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My digital life

While you’re learning about tomorrow's technology why not help create it? My digital life takes you on a journey from the origins of information technology through to the familiar computers of today, and on to tomorrow’s radical technologies. You'll get hands-on experience of the ubiquitous computing approaches that will become increasingly common over the next decade. You'll also learn about the profound social and technological changes associated with information technology – changes that will affect every one of us. This key introductory OU level 1 module will help you prepare for these changes – think of it as an online survival kit for the twenty-first century.

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Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

Ten years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter. Fifteen years ago broadband access to the internet in your home was an unimaginable luxury. Just twenty years ago you still had to buy your books, music and feature films from a high street shop. The digital revolution might still be young, but it has arguably brought about the biggest change in our lifestyles in the last two hundred years.

Where did it all begin? How does it work? Where is it going? These are just some of the questions answered in My digital life.

My digital life is your introduction to the next twenty years of computers and the internet, whether you are:

  • an experienced computer user or a novice
  • enthusiastic about modern technology or somewhat scared about its implications
  • new to studying with The Open University or an experienced student
  • intending to pursue a career in a technological field or just interested in the subject.

You’ll be taken on a journey from the most familiar, personal technologies through to the computer systems that span the entire world. It will give you a view of the future in which computers stop being discrete boxes on desks and become part of almost every manufactured object. The ubiquitous computer of tomorrow promises, or perhaps threatens, to change the world beyond recognition. My digital life explains why this change is coming and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

Through six themed teaching blocks you’ll cover the key aspects of modern computer technology. Each block includes a blend of printed and online text, pictures, animations and practical activities. Specially recorded audio and video materials accompany the teaching material. These include interviews with leading researchers, experts, companies and users from a wide range of countries, including the USA, Nepal, Iceland and Switzerland.

My digital life isn’t just about reading. It’s about doing things and learning as you do them. Just some of the things you will do are:

  • use a wide range of online services to create and share documents, spreadsheets and web pages
  • create and combine images with a soundtrack to produce short audiovisual presentations
  • learn how the technologies underpinning these activities work as you use them
  • experience the benefits and limitations of a digital lifestyle and what the future might hold
  • see how the internet makes your physical location less relevant in performing many tasks
  • understand the significance of an increasing number of devices that know and respond to your location.

During the course of learning about these things you will address topics as diverse as:

  • the ownership of data
  • how the World Wide Web works
  • the privacy and security of personal data
  • online identity in virtual worlds
  • how online businesses survive (or not)
  • and many more aspects of living in the digital world of today.

My digital life is not just something you will study; it is a community you will join. You won’t be learning in isolation – you’ll be sharing your work with your fellow students, friends and family – and with the rest of the world.

My digital life wants you to feel passionately about the subjects it covers so that you will be in a position to give informed evaluations – as an employer or an employee and as a citizen. You’ll be encouraged to form – and possibly change – your own opinions, to discuss and to argue your point of view.

My digital life gives you an opportunity to develop your own rich, interactive applications running on your computer and to share them with fellow students. You’ll build your programming skills through problem-solving, through exploration of novel concepts and through play. To help you in this, you will use two specially created technologies that turn My digital life into a hands-on exploration of computer and online technologies – the specially designed language Sense and the SenseBoard.

Sense – a completely new approach to computing deserves to be taught in a completely new manner. Almost from the very beginning, you’ll be running, designing and writing computer programs. You will be using the specially designed language – Sense – so called because it can be used to sense the world.

Unlike other computer languages you may have seen or used, Sense doesn’t rely on cryptic text commands; instead you assemble Sense programs using graphical blocks. Creating a Sense program can be as simple as clicking two blocks together and pressing the Run button!

You’ll begin your work in Sense by following the first of many guided activities accompanied by text and video instructions. Soon you’ll be modifying existing programs and writing completely new ones of your own.

Sense lets you do much more than program your own computer; it lets you send information to the internet and receive it from other machines. You will use Sense to write simple online games, download news from sites such as the BBC, and even let your fellow students know what you are up to.

