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The geological record of environmental change

This module explores how we can track environmental change through the geological record. It begins with the sedimentary sequences produced by changes in relative sea level, and the likely role of climatic and tectonic processes in producing these changes. You’ll also examine the greenhouse world of the Cretaceous and its tropical/subtropical marine environments; high latitude terrestrial environments; the effect on the environment of large igneous provinces and meteorite impacts; and the mass extinction event at the end of the period. Finally, the module documents the Ice Age, offering possible explanations for the natural climatic changes during the last 2.6 million years.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

S369 was most definitely my favourite OU course to date. I particularly enjoyed book 2 on The Cretaceous World, which...
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I had a number of difficulties during this year and might have skimmed over the study material to a certain...
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As is expected for level 3 university courses, students needs to read and engage with the module materials. In level...
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What you will study

This module comprises three books with associated study guides, DVDs and a home kit of rock specimens.

Book 1, The Sedimentary Record of Sea-Level Change, considers a relatively new development: sequence stratigraphy. This explores the nature of sedimentary sequences produced by changes of relative sea level and the likely roles of climatic and tectonic processes in producing local, regional and global changes. The book takes examples from the geological record, including Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Neogene successions in Europe and the USA.

Book 2, The Cretaceous World, applies the skills in palaeo-environmental interpretation developed in Book 1. It has three parts. The first examines selected tropical/subtropical marine environments; the second high-latitude (but not cold) terrestrial environments; and the third the extent and effect of large igneous provinces and meteorite impacts on Cretaceous environments and the mass extinction event at the end of the period.

Book 3, The Great Ice Age, documents the natural climatic changes that have occurred during the last 2.6 million years and explores possible explanations. Some of the biological effects of the climatic upheavals are examined, including palaeo-ecological changes that affected plants and insects.

Professional recognition

The module may help you to gain recognition from a professional body. Geoscience students are currently entitled to apply for Candidate Fellowship of the Geological Society. See The Geological Society of London website for further information. 

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. Tutorial support will be available online.   

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:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. 

This module builds directly on Geology (S276) (now discontinued) and we strongly recommend that you have studied it and another OU level 2 science module, before starting this module. 

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are You Ready For S369?, to help you to decide whether you have the appropriate background knowledge or experience to tackle your chosen module successfully. 

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 £1350.00

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 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 03/08/2015.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVDs, home kit, a website (where you can download the assessment and many of the study materials).

You will need

You will need access to the website at least once a week during the module to download online materials, including the module assignments, and to keep up to date with module news items.

You may need to draw diagrams or to annotate by hand diagrams that you download, and then use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of these diagrams for inclusion in your assessment.

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

You will occasionally be required to observe and interpret small-scale features of rocks in the home kit and on DVD, so good visual acuity and, preferably, the ability to distinguish colours are required to fulfill the learning outcomes. Alternatively, use of a sighted assistant may be appropriate. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), with screen readable versions of the three main texts available on request only from the Disability Resources Team. Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. You may need to draw diagrams or to annotate by hand diagrams that you download, and then use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of these diagrams for inclusion in your assessment.

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.