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Earth science

This module introduces a scientific study of the earth across the scale spectrum – from shifting continents to the microscopic. And across time – from the 4.5 billion-year age of Earth to geological processes that happen in a flash. Your studies will include fossil life, erupting volcanoes, mountain building, and the record of Earth’s changing surface environments. The teaching materials will develop your practical skills using geological maps, microscopes, and field data, alongside developing your general science and study skills. You’ll also learn fieldwork skills via virtual field trips or an optional four-day residential field school.

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

S209

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
2 8 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

Student Reviews

I absolutely loved this module and got a lot from it. There are weeks when it was harder going; either...
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Having only studied bits of Earth science the previous years in 'Questions in science' (S111) and 'Science: concepts and practice'...
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What you will study

The module will give you fundamental knowledge about how the earth works, and demonstrate the extent to which earth science is a part of everyday life.

The online material in this module is particularly exciting and innovative as you use a virtual microscope and a digital kit (containing minerals, rocks and fossils) for interactive practical activities. It also teaches map work and field skills using a number of virtual field trips and integral 3D software. Following an introduction to the module the topics covered include: minerals, rocks - the basics, constructing geological histories from maps and landforms, fossils, sedimentary processes, sedimentary environments and their geological record, the solid earth, volcanoes and magmas, recrystallizing the earth, deforming the earth, Cyprus case studies, and current issues in earth science.

This module teaches field skills using home-based, online activities, available to all students, including virtual field trips, case studies and the chance to carry out a local, field-based or literature-based investigation.

You will learn

This module offers an exceptionally wide range of skills, many of which are transferable to other areas, as well as those you will need to progress to other modules in earth, environmental and natural sciences. It will also enable you to be much better informed about, and enhance your understanding of, the physical world around you.

Vocational relevance

This module should be of particular interest to those employed, or seeking employment, in environmental agencies, the minerals industry and heritage organisations, as well as the educational sector. The module will also develop your problem-solving abilities, observational, practical and information literacy skills in a wide range of contexts (including fieldwork and report-writing), and the use of computers for learning, analysing data and communication. All these skills are likely to be useful in the work environment, particularly for jobs requiring a precise and quantitative approach.

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.

Field school

This module has an optional residential field school.

The Field Studies Council runs the residential field school Geology. This 4-day programme (at FSC Blencathra in Cumbria) includes outdoor exercises and follow-up laboratory work.

The residential field school fee for 2023/24 was £464 (£364 if you don’t need accommodation); you must also pay for your travel.

Instructions for booking will be on the module website.

Future availability

Earth science (S209) starts once a year – in September/October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

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:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)


Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module.

At The Open University, we believe education should be open to all, so we provide high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, you’ll need appropriate knowledge of science and basic mathematics to study the module successfully.

Are you ready for S209?

Preparatory work

If you’ve studied S112, re-familiarise yourself with the geological principles and terminology in the earth science parts (Topics 2–4).

Or visit your local library for suggestions of good introductory texts on geology and earth science.

Register

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

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

Register
This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2025.

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.

Field school

This module has an optional residential field school, for which there’s an additional charge; you must also pay for your travel.

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 17/04/2024.

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

Study materials, including activities and assessment, will be delivered online only.

You will need

You will need to draw diagrams, or to annotate by hand, diagrams that you download, and then use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of these diagrams to include in your assessment. A printer is desirable.

You will also need to purchase two geological maps (costing about £15 in total) using a special order form on the module website.

If you take part in a local field tutorial, field-based investigation or the optional 4-day residential school, you will require a hard hat (costing about £5).

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 S209 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.