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Economics in context

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Why are markets so powerful in most economies today? What is the role of the government in different economies, and how does this role shape opportunities for different people and firms? What explains global inequalities? Why is economic growth such a key economic goal in most countries today? Are there other goals economies could pursue? You'll unravel these and similar questions using insights from recent history, key economic thinkers, and drawing on economic perspectives and examples. This module is a building block towards a critical perspective on economics and economic choices for our daily lives.

What you will study

This module primarily aims to:

  • provide you with foundations of economics and an initial set of skills and tools economists use
  • provide an insight into how economics and the economies have evolved over time
  • engage you with a large number of perspectives within and around the discipline of economics, and embed standard economics in context.

There are three blocks of study as follows: 

Block 1
This provides a detailed historical analysis of how the UK economy, and its interactions with other economies, has changed since the 1700s. You'll look at some of the reasons why the Industrial Revolution occurred in the UK at that time. It also explores the themes of the module: change, agents and success, navigating through events in economic history, and in economics as a discipline.

Block 2
In this block you'll explore the market and the role of markets in societies.  The view of economics that looks at economic agents and their motives in isolation is the foundation to thinking about markets as the interactions between these agents, their measures of success, and also how markets operate within economies that have organised themselves, and their main economic activities, in particular ways. You'll look at the competitive model of the market, and as economists often analyse formal models using diagrams – a key skill in the economist’s toolkit extensive use of demand and supply diagrams is made to explain how the model works.

Block 3
This third block looks at economies in a more holistic way, critically reflecting on the best way of organising economic activities, and striking a balance between market activity and government intervention. The key areas that are explored are employment, industry and trade. You'll return to discussions of economics across time and place to explore the experiences and evolution of markets under different types of economic systems. This block will also give you the chance to measure and explain success through the use and collection of data sources, which is another important skill in the economist’s toolkit.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module. You'll learn and engage with some techniques such as numerical calculus, descriptive charts, and more abstract diagrams, and you'll learn to use them when writing your assignments. During your studies, there will be two weeks devoted to developing your study skills, such as essay writing and dealing with data, and the option to attend four study skills tutorials.

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

What's included

The module is delivered through a textbook, written especially for the module, and the module website, which includes: 

  • a week-by-week study planner, your starting point every week
  • an online version of the textbook
  • module materials and activities
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You will need

You'll be provided with Office 365, which includes Word and Excel. Your assignments can be done using Word, but some will require diagrams drawn by you. We will support and discuss alternative ways of doing this, but if you want to draw diagrams on paper rather than using software, you can take a photo of your diagram and add into Word. Several activities in the module also require the use of Excel to practice analysing data and creating charts.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your assignments and provide advice and guidance. Your tutor, in collaboration with others, will run a series of online tutorials to help you get the most out of the module materials and prepare for assignments and the final exam. Recordings of these tutorials will typically be made available.


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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD126 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Economics in context starts twice a year – in October and February. 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 2031.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)

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