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Global challenges: social science in action

This module investigates some of the major challenges facing the world today. Packed with engaging teaching material, thought-provoking interactive tasks and engrossing examples, it explores how social science helps us understand and respond to the climate crisis, the legacies of colonialism and enslavement, and the challenges posed by digital technology. Whether you take it as your first or second module, it is designed with you in mind. You'll have lots of support and be introduced to or have a chance to recap basic study skills.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code

D113

Credits

Credits

  • 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.
60

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.
Level of Study
OU SCQF FHEQ
1 7 4

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

We live in turbulent times. Amongst the many challenges we face, the climate crisis, digital technology and the legacies of colonialism and enslavement are raising far-reaching questions about how we live. Some of those questions are about everyday things, for example, is digital technology good or for bad; are our lives environmentally sustainable? Others are much bigger, for instance, how have inequalities between the Global North and Global South come about and are they just and fair? Social science has vital contributions to make to all of those debates. In this module you'll explore how social science helps us understand these challenges and, just as important, how we can use social scientific knowledge to bring about change.

The module is divided into three blocks:

Block 1 introduces the global challenges the module addresses: the climate crisis, digital technology and the legacies of colonialism and enslavement. It begins with a two week case study focusing on the smartphone and goes on to study each of the global challenges in turn. You'll investigate what social scientific knowledge is and how it helps makes sense of the challenges, as well as being introduced to the three big themes that run through the module: the local and global; inequality and social justice; and knowledge and power.

Block 2 takes a closer look at the challenges. To do so, you'll be channelled into one of three 'strands' or disciplinary clusters covering: geography; politics, philosophy and economics; or religious studies, sociology and general social science. You'll be directed to the strand relevant to the qualification you're studying. You can choose a strand if you're studying this module independently or as part of an Open qualification.

Block 3 changes gear. Over ten weeks, you'll consider how social change occurs and assess how social science contributes to it. You'll also learn some of the practical skills involved in being an effective change-maker, equipping you to go out and make a difference in your locality, workplace and the wider world.

Throughout the module you'll be introduced to a wide range of social scientific ideas and thinkers. The social scientists you'll study come from around the world and include experts from development studies, economics, geography, philosophy, political science, religious studies and sociology. You will also be introduced to activists, practitioners and policy makers who are responding to global challenges – everyone from India’s clean air campaigners, Warrior Moms to Sander, a Hong Kong dissident and pro-democracy activist.

Finally, you'll think about how global challenges are debated. Which voices dominate the conversation and who is left out? Why might we need new faces round the table? And when is social science part of the problem rather than the solution?

You will learn

By studying this module you'll learn about some of the major global challenges facing the world and how social science helps us make sense of and respond to those challenges.

You will also gain confidence and skills in:

  • studying and accessing information from a range of sources
  • constructing arguments
  • evaluating evidence
  • reading data tables
  • managing your time
  • communicating effectively
  • working with others
  • learning from feedback
  • reflecting on your own learning.

Vocational relevance

The module is relevant to a wide range of jobs in the public, voluntary, community and commercial sectors. Many of the skills you'll develop are relevant to any job. These skills include managing your time, working with other people, and reflecting on your learning. However, other skills you'll learn – assessing evidence and evaluating arguments, in particular – are directly relevant to jobs where the ability to think critically is at a premium.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

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

Future availability

Global challenges: social science in action starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2035.

Regulations

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:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment


Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for this module. This is an 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 OU level 2 study. 

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

Register

Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

Register
01 Feb 2025 Sep 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

Register
This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2035.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, 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).


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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 28/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You'll be provided with three textbooks, and have access to a module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module-specific teaching content 
  • audio and video material
  • interactive activities
  • assignment information and assessment guide
  • online tutorials
  • access to the Open University Library.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying D113 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 pages.