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Environment: responding to change

This interdisciplinary module will equip you to take an active part in sustainability debates. It will provide a guide to the mass of information currently available on key environmental issues, including conservation of biodiversity, adaptation to climate change and long-term food security. It will encourage you to look at these issues from multiple perspectives and to take a holistic view of environmental systems, including how we value them. An investigation strand will run throughout the module, in which you’ll look at an aspect of your local environment or consumption behaviour to evaluate the possibilities of future response to change.

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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 code




  • 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.

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
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module consists of three blocks and a project:

Block 1: Biodiversity and conservation
Your presence on planet earth is entirely dependent on biodiversity. Living organisms produce the oxygen in the air you breathe, recycle nutrients and water and make up your food. The sheer variety of form, function, colour and beauty in nature – a record of evolutionary history – has inspired people for the duration of human existence and continues to enrich our lives and our culture. Nevertheless, life on earth is under threat and needs urgent action. In Block 1, you’ll explore biodiversity, starting with that around you – even on your dinner plate – and move on to look at the nature of global diversity. You’ll examine past, present and future threats to species, and investigate solutions to the ongoing biodiversity crisis. By the end of the block – and based on the latest research in biodiversity and conservation – you’ll appreciate the diversity and importance of life on earth, and the ability to evaluate threats to it and propose potential solutions.

Block 2: Climate change
You need to take an interdisciplinary approach to understand climate-change science and politics. You’ll be introduced to the role and workings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to their summary of the science. This will lead on to the study of international environmental treaties, culminating in the 2015 Paris Agreement. You’ll learn how to access key data on the status of national emissions, using the UNFCCC's website, and interpret its significance. You’ll also gain a good understanding of the workings of a key set of climate change research and policy tools: integrated assessment models. These bring to life the implications of economic and rights-based approaches to the issue of climate equity. The topic raises big questions about our relationship with ‘distant others’, future generations, and the non-human living world. In addition to text, you’ll work with interactive online content, including the world’s first interactive map of a UN climate change conference and a media-rich timeline of environmental history. To conclude the block, you’ll rehearse the role of an environmental journalist, researching and writing your own article, again supported by specially commissioned interactive materials.

Block 3: Food security
The quest for global food security has brought into discussion the need for feeding an expected 9–10 billion people, by 2050, with adequate and nutritious food for a healthy life. With this aim in the background, you’ll explore multiple facets of food security: limits to food production, landscape management, and policies for access to food. This block will build on the concepts that previous blocks introduced you to – i.e. drivers of biodiversity gains and losses, and the challenge posed by climate change to our food production and management systems. You’ll build on your knowledge of earth’s natural resources (normally gained in previous modules) and expand further on the management conflicts and synergies with earth and its human inhabitants.

Project work
The project involves three stages threaded throughout the module. First, in Block 1, you’ll study introductory material on a) the biodiversity of the food you eat and b) on the benefits provided to us by trees in our environment – you’ll choose one of these threads as the focus for your project work. You’ll collect your own data to carry out a mini-project using practical and investigative work. Second, alongside Block 2, you’ll design an investigation, analyse data and report on your findings in a manner appropriate for a variety of audiences. This will involve group work to explore several different aspects of the topic before presenting your findings as a group. There are likely to be 6–12 students in your group. Thirdly, alongside Block 3, you’ll carry out an individual project from beginning to completion by applying all your research skills acquired earlier in this module. This project will form a major part of the end-of-module assessment, including a presentation as a web post.

You will learn

This module will:

  • develop your understanding of the environmental choices we face and the multiplicity of perspectives from which they can be addressed
  • develop the practical skills needed to acquire primary data, analyse it statistically, gather qualitative evidence and communicate your findings effectively
  • provide you with an opportunity to focus on a real-world issue, discuss perspectives with your fellow students, design your own investigation and present your findings via a web post.

Vocational relevance

This module will equip you with skills relevant to the fields of sustainability planning and environmental assessment, which are rapidly developing areas of employment.

Outside the UK

SDT306 is available to students outside the UK but locations for the field days will be within the UK (there will be an online alternative).

The ecosystems services project thread will be difficult to achieve from outside the UK, meaning non-UK students will have a more limited choice of project topic.

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. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box.

Future availability

Environment: responding to change​ (SDT306) 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 2027.


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 formal entry requirements to study this module.

However, as this is an OU level 3 module, you’ll need recent experience in a related subject obtained through the following:

  • OU level 1 and 2 study (preferable1)
  • equivalent work at another university
  • professional experience

Check that you’re ready for SDT306 with our quiz Are You Ready For SDT306? You can find it on the SDT306 preparation website.

If you’re still not sure that you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

1This module builds on understanding and skills developed in module Environment: journeys through a changing world (U116). We recommend you’ve studied this and another OU level 2 science or social science module before starting SDT306, such as Environmental science (S206 or SXF206) or Environment: sharing a dynamic planet (DST206).


Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2027.

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 are in receipt of 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 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 08/12/2023.

Can you study an Access module for free?

In order to qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

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.

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 have access a 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.

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 (11 'Big Sur' 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 SDT306 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 website.