What you will study
Plants form the basis of all life on earth. There is an astonishing variety of uses that plants are put to by humans, but these uses, as well as climate and environmental changes, can threaten the very survival of many plants. This course aims to demonstrate the reliance humans have on plants and their products, while pointing out the challenges that plant life currently faces.
Through a range of topics that look at some of the most interesting aspects about plants, the course explores the crucial role that plants play in our everyday lives. Plants and their products provide the staple foods for all humans, and they are becoming increasingly important as biofuels and medicines. They can even have a role in catching criminals and combating climate change. The potential use of genetically modified staple crops for feeding an increasing world population, the techniques of micropropagation and modern ways of cultivating plants on different scales are also covered. The course also discusses the potential health-related benefits of plants and their products, including looking at the world’s favourite drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol, and at the botanical aspects of the drug marijuana. Finally, the importance of conserving the diversity of our natural heritage – in the UK and globally – is set in both a historical context and a vision for the future.
The core of the course is a richly illustrated ebook, Why People Need Plants. This has been written in four thematic parts by experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The Open University. A series of online video and audio clips present some topical issues. Through a practical activity you’ll investigate the basis of flower and leaf colour. Specially written OU study materials provide additional background science. They also guide you through Why People Need Plants and the other components, with interesting questions and activities to help your understanding and to develop scientific skills.
By the end of this course you should be able to:
Demonstrate general knowledge and understanding of some of the basic facts, language, concepts and principles relating to plants. In particular you should be able to demonstrate an understanding of:
- the composition and properties of plants
- how to record, analyse and interpret experimental data relating to leaf and flower pigments in plants
- the different ways in which plant products have been utilised by humans
- the environmental risks posed to plant survival and the mechanisms available to overcome such risks
- the contribution that science can make to informed debate on issues arising from the use of plants and the threats posed to plants and their habitats.
The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in distance learning:
- The convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials, activities and support whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the protected course website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
- The support of an expert learning adviser who can clarify study materials, answer questions and help you relate the course to your specific needs.
- An online interactive quiz that you can attempt as many times as you wish to help you test your own learning.
- A statement of participation from the OU which you can use to demonstrate your engagement with the course. (N.B. The course does not carry academic credit points.)
Some of the pages within the course contain links to external sites. Accessing these sites is part of the allocated study time for the course. You may also wish to undertake additional background study or reading if some of the concepts introduced are completely unfamiliar to you.
Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser, who will respond to you directly. Other support is available via the course forum, dedicated website and computing helpdesk.
This course will require around 100 hours to complete.