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Certificate of Higher Education in Natural Sciences - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

This is an introductory science qualification which aims to provide you with:

  • a lifelong interest in science through modules that are accessible to people of all educational backgrounds
  • an understanding of the roles of different scientific subjects
  • the development of a range of basic scientific and practical skills
  • an opportunity to enhance your personal development, in particular your confidence to move to OU level 2 study.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this certificate you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • the fundamental facts, concepts, principles, theories, classification systems and terminology used in the main branches of science
  • appropriate methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing scientific data and information
  • accuracy, precision, uncertainty, ambiguity in the context of science; the limits of current scientific knowledge; and the role of science in the world around us.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this certificate you will be able to:

  • use and correctly apply knowledge and understanding of scientific facts, concepts, principles and theories in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
  • describe, critically analyse and interpret scientific information and data presented in a variety of ways, including texts, tables, graphs, diagrams and figures, numerical and mathematical descriptions and computer-based media.

Practical and/or professional skills

On completion of this certificate you will be able to:

  • conduct practical investigations in a responsible, safe and ethical manner taking proper account of risk assessment and health and safety regulations
  • obtain, record, collate and analyse data derived from practical investigations, and interpret and report their significance in the light of underlying theory, practical issues and relevant information from other sources
  • conduct and report on investigations that may involve the acquisition of primary or secondary data
  • plan your own learning and be adept at time management and organisation so that you can work independently or with others in ways appropriate for continuing personal and professional development.

Key skills

On completion of this certificate you will be able to:

  • locate scientific information from a variety of sources (e.g. textual, numerical, graphical, computer-based), including reviews and primary sources, and use it to address scientific problems
  • prepare, process, interpret and present data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques, including the use of statistics
  • communicate scientific information accurately and effectively using written, visual and numerical forms in a style that suits purpose and audience
  • use mathematical skills appropriate to level and context
  • use ICT to enhance your own learning, for data analysis and for communicating scientific information to others
  • work effectively with others to explore aspects of science.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding is acquired from specially prepared teaching materials using a variety of learning approaches which may include self-assessment questions, DVD materials, reference texts, computer-aided learning packages, directed reading, computer forums and web-based resources. All of these resources are generated with reference to the most recently available scientific research. Your understanding of the acquisition, interpretation and analysis of data is further developed by practical work.

You will work independently with the teaching materials, but are encouraged to form self-help groups with other students, communicating by telephone, email and computer forums. Associate lecturers support your learning in a variety of ways.

Skills are developed in parallel with knowledge and understanding. Some modules are more practically oriented than others and also offer the most opportunities to interact with fellow students.

Assessment is by a combination of tutor-marked assignments requiring answers ranging from short to essay length to project reports, computer-marked assignments, and written examinations. In addition, you will have many opportunities for self-assessment, within module texts, on CD-ROMs or DVDs and online.

Practical work is an important component of Science and you will receive training in a variety of scientific methods.