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Engineering: origins, methods, context

This introductory module examines the range of human activity that is ’engineering’, setting current practice in a historical context and looking forward to new developments that will help shape the future. Key scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies are introduced and explained, to equip you with a basic toolkit on which to build further study. Mathematics is presented in an engineering context to emphasise relevance and build your confidence in framing problems, addressing design challenges and formulating solutions. Reflective practice is encouraged throughout and you will have the opportunity to share and discuss aspects of your work with other students.

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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 code


  • 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.
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.
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

Student Reviews

A very enjoyable module. Broad concepts and ideas in engineering, electronics and design were covered as well as enough maths...
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What you will study

The wealth and safety of nations depend upon engineering skills. This module, which is the starting point for a recognised qualification in engineering, shows you why. It uses a combination of books, online resources and media to help you become a:

  • successful learner
  • well-informed student of engineering
  • confident user of mathematics.

This module introduces you to key principles of engineering and design engineering, while helping you to improve your study skills and to develop as an independent and reflective learner. You will learn how the broad discipline that is engineering has developed over time, explore current examples of engineering practice, and get a taster of future trends.

Scientific knowledge and mathematical skills are both essential components of engineering. They form a major part of this module and are included and practised throughout, with the engineering topics providing a clear context for their application.

The module is presented in two parts, each supported by a printed book. Your study will be guided from the module website, which includes interactive online activities, practice quizzes and media clips. You will have opportunities to communicate and work online with other students, and have tutor support throughout the module.

Part one

The first part introduces the scientific and social context within which engineering has developed and is currently practised. It explores the nature and purpose of engineering by looking at examples of engineering products and projects, and of engineers at work, and provides an opportunity to think about your own experience and plans for the future. The resources needed for engineering are explored. These include people skills, sources of information and guidance, scientific models and mathematical techniques, as well as physical resources like materials and energy.

The mathematical focus of this part is on algebra and mathematical modelling. Topics will include:

  • using numbers, symbols and units appropriately
  • setting out and rearranging equations
  • working with fractions, percentages and powers
  • creating a mathematical model
  • drawing and interpreting graphs.

There are opportunities to check that you have the basic background knowledge needed to study the module and to fill in any gaps, and plenty of chances to practise applying techniques to engineering problems.

Other activities will explore learning styles, time management, study techniques and good academic practice. You will be guided in using the OU library and encouraged to interact with other students on the module forums. You will use a learning log to record and reflect on your progress.

Part two

Design engineering is the focus of this part. You will begin by looking at ways of approaching complex design problems and then look at all stages of the design process, from finding problems to testing final design solutions. Case studies will be used to provide examples of the evolution of design projects, and how the relationship between creative to analytical thinking can be harnessed.

Key engineering topics covered will be:

  • design contexts – drivers, conditions and constraints
  • identifying, framing, representing and researching design challenges
  • creative techniques and approaches to problem solving
  • talking about design engineering – words, images, drawings, communication
  • the design process – iteration, optimisation, physical and digital prototyping
  • current and future trends in design engineering.

You will have more opportunities to practise and extend your skills in algebra and using graphs, and new mathematics topics in geometry and trigonometry will be introduced. You will be encouraged to experiment with using techniques from your growing ‘mathematical toolbox’ to tackle engineering challenges.

Part two of the module will also introduce you to Open Engineering Studio, a virtual space where you can share work with other students, share ideas, and give and receive feedback on design tasks.

Throughout the module, interactive quizzes will give you a chance to practise maths questions to prepare for the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). Assignment questions will be based on activities in the module material.

By the end of this module you will be very well prepared to continue your studies in engineering.

If you are considering progressing to Engineering: frameworks, analysis, production (T193), normally you should have completed or be studying this module.

Professional recognition

This is the introductory module for all OU engineering qualifications. The learning outcomes for these qualifications are designed to fulfil the Engineering Council’s requirements under UK-SPEC and are accredited by several engineering institutions as fulfilling the educational requirements for professional recognition.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a named 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. You'll also be able to receive support from a wider pool of tutors through specialist forums and study events.

We expect to be able to offer face-to-face tutorials, in a range of locations students can travel to. You are encouraged, but not obliged to attend these and they are booked on-line and open to all within the cluster. We cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. Online alternatives may also be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students within the cluster.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where tutorials are held, and what online alternatives are provided. We cannot guarantee that face-to-face tutorials will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. While you're not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

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 must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

There are four interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). These do not count towards your final mark, but you need to reach a threshold on at least three of them to pass the module.

Future availability

Engineering: origins, methods, context (T192) starts twice a year – in April and October.

This page describes the module that will start in April 2021.

We expect it to start for the last time in April 2024.


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)
    4 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
    No examination
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to modules at OU level 2.

    You’ll need some knowledge of mathematics, an interest in technology, and the ability to read and write to a good standard of English.

    Are you ready to start an Engineering qualification? is a diagnostic quiz designed to help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module. You will be given advice and guidance on what to do next at the end of the quiz. (Note the interactive features of the quiz do not run on mobile and tablet devices.)

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


    Start End England fee Register
    03 Oct 2020 Mar 2021 £1548.00

    New to OU? Registration closed. Already an OU Student? If you can pay in full by card you can register here until 02/10/20

    10 Apr 2021 Sep 2021 £1548.00

    Registration closes 11/03/21 (places subject to availability)

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

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, 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, Mastercard, Visa 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).

    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 2021. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 21/09/2020.

    What's included

    You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access
    • OpenEngineering studio - an online collaborative studio.

    You'll also be provided with two module books, a module handbook and assessment guide.

    You will need

    A scientific calculator, basic drawing equipment and a device capable of producing digital images (e.g. a smartphone, digital camera or scanner).

    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 an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

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

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    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 T192 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.