Sense is intended to give you the skills to design programs in any language. Once you’ve had experience with Sense you will understand how programs are designed and written. If you choose to study programming at a higher level you will see the same structures and patterns appearing in completely different languages. If you’re an experienced programmer you’ll appreciate the value of working with software objects and message passing between objects; concepts that are fundamental to modern computer programming.

The SenseBoard – the vision of the ubiquitous computer hasn’t been realised yet, so there’s plenty of opportunity for you or one of your fellow students to invent it. The SenseBoard has been designed to work with Sense and give you a few of the features of a research laboratory in something that sits in the palm of your hand.

Connect the SenseBoard to your computer, install the provided software and you’re ready to go. Use the SenseBoard on its own, or with the supplied sensors and motor to build a weather station, a home security device or a device from your imagination. Everything just clicks together – no solder, no danger and no experience needed.

You can program every feature of your SenseBoard using Sense. They have been designed to work together to allow you to concentrate on what you want to do rather than worrying about how to do it.

You never know – you might just invent the future.

If you are considering Accreditation of Certificated Practitioners 1 (MT127), to gain credit for specified, non-OU, practice-based qualifications that you already have, normally you should have successfully completed this academic OU module.

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. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help you with your study methods. 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. In addition, there will be online tutorials and other collaborative activities which will take place in your tutor group’s online forum. Throughout your study you can use this forum to keep in touch with your tutor and with other members of your tutor group.

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 that prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement before you submit your assignment on paper.

You must use the online iCMA system to submit your interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). Assessment is an essential part of the teaching, so you are expected to complete it all. You will be given more detailed information when you begin the module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014 and February 2015. We expect it to be available twice a year.


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:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
7 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No examination
No residential school


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 will need to be able to carry out all the following activities on your computer as part of studying this module: 

  • writing with a word-processor
  • saving and locating files
  • installing software
  • accessing a website. 

You should also be able to perform simple calculations, read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper, and write clearly in English.

The module will help you to develop your skills in all the following areas: using your computer, reading and writing about ICTs, carrying out calculations, and learning at a distance.

Are you ready for TU100? is an interactive quiz to help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module.

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

Preparatory work

Before the module starts you may find it helpful to look at the Strategic study techniques section of our Skills for OU Study website.


Start End England fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Sep 2015 -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

30 Jan 2016 Sep 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2017.

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 annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. 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 10 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. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

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 fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 31/01/2015.

What's included

Printed study texts, online study texts, website, DVDs, online forums, and a SenseBoard.

This module makes use of the optional Google Apps for Education account provided to all Open University students. This is subject to a privacy policy and, for registered OU students, does not include advertising. Most of the learning outcomes addressed by the use of Google services can be achieved with other software (not provided) such as Microsoft Office. However some optional activities will only be able to be completed by using your Google Apps for Education account.

You will need

You will need a headset with a microphone and earphones to take part in online tutorials and collaborative activities.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on DVD.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008, or an Apple Mac (OS X 10.6 or later) or Linux computer, you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

The module includes significant amounts of work with a computer. The module team are aware that disabled students may be using additional hardware or software; some of this may not work effectively with the module software, but every effort is being made to collect information about this and to make as many components as possible accessible. See our Accessibility Guide: students with disabilities for more information.

Written transcripts of any audio components and accessible electronic versions of printed material are available. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

Some aspects of this module are not fully accessible to all visually impaired students. This includes some features in the Google Apps for Education package used to meet some of the learning outcomes. Other learning outcomes are met through the writing and implementation of programming using the provided programming language (Sense) and electronic board (SenseBoard). These aspects are not fully accessible to visually impaired students and studying them will require extra time and possibly using a sighted helper. Versions with improved accessibility are planned for future presentations. An alternative approach to using Google Apps for Education is to use other software (not provided) such as Microsoft Office, which will allow most of the relevant learning outcomes to be achieved. However, some optional activities will only be able to be completed by using Google Apps for Education.

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.