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Topics in science

In this module you will study three exciting topics in contemporary science which will provide you with a broad understanding of OU level 1 science. These topics include Human genetics and health issues, which deals with our genes – an area at the forefront of medical science and Empire of the microbes, which explores the intriguing world of bacteria, viruses, yeast and other microscopic organisms. To allow some specialisation between studying health sciences or environmental sciences you will have a choice between Molecules, medicines and drugs, which explores drug development, infection and disease and The frozen planet, which explains the science behind the polar regions.   

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

Module code
S142
Credits
30
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

Fantastic module! I really enjoyed the Human Genetics part of it. I was really worried at my lack of chemistry...
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An interesting module covering three different topics which are all relevant and exciting. I decided to undergo molecules and medicine...
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What you will study

This module has three components.

Human genetics and health issues which examines the patterns of inheritance of genes, including those associated with genetic diseases; the sequence and content of the human genome; how genes function; how the physical and biochemical characteristics of the body are produced; and why there are differences between individuals and between populations. Finally, it explores some of the issues surrounding research into genes, from biological, medical and ethical points of view.

Empire of the microbes provides an introduction to microbes, explaining their importance in disease and environmental issues and their role in making and spoiling food. You will learn about: the biology of microbes and how they have been studied and cultured from historical times to the present; the efforts made to combat the negative effects of microbes in the health and food industries; how microbes are beneficially used to make drugs and food; the basic ideas behind genetic engineering; and some of the science behind the major environmental cycles in which microbes are involved. This will enable you to understand more about the role and importance of microbes in human society. An online digital microscope will allow you to explore the microbial world for yourself and will also do your own experiments.

If your interest is on health or life sciences, then you should consider Molecules, medicines and drugs which you will study online. It starts by discussing the development and testing of drugs within a social and economic setting, before moving on to explore the discovery and development of a range of drugs and medicines that relieve pain, effect cures and alleviate the symptoms of ill-health. You’ll find out how drugs interact with and affect their target areas in the human body. Online activities will help you to visualise the three-dimensional structures and shapes of the molecules concerned and develop an understanding of how the drugs work. The story includes topics on how aspirin relieves aches and pains; Ventolin treats the symptoms of asthma; penicillin combats harmful bacteria; and Tamiflu helps in the fight against bird flu.

If you would prefer to focus on environmental or biological science, study The frozen planet which examines the physical controls influencing the shape and character of our planet over millions of years through to the climate we experience today. You will investigate the different environmental niches where wildlife flourishes, and the strategies some species have developed to exploit them. You will discover the influence of humans on the environment and learn about their current management and fate in the near future. Specially-filmed film clips from the spectacular BBC Frozen Planet team will form some of the topic activities. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned to a tutor who will hold online tutorials, facilitate one or more online forums, mark your tutor-marked assignments and generally help you achieve the module's learning outcomes.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

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

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA).

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in February 2015. We expect it to be available for the last time in February 2016.

Regulations

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:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


Entry

This module complements both the 60-credit key introductory module Exploring science (S104) and the 30-credit Introducing health sciences: a case study approach (SDK125), and is particularly suitable if you are taking either of these modules or have already taken one of them.

You should have basic mathematical skills and an understanding of basic scientific concepts. Chemical ideas are explained when they are needed. However, if you are entirely new to the language of chemistry, you will need patience while you become familiar with the vocabulary, and practice applying the new skills that you are learning.

You should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper, and you should be able to communicate your thoughts clearly and comprehensibly in a written format.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Register

Start End England fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Sep 2015 £1316.00

Registration closes 08/01/15 (places subject to availability)

Register

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 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2017.

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 annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. 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 10 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. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

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

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.


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 based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 26/11/2014.

What's included

Three printed module books (Empire of the microbes, Human genetics and health issues, The Frozen Planet), an ebook (Molecules, medicines and drugs), study guide, website, online digital microscope and other online materials, and online discussion forums for interaction with other students.

You will need

Basic scientific calculator; access to some household items to conduct practical activities.

You will also 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 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

Written transcripts of any audio/video components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the study material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The printed module books are available in a comb-bound format. Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

Some parts of the module are delivered online via the website, so you will have to make considerable use of a computer and the internet. Some parts of the module rely heavily on complex diagrams, including maps, chemical structures and coloured images, some of which are delivered via an online digital microscope and this must be studied in order to complete the module. One of the learning outcomes of the module is that students should develop an ability to interpret images, structures and video sequences. No textual descriptions of diagrams will be available and the use of a sighted assistant to interpret the images would conflict with this learning outcome. However, the assessment will only require students to demonstrate that the majority of the module learning outcomes have been achieved. You should consider if you will find achieving these learning outcomes challenging then contact the OU for advice if necessary.

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.