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Electronics: signal processing, control and communications

This module teaches industrially relevant skills in the application of analogue and digital electronics to signal processing, control and communications. Signal processing looks at the ways both analogue and/or digital filters can remove noise from signals. Control shows how using feedback and a suitable controller can change the dynamic behaviour of processes (electronic/mechanical or other) to meet a desired criteria. Communication shows how cables and radio waves can communicate data.

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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.
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module takes the ideas that you know about basic electronic circuits, together with general engineering principles, and looks at three of the main applications of electronics. It comprises three blocks: signal processing, control and communications.

Interactive software and OpenEngineering Laboratory experiments support the course materials in all three blocks. Throughout the module, we use illustrative case studies, such as the Mars rovers and some of the problems they face because of their remoteness and the inhospitable landscape.

Block 1: Signal processing
The first block introduces you to signal processing. It starts by defining what we mean by noise in a signal, showing how to explain this in the frequency domain. It then shows how we can remove the noise with the use of analogue electronic circuits – called filters. We’ll show you how to design filters to perform specific tasks by using mathematical models. We’ll also give you a refresher on complex numbers. The chapter ends with a look at digital filters. First, how we can design filters that run on computers and can perform many of the filtering tasks of analogue circuits. Finally, we look at aspects of processing that we can only do with digital signals, such as image processing.

Block 2: Control
This block introduces the idea of control theory. It discusses the basic principle of using feedback, as well as processes’ transient responses. Block 2 extends some of the ideas of mathematical modelling introduced in Block 1, so you can start designing controllers that produce the desired behaviour of a process. You’ll spend some time looking at how to implement controllers electronically in both analogue circuits and as digital algorithms. You’ll then look at some of the ideas of intelligent control, specifically fuzzy logic control and neural networks.

Block 3: Communication
The final block introduces the principles of communication, with emphasis on radio communications. It starts by looking at modulation, and how to encode a message into a radio frequency waveform. It shows the design and implementation of transmission and receiver circuits, and how radio frequency circuits differ from electronic circuits. You’ll consider aspects of both analogue and digital communications and explore the advantages of each. Finally, you’ll look at space communications – the problems that are inherent, together with the solutions.

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 the application of electronic systems in signal processing, control and communications
  • search and use relevant journal papers via the library website
  • work with signals, including sampling and filtering
  • design controllers to achieve a desired dynamic response
  • design radio frequency circuits for transmitters and receivers
  • work with equipment using the OpenEngineering Laboratory.

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
  • apply standard electronic theory to practical engineering problems
  • use industry-standard software to solve problems
  • use industry-standard hardware in electronics engineering in the OpenEngineering Laboratory
  • reflect on and improve your personal and professional development 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 we strongly encouraged you to attend. Where we hold tutorials will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

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


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Both the TMAs and EMA assess the module material as well as practical (Open Engineering Lab) and simulation activities.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your TMAs.

Block quizzes help you prepare for the assessments. The quizzes don’t count towards the final mark. Their purpose is to support your learning and determine for yourself how well you’ve understood the teaching.

Future availability

Electronics: signal processing, control and communications (T312) 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 2026.


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)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

    However, we recommend you have one of the following:

    • passes in Electronics: sensing, logic and actuation (T212) and Engineering: mathematics, modelling, applications (T194)
    • engineering knowledge equivalent to OU level 1 and mathematical knowledge to A-level or above; plus a pass in an electronics module from another institution at FHEQ level 5/SCQF level 9

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



    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 £1506.00

    Registration closes 12/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

    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 21/08/2019.

    What's included

    • Three printed books written especially for the module that explain the theory behind signal processing, control and communications
    • Printed guides of the practical activities.

    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 T312. It will also give access to interactive graphics, Multisim Live online circuit simulation 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 T312 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.