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Technologies for digital media

Downloading mp3 music files; exchanging digital photos; reading, watching and listening to news and entertainment on the web or your mobile phone … digital technologies are changing the way we conduct our private, social and business lives, and transforming our experience of media out of all recognition. This module investigates how this has come about, looking at the technologies behind digital media as well as some of the social, ethical and legal issues they raise. By the end of your studies, you’ll understand the possibilities and limitations of the technologies, the direction in which they’re taking us, and how to keep on top of future developments.

There is a £500 prize for the best performing student on each presentation of this module. This prize honours the memory of Rory Bailey, an Open University student and lecturer.

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
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

This module makes extensive use of third-party material, requiring you to understand and integrate information from a range of sources.

The module structure is as follows:

Block 1: Enabling technologies

Digital media applications appear on a wide range of devices. The success of these applications depends on the efficient operation of some basic technologies. You will be presented with materials on hardware, such as disk drives, flash memory, batteries, display screens and capture devices, and supporting technologies, such as MPEG compression techniques.

Block 2: Intellectual property and security issues

What you can do legally with digital media is governed by copyright laws and licences. It is possible to impose these restrictions by technological measures, but this has implications on business models and the social acceptability of these restrictions in an age of digital communications. You will be presented with materials on the technologies associated with digital rights management, but the social and business aspects of intellectual property will also be addressed.

Block 3: Mobile broadband

There are many competing factors pushing the ability of you being able to communicate at high bit-rates wherever you are. In this block, you will be presented with materials on developments designed to support broadband applications in a mobile world. In addition to the technology, you will be encouraged to think how technology develops.

If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project (TM470), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.

You will learn

After completing this module you should, among other things:

  • understand the basic principles of a range of technologies for digital media
  • understand the technologies of data storage, display and capture devices
  • be aware of how the characteristics of human perception influence the coding of digital media
  • have a knowledge of intellectual property issues for digital media
  • be aware of the basic security issues associated with digital media
  • understand the technological factors relevant to broadband mobile
  • understand how the adoption of digital media technologies is influenced by their social, cultural and political contexts
  • be able to extract and integrate useful information from documents, including journal articles, product information, websites, etc.
  • be able to learn independently from such materials in order to keep up to date in technologies for digital media
  • have improved your written communication skills in a range of topics.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a 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. 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, when it will be available for the last time.


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

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. 

You need familiarity with computer and information technology and the language and modelling techniques used by technologists that you can get from modules at OU level 2, such as Communication and information technologies (T215).

You should be experienced in using a computer for working with documents, spreadsheets and accessing the internet. You also need basic mathematical skills so that you can work with algebraic equations and carry out numerical calculations.

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

Preparatory work

You should revise the material on communication technology in any OU level 2 modules you have already taken. The ICT CD-ROM (T529), distributed with a number of ICT modules, is also a useful source of revision material.


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.

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

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 04/08/2015.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVD, online forums, website.

Note that some (assessable) material may only be provided in electronic form online or via a virtual learning environment.

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. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

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

The module uses complicated diagrams extensively, so it could be demanding if you have impaired sight. Text descriptions of graphical material developed by The Open University are provided, but these will not necessarily be available for third-party materials. Written transcripts are available for audio material. The printed Open University study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical expressions may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and 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.