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Exploring science

This key introductory OU level 1 module is an ideal starting point for studying the natural sciences – astronomy and planetary science; biology; chemistry; earth and environmental science; and physics. Using a blend of text and online study materials, this wide-ranging module investigates the major scientific issues affecting human society in the twenty-first century. You will explore the fundamentals of modern science and develop important scientific concepts and skills to give you a solid foundation for studying science at a higher level. You should have some basic mathematical skills and knowledge of basic science concepts before you begin.

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
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

A great starting module for anyone who is interested in science. A gentle start but the pace of study picks...
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Although having worked in science related areas all my working life this was the first time I had studied science...
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What you will study

Exploring science uses the approaches taken by physicists, Earth scientists, biologists and chemists to help you develop a broad appreciation of science. The module begins with a detailed multi-disciplinary investigation of global warming. It then goes on to book-length explorations of the Earth and its place in the Universe; the physics of motion, energy and light; the atomic basis of matter and the fundamentals of chemistry. The first part of the module ends with a discussion of biological cells and the chemistry of life. Important as these topics are, they are accompanied by an equally important development of your skills as a scientist and as a student of science. The final part of the module gives you the opportunity to further develop your knowledge and skills with another book-length exploration in an area of your choice; biology and life science, Earth and environmental science, or astronomy and physical science. 

You will learn

In addition to learning scientific information, you will also learn about the methods of acquiring and evaluating such information. You will start to develop the skills of interpreting scientific information presented in a variety of ways (on screen and in print), and of communicating your scientific knowledge and understanding to others. An important part of this will be the development of key mathematical skills, crucial for analysis and explanation. You will also perform some practical work that will require you to make observations and record measurements. Overall, this module offers learning that provides an ideal general science foundation, and upon which later more specialist science study can be built.

Vocational relevance

While exploring a variety of interesting topics, this module will develop your problem-solving abilities, improve your mathematical and communication skills, and help you to use computers for effective learning and communication. All these skills are likely to be useful in a work context, particularly in jobs requiring a precise and quantitative approach.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for academic advice and guidance. If you are new to The Open University, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned with helping you with your study methods. Your tutor will also offer support through email and online forum discussions. 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 and February 2016.  


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 a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress to OU level 2 study. 

You are not expected to have an extensive knowledge of science, but you should be able to:

  • understand a number of basic mathematical and science concepts and have mathematical skills to at least GCSE level 
  • read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine such as New Scientist (though not necessarily the science content) or a quality newspaper
  • write clearly and concisely, structuring short pieces of writing so that they flow coherently
  • log on to the internet, find websites and communicate by email
  • create, save and retrieve documents using basic word processing skills. 

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully and get the most enjoyment out of the module. To help you decide whether you already have the background knowledge or experience to start the module we have an interactive quiz Are you ready for S104? plus further skills assessments are available from Preparing for S104.  

By the end of the module you will be expected to be working successfully at the level required of first-year undergraduate students.

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


Start End England fee Register
10 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.

30 Jan 2016 Sep 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 07/01/16 (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 February 2016.

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 28/07/2015.

What's included

Books, other printed materials, DVDs, small practical kit including rock specimens.

You will need

A scientific calculator, access to some household items to conduct practical activities. You will need some means of inputting a digital image of a hand-drawn diagram into a word-processed file e.g. scanner, digital camera or mobile phone with a camera.

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. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

We recommend one 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
  • modern Linux desktop or laptop computer.

A netbook, tablet or other mobile device 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

You may find the module challenging if your sight is severely impaired and you may not be able to achieve all of the learning outcomes for the module. As part of the module you will study video material and three-dimensional animations on DVD-ROM which cannot be fully described in words. The printed study materials are available on audio in DAISY Digital Talking Book format. It is possible to have an assistant to help you with some of the practical activities in the module.

Written transcripts of the audio-visual 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 mathematical or scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

Online and computer activities form part of this module. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

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.