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Certificate of Higher Education in Social Sciences - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

This is a broad-based certificate that aims to provide you with an introduction to the social sciences and related subject areas. Your studies will:

  • introduce you to the typical approaches of a broad range of social science subjects and related subject areas
  • introduce you to sources of evidence in the social sciences and related subjects
  • introduce you to various forms of data presentation and the interpretation of data
  • enable you to write well-structured and well-argued essays
  • enable you to describe some of the ways in which societies are ordered and governed
  • give you the ability to reflect on feedback and use this to improve future performance
  • provide you with skills relevant to work in many occupational areas and occupations
  • give you an opportunity to enhance your personal development, in particular giving you confidence to move to OU level 2 study.

The learning outcomes are described in four areas. Within these areas we emphasise achievable outcomes for students from diverse backgrounds, who have chosen a broad-based certificate in social sciences and who are learning at a distance.

Learning outcomes

The qualification provides opportunities for you to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills, and other attributes in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this certificate you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • selected key concepts, theories and debates within the social sciences in accord with a broad introduction relevant to all disciplines
  • a range of disciplinary approaches within social science, and the diversity of sources for social scientific knowledge and understanding
  • the way in which social science knowledge develops through a process of questions, claims, evidence and criticism
  • the ways that society is ordered and the processes and forces of social change, and some of the ways these can be interpreted. 

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this certificate you will be able to:

  • define and use key terms and concepts in the social sciences
  • identify a number of theoretical concepts and show their strengths and weaknesses
  • interpret and use, at a basic level, both quantitative and qualitative evidence. 

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this certificate you will be able to:

  • recognise the relevance of skills learnt on the module to other contexts, such as the workplace
  • use skills that are highly transferable to workplace and other settings, such as the selection of appropriate material or evidence, the skills of critical analysis, and of writing concisely to answer a set question or problem
  • plan and manage a whole sequence of work that meets a deadline
  • engage constructively with, and learn from, critical commentary on your work
  • reflect on the ways in which you learn; and begin to develop as an independent learner. 

Key skills

When you have completed this certificate you will be able to:

  • draw information from teaching materials delivered as written text, DVD/audio resources, online resources and visual/statistical data, e.g. maps, diagrams, charts, tables, spreadsheets
  • use skills developed through ICT for study through structured activities
  • write a well-structured essay that references sources appropriately, summarises effectively and  constructs a substantiated argument
  • communicate ideas in a variety of forms to a variety of audiences, e.g. essays, forum discussions, tables, reports. 

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

You will acquire knowledge and understanding in a number of ways. Across its range of modules, the study materials may be in a variety of media, such as published distance learning materials, including specially written study materials, study guides and module companions, assignments and assignment guides. Learning is also organised through a range of multimedia material and through feedback on assignments.

The study materials incorporate questions to encourage you to interact with the topics under discussion, practise argument and establish your understanding of the material. Additionally, there will be opportunities for discussion (online or via phone) with your tutor and fellow students to help you to test out approaches to the various kinds of subject matter.

Assessment is via tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMAs).

Cognitive skills are achieved through active reading and analytic work on a limited amount of original texts and sources, as well as engagement with a range of viewpoints and theoretical frameworks supplied by materials created by the module team.

Basic quantitative and qualitative ways of finding and using information and knowledge are recognised (in study materials, VLE-based exercises and assignments) as integral to constructing sound academic arguments.

OU level 1 modules place considerable emphasis on the skills of purposeful reading and note-taking, as well as skills of selecting from large amounts and different genres/types of information and sources. This is reflected in the study materials, assessment and tutor feedback on assignments.

You are also introduced to a variety of ICT skills, with the aim of being confident at handling and retrieving information using a computer. OU level 1 modules use a variety of applications on the Virtual Learning Environment including MyStuff, quizzes, polls and glossaries. These all teach and develop your ability to communicate ideas in a variety of ways including essays, reports, presentations and forum discussions.

The acquisition of these skills is developmental and cumulative. Personalised support and feedback from tutors and other OU staff will enhance learning in these areas. Being able to engage successfully with, absorb and creatively use critical feedback on assignments is a key part of the learning process at OU level 1 and provides a firm foundation for further study and for success in the workplace environment. OU level 1 modules also place considerable emphasis on ‘learning how to learn’. It is not assumed that you know how to learn when you embark on OU level 1 study, but that it is something that needs to be taught and is learned iteratively.

With support from tutors and other OU staff, as well as using resources such as the social sciences subject website and careers resources, you will be able to use your study towards your certificate to plan steps towards further study goals, such as the Diploma of Higher Education in Social Sciences or a Social Sciences degree. The breadth of subjects you can study for the certificate will allow you to explore a number of subject areas in which you could opt to specialise for study towards a diploma.