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Human biology

This module presents human biology in a way that connects it directly with health and disease. It starts with the concept of a healthy body and explores the mechanisms that enable it to maintain its integrity. Although you’ll deal with the physiology of each body system separately, the overall emphasis is on interaction and coordination. You’ll acquire sufficient background to appreciate how systems can fail and which medical interventions can be successful. The module will suit science students – especially those with a biology background; anyone interested in health; or people working in health and social care or other professions allied to medicine.

If you are considering progressing to Preparing for graduate practice (KYN317), you must have normally completed Principles and skills for nursing practice (KYN237) and Exploring perspectives on health and illness (KYN238), and either this module or The science of the mind: investigating mental health (SKYN228 or SDK228).

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
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

The module presents the biological foundations of physiology and health as a dynamic process. The core of the module is concerned with an integrated study of human biology, drawing on the disciplines of anatomy, physiology, immunology, biochemistry, and endocrinology. It includes all the biological ‘facts and figures’ familiar from traditional courses in human biology, but they are presented as part of a functional account that is different from the usual format, which rarely assembles the parts into an integral human being. A distinctive feature of the module is a series of case reports integrated within each chapter; these reports explore individuals’ experiences associated with particular disease states.

The module is presented in four books, accompanied by a Study Guide and a range of other materials.

Book 1 begins with an introduction to the module, explaining both its scope and approach. It first discusses how living processes are maintained before considering diet and nutrition in depth.

Book 2 looks at communication and control (nervous and endocrine systems), and responses to the world around us (sensory and musculo-skeletal systems).

Book 3 continues to guide us around the anatomy and physiology of body systems: circulation and respiration; fluid regulation and excretion; and responding to non-self (the immune system).

Book 4 considers some of the challenges of life: obesity; sleep; stress; reproduction; and our varied responses to them in the context of genetic and environmental diversity.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and encourage and moderate your tutor-group conference, 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 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 for the final time in October 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:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school


This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

To gain the appropriate study skills we particularly recommend Science and health: an evidence based approach (SDK100) or Exploring science (S104), or An introduction to health and social care (K101). It would also be an advantage to have studied biology or human biology to GCSE or, preferably, A level standard. 

As well as being a suitable choice for science students, especially those who have a background in biology and health, the module can also provide a sound grounding in human physiology for social-science students who are particularly interested in health. It is very appropriate for health and social-care workers, and particularly for people in professions allied to medicine. If you have not taken our OU level 1 module Exploring science (S104), or Introducing health sciences: a case study approach (SDK125) (now discontinued), this module can serve as a refresher, perhaps for nurses returning to work or others who want to update their knowledge. 

The Science Faculty has produced the guide Are You Ready For SK277? which has self-assesment questions to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module or whether you need a little extra preparation. 

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

Preparatory work

Students who particularly wish to improve their study skills are advised to read The Sciences Good Study Guide (1997) by A. Northedge, J. Thomas, A. Lane and A. Peasgood.


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 29/07/2015.

What's included

Module books, study texts and other printed materials, CD-ROMs.

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.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

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

Please note that this module makes substantial use of complex visual material and includes a significant number of interactive animations on CD-ROMs. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and probably also the internet.

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.