part of a general preparation for more specifically vocational courses or job training. Traditionally, geography has been seen as useful to careers in planning, local government, architecture, surveying, environmental management and teaching, but you should also consider it if you are thinking about jobs in business, transport and communications, health care or politics. Geography teachers and those working in environment-related activities should find the module adds significant value to their work and careers, as will those working for a range of international organisations, either social, economic or political.

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:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module, and you will find it helpful to have the kind of social science skills in reading, analysis and writing essays that are developed in our level 1 course Introducing the social sciences (DD102). You should be able to manage your study time effectively and plan structured essays. 

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 04/08/2015.

What's included

Module books and website.

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

This is a strongly visual module, reflected particularly in the substantial use of video, photographs and maps.

Students with visual impairment are advised to consider their requirements carefully and seek advice from an adviser before registering for this module.

The books are available in a comb-bound format. Transcripts of video materials are available, as are very brief descriptions of key visual material. The study companion materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. If you have a visual impairment you may have difficulties doing analytical work associated with these visual resources and it would not be in contravention of the learning outcomes to ask a sighted helper to describe these visual resources to you. 

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.