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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?

Divided into four blocks, Block 1 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 of the module uses print and audio materials to explore the growing demands living in a globalised world makes on us. The block 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 Block 2 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.

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.

The fourth and 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 our Student Registration & Enquiry Service 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 2014. 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


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 contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
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What's included

Module books and website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

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 our Student Registration & Enquiry Service 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.