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Physics: from classical to quantum

This module teaches general physics with an emphasis on the important concepts, their basic mathematical description and application. After a short maths revision unit, the module covers mechanics; electric and gravitational fields and potentials; electromagnetism and relativity; waves and optics; thermal and statistical physics; quantum physics and an introduction to its applications to solids, atoms and nuclei. You’ll also develop your problem-solving skills throughout. Animated diagrams, interactive graphs, online practical activities and audio/video clips support the materials.

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

S217

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 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

In this wide-ranging online module you will learn, among other things:

  • How classical mechanics allows us to, for example, describe the motion of roller coasters, athletes and pendulums; predict the motion of satellites, pulleys and downhill skiers using Newton’s laws.
  • How to apply the concepts of work and energy to launching rockets and shock absorbers and many other processes.
  • How energy and momentum conservation laws are used to understand collisions, from those of subatomic particles to car crashes.
  • What electric and gravitational forces, fields and potentials are and how they explain lightning storms, cling film, planetary motion, and the life and death of stars.
  • How to describe electric currents and circuits, from the domestic electricity supply to electrocardiograms.
  • How to describe magnetic fields and their role in radios, electric motors and electric generators.
  • How special relativity explains why moving fast propels you into the future.
  • How an understanding of sound waves and electromagnetic waves explains why musical instruments emit a range of noises and why butterfly wings display a range of colours.
  • How telescopes and microscopes work allowing us to see the very distant and the very small.
  • How the properties of gases and solids are described, both from a macroscopic and a microscopic perspective, to explain, for example, hot air balloons and the structure of diamonds.
  • Why, in physics, you can’t win, you can only break even; you can break even only at absolute zero; but you can’t reach absolute zero!
  • Why unsolved problems in the interaction of light and matter led to the development of quantum physics in the early 20th century
  • How Schrödinger’s cat can be both dead and alive at the same time.
  • How quantum physics allows us to understand the structure of atoms and how electrons behave like particles and waves.
  • How statistical thermodynamic explains the formation of Bose-Einstein condensates
  • What semiconducting materials are, how they work and what they are used for
  • What nuclei are made of, what makes them stable and how they break.
  • What leptons, hadrons and quarks are and how they interact.

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

Physics: from classical to quantum (S217) starts once a year – in October.

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

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.

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)
Examination


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, there are some basic mathematical, scientific and study skills that you’ll need to study the module successfully.

You should be familiar with:

  • basic algebraic manipulation (rearranging and combining equations etc.)
  • addition and multiplication of fractions
  • scientific notation
  • logarithms
  • elementary geometry and trigonometry
  • scientific uses of statistics and probability.

You should also be able to:

  • plot and interpret graphs
  • use a scientific calculator
  • understand the use of unit (dimensional) analysis.

It would be advantageous to be familiar with the elementary concepts of:

  • vectors
  • trigonometric functions
  • calculus (differentiation).

Are you ready for S217?

Preparatory work

Register

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

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

Register
October 2024 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 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 20/05/2024.

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

We designed Physics: from classical to quantum (S217) for online delivery – you’ll access all the study material from the module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

While the module is designed to be studied online, we supply printed books containing all the study units. The books feature QR codes you can scan using a smart phone or tablet for quick access to the audio, video and interactive activities on the module website. You can also download PDFs of every unit to use offline. Note that we don’t supply printed versions of resources outside the study units, such as the study planner and the assignments.

You will need

A scientific calculator.

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 S217 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.