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BA (Honours) Geography - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

This degree provides the opportunity to learn about the relationships between human social systems and the physical processes that produce the Earth. Geographers study places and landscapes, in space and time, recognising the distinctive patterns of social, cultural, economic and political dynamics that shape the world today. The degree equips you to study the marked differences between places as well as the relationships that they share. It seeks to develop an in-depth understanding of the different relationships between human and natural environments, showing how the interaction between these environments shapes our world.

Geography is characterised by the breadth and interdisciplinarity of the subjects studied. Consequently, Geography degrees are highly prized for their ability to teach students a wide range of skills as well as a general understanding of different aspects shaping our world, both human and natural. Our BA (Honours) Geography is distinctive because it offers an emphasis on the online world that has emerged in the last two decades. It offers an unparalleled analysis of the new social dynamics that simultaneously shrink the world, yet also recast the boundaries that territorialise the world in distinctive ways. It does so by offering skills in online methodologies. This builds on traditional geographical themes, such as globalisation and urbanisation, but drives it towards analyses of new global arrangements in information, data and social media.

Whilst the breadth and interdisciplinarity of this degree means it fits well with other subjects in the sciences and social sciences, it offers a distinctive analysis by focusing on both space and time, on the production of geographical patterns, and place and landscape.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of the:

  • key concepts, ideas, methods and theories from the discipline of Geography, focusing on the reciprocal relationship between human social systems and environmental processes.
  • key roles that spatial and temporal relations play in social, cultural, economic, political and environmental activity
  • way geography's fundamental concern with spatial variability offers distinctive interpretations of a range of global challenges such as poverty, climate change, migration and urbanisation
  • dynamic and extended processes by which places are made and remade over time
  • ways in which limits to, uncertainties in, and contestation of geographical knowledges have implications for policy and practice.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • identify, gather, evaluate the quality of and interpret quantitative and qualitative geographical data and information from a range of sources, including recognising the potential limitations of these sources
  • understand, evaluate and manipulate information presented through primary and secondary sources
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of key human geography ideas, concepts and approaches in order to explore and analyse socially and spatially complex problems
  • use a distinctively 'geographical imagination' to devise and sustain arguments concerning a range of global challenges
  • select and apply appropriate geographical methods and techniques to review, consolidate and extend knowledge and understanding of geographical variability and inequality.

Practical and/or professional skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • recognise and critically evaluate personal viewpoints and engage the views of others with respect
  • interpret and use numerical and statistical information effectively and appropriately
  • demonstrate the skills of independent learning
  • learn from feedback and reflect on the process of learning to evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses
  • identify and work towards goals for personal, academic and career development

Key skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • accurately and effectively communicate, formally and informally, geographical information and ideas in a variety of ways suitable for a range of audiences
  • select, analyse, present and communicate geographical information using ICT effectively and appropriately
  • plan, conduct and present an independent investigation of a geographical issue
  • work effectively with other learners in group situations to achieve joint outcomes

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding are acquired at all levels through distance learning materials, including module-specific text materials, study guides, assignment and project guides; by a range of multimedia materials; through work on information sourced outside study materials (whether electronically or otherwise); and through correspondence tuition.

OU level 1 modules provide an interdisciplinary basis for undergraduate study and are strongly focused on developing study skills and general academic skills as well as exploring a range of social science subjects including politics and environment. The core knowledge and understanding of Geography are delivered at levels 2 and 3. There is progression from OU levels 1 through 3 modules in terms of both the extent to which guidance for students is directive and the range and complexity of the material, concepts, models and theories covered. Assessment at OU levels 2 and 3 is by means of tutor-marked assignments with examinations or end-of-module assessments. Assessment at OU level 3 also includes independent work beyond the module materials provided.

The teaching and learning of cognitive skills is embedded in module content at all levels of study. OU level 1 modules focus on generic cognitive skills appropriate to interdisciplinary undergraduate study; basic skills development is heavily supported through the teaching material, and assessment and feedback is oriented towards skill development. At OU levels 2 and 3 more advanced cognitive skills are progressively developed: skills development takes place both within the compulsory modules, and between levels, with the OU level 3 module building on the skills developed at OU level 2. Assessment is closely linked to skills development. At OU level 2 cognitive skills are assessed through tutor-marked assignments and exams and at OU level 3 by tutor-marked assignments as well as by means of an end-of-module independent project. There is ongoing discussion of inclusion of an exam at either Level 2 or Level 3; the inclusion of a diversity of assessment methods contributes appropriately to a qualification that develops and demonstrates a breadth of valuable skills. Exams present an appropriate and authentic challenge which provide evidence of important skills which relate to real life and which compel students to engage with module materials and learning in a different way to other forms of assessment. It also provides one opportunity in the qualification for the authorship of work to be unequivocally assured.

Practical and/or professional skills and attributes
When you have completed this degree, you will be able to transfer and use relevant key skills in your workplace and daily life.
Practical and/or professional skills as well as key skills are an integral part of all modules at all levels. They are developed as a consequence of module work throughout the programme and are also built into aspects of the assessment process.

The open nature of entry to the OU means that we emphasise reading and writing skills at OU level 1. At higher levels we make assumptions about your basic abilities in these areas, although feedback from your tutor on your writing skills continues to be important. As you work on higher-level modules, you will find that the materials from which you work become increasingly complex and diverse, and you will need more sophisticated skills of interpretation, selection, analysis and synthesis.

Application of number
You are taught these basic skills at OU level 1 in specific parts of the available modules. These skills are further developed at OU level 2. The extent to which you develop these skills will also depend on which modules you take in your options. Modules from economics, for example, enable students to develop these skills further.

Information technology
These skills are introduced and used in a number of modules but form an important part of the OU level 2 and 3 compulsory modules. As such, a basic IT literacy is an outcome and requirement of the degree programme.

Problem solving
These skills are studied and developed in many of the case studies of policy and practice in the compulsory module at OU level 2 and are taught and assessed in relation to the independent work students complete for the end-of-module essay for the compulsory module at OU level 3.

Learning how to learn
Because OU students are studying at a distance, there is a strong emphasis on helping you to develop as an independent learner. At OU level 1 this means helping you to develop your basic skills (e.g. time planning, using feedback and support) but also laying the foundation for the increasing emphasis on critical reflection and independent learning at OU levels 2 and 3. At OU level 3 this is built into the compulsory module through the requirement of the end-of-module essay to demonstrate a degree of learning independent of the module materials.