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Electronics: sensing, logic and actuation

Electronics underpins almost every facet of the modern world, controlling the smallest of surgical instruments to the largest of passenger planes, with imminent new developments such as autonomous cars and collaborative robots. You’ll gain industrially relevant skills in the core aspects of electronics: sensing gives detailed awareness of the world, logic makes smart decisions and actuation produces tangible outputs. The theory you’ll learn is applicable industry wide, enhanced by regular sessions in our remote laboratory where you’ll personally have full real-time control over state-of-the-art electronics equipment, from your own computer.

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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.
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module will provide you with an introduction to the broad spectrum of activities that comprise electronic engineering, and the analytical methods needed to support it. It is designed to give continuity into Electronics: signal processing, control and communications (T312). The combined modules will have a strong emphasis on the development of the practical knowledge and skills required by industry.

It’s presented in five blocks. The first block introduces the module and shows how sensors, logic and actuation are combined to make working systems. The context of the overall module is the sensing–logic–actuation cycle, in which electronic systems (i) collect information about their environment through sensors responding to light, sound and other physical phenomena, (ii) use logic and signal processing to reason about the sensor data in the context of what they already know, in order to plan and decide what to do next, and (iii) control their motors and actuators such as wheels, legs, arms, and grippers to move and operate successfully within their environment. The theory will be illustrated by many electronic systems, from the devices that are everywhere in our homes and everyday lives to state-of-the-art systems across a range of application areas.

Block 1: introduction  This block introduces and motivates the module, explaining the roles of sensing, logic and actuation in electronics engineering. Building on the basic theory of electricity, you’ll learn about common electronic devices and how they work together to make circuits with standard functionality. You’ll learn how to read and draw schematic diagrams for electronic systems. This is supported by the industry-standard Multisim Live circuit design and simulation software. You’ll be introduced to the OpenEngineering Laboratory, and conduct an experiment on a driven pendulum that produces sine wave signals similar to those you’ll see in electrical and electronic systems.

Block 2: Sensing – You’ll learn about sensors, signals and signal processing. You’ll learn how a variety of sensors work, including light-dependent resistors, photodiodes, thermistors, pressure sensors, and ranging devices, and how to design robust sensor circuits using operational amplifiers (op-amps). The theory of Fourier analysis is developed and used as the basis of signal processing, including sampling and filtering. You’ll use your computer to investigate various aspects of signal processing and filtering out noise.  Multisim Live and OpenEngineering Laboratory experiments will give you experience of sensor circuit design and signal processing using industry-standard interfaces controlling real devices.  The OpenEngineering Laboratory experiments include photodiodes and strain gauges.

Block 3: Logic – This block covers the basics of Boolean logic and the use of binary numbers and sequential logic in computing devices and controlling systems. You’ll learn about microcontrollers and microprocessors, including how they can be programmed to read sensors and control actuators. In your OpenEngineering Laboratory experiments, you’ll use a specially designed digital logic tutor board, with real digital logic gates, that can be rewired instantly from your computer.

Block 4: Actuation – This block covers actuators and the circuits that drive them. You’ll learn about transistors and semiconductors; electromagnetics; linear actuators; DC motors and stepper motors; cooling in electronics; and control. You’ll use the OpenEngineering Laboratory and Multisim Live extensively. The OpenEngineering Laboratory exercises will involve controlling a variety of motors and measuring their properties.

Block 5: Integration – This block uses the case study of a quadcopter drone to illustrate the process of designing electronic and mechanical systems. You'll learn that the integration process iterates between the design of the whole system and the design of its interacting subsystem. The OpenEngineering Laboratory exercise experiments with ranging devices.

You will learn

The knowledge and skills developed in this module are applicable in various engineering roles. At the end of it you’ll be able to:

  • describe electronic systems in terms of the sensing–logic–actuation cycle;
  • search for electronic components and data sheets on the internet and reference them correctly;
  • draw standard electronics schematics and diagrams;
  • select sensors and design robust sensor circuits;
  • work with signals, including sampling and filtering;
  • work with logical expressions and sequential processing, including writing simple programs;
  • work with logical circuits using the OpenEngineering Laboratory;
  • select appropriate motors and actuators for designing electronics systems;
  • select actuator systems and design or specify appropriate electronic control.

Vocational relevance

This module will help you to gain knowledge and skills that are essential for the practicing engineer. It can help you to:

  • be aware of the role played by electronics in general engineering;
  • find appropriate components and data sheets for electronics projects;
  • apply standard electronic theory to practical engineering problems;
  • use industry-standard software to simulate electronic circuits;
  • use industry-standard hardware in electronics engineering in the OpenEngineering Laboratory;
  • use measurements to quantify circuit performance;
  • be aware of the professional responsibilities of an electronic engineer;
  • reflect on and improve your performance as an engineer.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a tutor who will support you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Tuition will take place across a range of media; there will be online and face-to-face tutorials that you are strongly encouraged to attend.  Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Your tutor will also support you in your online activities, including using Multisim Live and the OpenEngineering Laboratory.


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).

Block quizzes help you prepare for the three TMAs and EMA.  The quizzes are formative which means that they don’t count towards the final mark. Their purpose is to enable you to test for yourself how well you have understood what is being taught, and you can try the questions any number of times without penalty.

Future availability

Electronics: sensing, logic and actuation (T212) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 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)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    To study Electronics: sensing, logic and actuation, we recommend you have one of the following:

    • passes in Engineering: origins, methods, context (T192) and Engineering: framework, analysis, products (T193); and Engineering: maths, modelling, applications (T194)
    • a pass in Engineering the future (T174) or its predecessor T173; plus a pass in Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) or its predecessor MST121
    • engineering knowledge equivalent to OU level 1 and mathematics knowledge to A-Level or above.

    Check you're ready with our self-assessed quiz.

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


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 -

    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 computer, 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, 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).

    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 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 21/09/2019.

    What's included

    Five printed books written especially for the module explain the basic theory.

    Other materials, including the module guide, study material, videos and activities will be available from the module website, along with all University online services required for T212. It will also give access to interactive graphics and Multisim Live software, and the remote OpenEngineering Laboratory.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Corporate firewalls often block the video and data connections to the OpenEngineering Laboratory; therefore, we recommend a standard ISP connection. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Recent versions of the following browsers are most suitable for carrying out web-based activities:

    • Chrome
    • Firefox

    Internet Explorer, Edge, Safari, and iOS browsers currently don’t support all the web standards used by the OpenEngineering Laboratory.

    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. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    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 T212 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.