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Human biology: a body in balance

This module explores human biology, focusing on the science underpinning the structure and function of organ systems. It introduces knowledge of anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, epidemiology, histology, pathology, and science-related mathematics. Throughout the module, you’ll study interactions between the individual and the environment, plus the mechanisms that maintain internal conditions. You’ll also examine how internal and external factors affect the body’s optimal functioning, resulting in disease. In addition to acquiring scientific knowledge, you’ll develop scientific skills, including communication, data interpretation and handling, plus practical and investigative 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, a 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
1 7 4

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

SK190 bridges introductory OU level 1 modules and higher-level study. It develops the core subject knowledge and study skills needed for higher education and distance learning within scientific and related disciplines.

The module comprises ten topics:

Topic 1
This topic introduces the building blocks of the human body, exploring the molecular level up to the organ systems. You’ll learn the importance of homeostasis (balance) in physiological processes and participate in collaborative activities that begin developing your communication and investigative skills.

Topic 2
You’ll learn basic genetics and cell biology by looking at diseases caused by gene mutations and how the environment can affect them, human development and diversity. Additionally, you’ll develop data-handling skills and basic numeracy by investigating eye colour distribution.

Topic 3
This topic introduces the structure and function of the nervous system, including the different regions and functions of the brain. You’ll explore how the nervous system controls movement via the musculoskeletal system and how human senses relay information about the internal and external environment to the brain.

Topic 4
This topic explores the role of hormones. You’ll learn about the hormonal control of sleep, growth, metabolism and digestion, and health consequences when hormonal balance is lost. You’ll also develop a greater understanding of scientific communication using graphs throughout this topic.

Topic 5
This topic covers digestion, nutrition and some of the basic biochemistry underpinning energy production in the body. You’ll also learn about recent scientific advances in the role of the gut microbiome and the gut-brain axis in health and disease. This topic also starts to develop your presentation skills.

Topic 6
This topic develops your understanding of microbiology as you learn about the major pathogens and how two immune system branches fight infection. You’ll also explore how knowledge of the immune system and previous vaccine design led to the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines. This topic also further develops your numeracy and communication skills.

Topic 7
You’ll learn about the anatomical structure and physiological function of cardiac and respiratory systems and how these two organ systems work in harmony. This topic also includes a live labcast, where you’ll help design an experiment in real time.

Topic 8
As you learn about the kidney and its role in regulating several important physiological processes, you’ll further develop your understanding of cell biology and biochemistry. You’ll learn about kidney diseases and the widespread impact throughout the body if the kidneys function sub-optimally.

Topic 9
You’ll study the structure and function of female and male reproductive systems. You’ll learn about hormonal control of the reproductive systems at different life stages, including during ageing, such as perimenopause. In addition, you’ll learn about changes that occur during pregnancy and the post-natal period. You’ll also briefly examine how contraceptives can prevent pregnancy, the principal causes of infertility, and fertility-enhancing techniques.

Topic 10
Finally, in Topic 10, you’ll explore the causes and consequences of acute and chronic stress. You’ll then consider the impact of acute and chronic stress on all of the body systems studied across the previous topics.

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.


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

Future availability

Human biology: a body in balance (SK190) 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 2030.


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)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

However, we recommend you have some prior biology knowledge.

Are you ready for SK190?


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

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

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2030.

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 14/06/2024.

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 have access to a module website, which includes: the study materials, study guide, activities, assignments, forums, online tutorial rooms and other resources. It contains many multimedia materials, including audio tracks, videos and animations, as well as interactive activities, all of which help aid your understanding and consolidate your learning. The module also uses augmented reality and interactive 3D digital tools to help you visualise cells, the brain and the heart.

You’ll use an Interactive Human Body tool to enhance your understanding and learning throughout each topic.

You’ll also receive a printed workbook that will become your study companion. It contains instructions for some assessed activities and provides a valuable tool to support your study and revision. At the start of the module, you’ll also receive a poster and augmented reality postcards introducing some body systems.

Where possible, the materials are also available in other formats – which may include PDF, EPUB, interactive ebook (EPUB3), Kindle ebook and Microsoft Word – to enable you to study on the move.

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 SK190 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.