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Physics: from classical to quantum

This wide-ranging module teaches general physics with an emphasis both on the concepts and their basic numerical description, as well as their application. The module is presented in 25 units (plus a maths revision unit) that are delivered entirely via your computer - there are no printed books. It covers classical mechanics; electric and gravitational fields and potentials; electromagnetism and relativity; waves and optics; thermal and statistical physics; quantum physics and an introduction to its applications to solids, atoms and nuclei. Your problem-solving skills will be developed throughout the module and each unit is supported by animated diagrams, interactive graphs, online practical activities and audio/video clips. 

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate 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
S217
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

OU SCQF FHEQ
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

In this wide-ranging online module you will learn, among other things:

  • How classical mechanics allows us to, for example, describe the motion of roller coasters, athletes and pendulums; predict the motion of satellites, pulleys and downhill skiers using Newton’s laws.
  • How to apply the concepts of work and energy to launching rockets and shock absorbers and many other processes.
  • How energy and momentum conservation laws are used to understand collisions, from those of  subatomic particles to car crashes.
  • What are electric and gravitational forces, fields and potentials and how they explain lightning storms, cling film, planetary motion, and the life and death of stars.
  • How to describe electric currents and circuits, from the domestic electricity supply to electrocardiograms.
  • How to describe magnetic fields and their role in radios, electric motors and electric generators.
  • How special relativity explains why moving fast propels you into the future.
  • How an understanding of sound waves and electromagnetic waves explains why musical instruments emit a range of noises and why butterfly wings display a range of colours.
  • How telescopes and microscopes work allowing us to see the very distant and the very small.
  • How the properties of gases and solids are described, both from a macroscopic and a microscopic perspective, to explain, for example, hot air balloons and the structure of diamonds.
  • Why, in physics, you can’t win, you can only break even; you can break even only at absolute zero; but you can’t reach absolute zero!
  • Why unsolved problems in the interaction of light and matter led to the development of quantum physics in the early 20th century
  • How Schr√∂dinger’s cat can be both dead and alive at the same time.
  • How quantum physics allows us to understand the structure of atoms and how electrons behave like particles and waves.
  • How statistical thermodynamic explains the formation of Bose-Einstein condensates
  • What are semiconducting materials, how they work and what they are used for
  • What nuclei are made of, what makes them stable and how they break.
  • What leptons, hadrons and quarks are and how they interact.
This module is delivered entirely online, with audio, video and interactive activities integrated throughout.

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. There will also be online tutorials and forums.

Contact us 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 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.

You will, however, be granted the option of submitting on paper if typesetting electronically or merging scanned images of your answers to produce an electronic TMA would take you an unacceptably long time.

Future availability

Physics: from classical to quantum (S217) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2022.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.

    Course work includes:

    6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    Examination
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


    Entry requirements

    This OU level 2 module offers an accessible route into physics, suitable for students from a range of backgrounds. However, to successfully complete the module you do need some basic mathematical, scientific and study skills.

    You should be familiar with basic algebraic manipulation (rearranging and combining equations etc.); addition and multiplication of fractions; scientific notation; logarithms; elementary geometry and trigonometry; and with scientific uses of statistics and probability. You should also be able to plot and interpret graphs, use a scientific calculator, and understand the use of unit (dimensional) analysis. A familiarity with the elementary concepts of vectors, trigonometric functions and calculus (differentiation) is also an advantage.

    An appropriate level of mathematical knowledge as well as scientific and study skills can be obtained by studying the OU level 1 modules: Investigative and mathematical skills in science (S141) or by studying Essential mathematics (MST124) and Exploring science (S104) (now discontinued).

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

    Preparatory work

    A sound mathematical background will significantly enhance your chances of enjoying and passing the module. You should be very comfortable with the Maths for Science material in S141 and should have done well in the Maths for Science Practical Assignment. Studying Essential mathematics (MST124) before S217 will give you a stronger grounding in the required mathematics allowing you to concentrate on understanding physics concepts and developing other skills during the module. This is particularly recommended if you intend to go further in your physics studies. The Science Faculty has produced some interactive material Are You Ready For S217? to help you to decide whether you already have the experience to start the module. 

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 £2928.00

    Registration closes 13/09/18 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2022.

    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 your module has started.

    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.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. 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 module 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 module.  

    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 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 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 21/07/2018.

    What's included

    The module is delivered entirely online and all study material is accessible via the module website. There are no printed books, no other printed materials and no CDs/DVDs, although short printable summaries for each Unit are available to download.

    You will need

    A scientific calculator.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying S217 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Overcoming barriers to study if you have a disability or health condition website.