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Human biology

You’ll learn about the major human body systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, excretory, endocrine, nervous, digestive, reproductive) and their major dysfunctions, as well as look at multifactorial conditions related to lifestyle choices. While learning the basic science, the material will also emphasise the richness of interactions between the individual and their environment. You’ll learn human biology in an interdisciplinary context; relatable to a variety of backgrounds, whether science, technology, the humanities or the health professions. It will enable you to appreciate how such knowledge is relevant to issues in health and disease.

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
SK299
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.
30
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 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

In this online module, you’ll study ten of twelve topics.

Topic 1: Human variation and diversity – The sequencing of the human genome has revolutionised the way scientists and health professionals think about human health and biology. In this topic you’ll explore the way our genes direct aspects of our behaviour and how our genome interacts with the environment. You’ll also discover the role of genes in the synthesis of proteins.

Topic 2: Cells and cancers – The skin is the largest organ in the human body and is continually being renewed. You’ll explore how the cells of the skin work together to repair and maintain its integrity. You’ll discover that accumulative mutations in the DNA of skin cells, largely because of exposure to the sun, can lead to skin cancers.

Topic 3: Nutrition and digestion – Worldwide, a third of adults are overweight or obese and this is fuelling a global increase in heart disease and diabetes. You’ll explore the importance of a healthy diet and learn how the body extracts nutrients from the food we eat.

Topic 4: The nervous system – This topic opens with the case of the man with the 7 second memory, illustrating the fragility of the human brain. The average adult human has over 85 billion brain cells, each capable of generating electrical signals. You’ll learn how brain cells achieve this electrifying feat and how they use chemicals to pass information from one brain cell to another. As well as exploring the different parts of the brain and the peripheral nervous system you’ll also learn about the senses and how the brain can be fooled!

Topic 5: Hormones and homeostasis – Hormones play a critical role in controlling physiological processes and maintaining the body’s internal environment. You’ll explore what happens when these homeostatic mechanisms fail, causing conditions such as diabetes and hypothyroidism. You’ll also discover how hormones are abused to improve performance in sport or to accelerate slimming.

Topic 6: The immune system – Our bodies are under constant attack from a host of pathogens. In this topic you’ll discover how the cells and components of the immune system defend the body without destroying it. You’ll learn how vaccinations prepare the immune system to fight disease and why there’s not yet a vaccination for the common cold.

Topic 7: Respiration – ‘Don’t hold your breath’ is an expression you’ve probably heard many times, but may not have thought too much about. In this topic, you’ll study why respiration is so important for life, including how air enters and leaves the lungs, the many dynamic factors that control breathing, and some diseases that affect respiration

Topic 8: The cardiovascular system – The heart of a 72-year-old will have beaten roughly 2.5 billion times, demonstrating the robust and resilient nature of the human heart. In this topic, you’ll learn how the heart and blood vessels work together to ensure that there is a continuous supply of blood to the body and why the control of blood pressure is important for human health.

Topic 9: The kidneys and homeostasis – The first organ offered for sale on the internet was a kidney! This is because without functioning kidneys the chances of long-term survival are limited. You’ll learn that kidneys clean the blood by removing excess water, minerals and wastes, as well as regulating blood pressure and secreting hormones.

Topic 10: The musculoskeletal system – You’ll discover how bones, joints, muscles and nerves work together to allow movement of the body. You’ll also learn about the various roles that calcium plays in this system.

Topic 11: Stress – Stress is a major cause of human disease and mental health problems, yet stress can also be beneficial. You’ll explore this conundrum.

Topic 12: Fertility and reproduction – You’ll explore the topic of infertility in both men and women. You’ll learn about the hormonal and cellular events that prepare a woman’s body for reproduction and pregnancy. The topic concludes with the birth of a human child.

You will learn

As well as studying key physiological and anatomical principles of human biology, you’ll also develop your skills for further study in health and biological sciences, including evaluating evidence; handling numbers; presenting data; writing skills; and using information technology.

Teaching and assessment

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).

Future availability

Human biology 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 2024.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
    Examination
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    You need appropriate knowledge of biology or health.

    You’d normally be prepared by completing OU level 1 study as part of one of our health sciences qualifications, having passed Science: concepts and practice (S112) or Science and health (SDK100). Alternatively, An introduction to health and social care (K101) or Investigating psychology 1 (DE100) would be suitable preparation.

    If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2024.

    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 25/09/2018.

    What's included

    All of the study materials for this module are provided on the module website.

    You will need

    You’ll find it useful to have a simple calculator, as well as a notebook and pen for note taking and working out your answers to self-assessment questions and activities.

    You’ll need a headset, with a microphone and earphones, to get the most out of your online tutorials.

    You may need either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of diagrams or graphs you’ve drawn to include with your assessments.

    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 SK299 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 Disability support website.