Software engineering

This module explores the advanced concepts and techniques used throughout the software life cycle to effectively produce and manage large, complex, and long-lived software systems. It provides a holistic perspective of technical and non-technical factors in developing useful and safe software systems in complex social and organisational contexts. You’ll gain hands-on experience of software engineering practices, in both individual and team-working contexts.

Vocational relevance

This module is particularly appropriate if you are working professionally with software (either directly or indirectly) as a developer, as a user or in a management capacity – for example if you are a:

  • developer or user of software who wishes to move into a managerial role
  • manager or supervisor of software development or software maintenance teams
  • manager of business processes that are supported by software
  • researcher interested in the processes of software production and deployment
  • professional from another discipline who want to move into a software-related occupation
  • or if you have a software-related professional background and are interested in software engineering.


M814 is a compulsory module in our:

M814 is an optional module in our:

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


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 postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

Computers are now such an integral part of most organisations and they are critically dependent on the software. You will study how complex software systems fit into organisations, from procurement to maintenance and development. You will also gain an understanding of the business context of any proposed software, in order to elicit and analyse software requirements.

The module is divided into four blocks.

Block 1: Software in context
The first block considers that working in an organisation involves working with software, and how it is important to understand the relationships between the software, the organisation it serves, and its wider environment or context. Software embodies part of the knowledge of the organisation and enables other knowledge management processes. Contacts between the enterprise and the external world are often mediated by software, and the enterprise has a responsibility to the wider community that may be served by, or jeopardised by, this software. This wider community is also discussed, including, the professional bodies and trade unions to which the employees may belong, with their codes of ethics; the standardisation bodies, with their standards; and the law, which may restrict or mandate particular practices.

Block 2: Software engineering process
In Block 2 you’ll investigate the various approaches to software engineering. Software systems may be ‘bespoke’ (whether in-house, outsourced or offshored), or acquired off the shelf as either a complete solution that is used ‘as is’ or with some limited customisation, or as a number of partial solutions that need to be integrated. Within these options, the process of software development is considered and approaches ranging from waterfall to agile methodologies are discussed. This part also considers the management processes that play an important role in software engineering. In particular you will learn techniques for estimating the cost of the software and scheduling its development or adaptation in the context of available personnel. Additionally, you will cover issues of risk management associated with software engineering, as well as the important area of software quality assurance.

Block 3: Software evolution
Block 3 examines the pressures on organisations, the software and their environments to adapt to change. In particular, you’ll explore how these pressures lead to the maintenance process and to the challenges of continual software ‘evolution’. This includes DevOps practices, which explores how software development combines with the operation of IT infrastructure. This includes DevOps practices, which explores how software development combines with the operation of IT infrastructure.

Block 4: Requirements engineering
In the final block you will cover the essential principles and practices of requirements engineering. This includes techniques for eliciting requirements for real world business problems; identifying the stakeholders of a business problem and its solution, and understand how to manage stakeholder conflicts; specifying requirements and determining the qualities of a set of requirements and making them measureable; and communicating a set of requirements to a variety of stakeholders. Additionally, this part will explore the connection between requirements engineering and design, as well as situating the requirements engineering process and outputs within the context of the software engineering processes presented in the previous parts of the module. The final part of this block will explore current trends in software engineering, drawing on research and industry papers reflecting the cutting edge of the field. The final part of this block will explore current trends in software engineering, drawing on research and industry papers reflecting the cutting edge of the field.

During the module, you will have an opportunity to use a number of different software engineering tools, including process simulation tools, configuration management systems and requirements recording tools to address the software engineering challenges associated with realistic business problems. While some of these activities will be undertaken individually, there will also be elements that involve you working with others to produce a requirements specification.

This module is delivered entirely online and makes extensive use of a range of media and resources to support your learning.

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.


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

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)

Future availability

Software engineering (M814) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2025.


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.

Entry requirements

It is expected that you will hold a bachelors degree (or equivalent) in computing or a related discipline, or alternatively have at least three years relevant industry experience.

You will also need to have completed Software development (M813) prior to this module, or have equivalent professional software development knowledge.

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

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


Start End England fee Register
01 Nov 2024 Apr 2025 £1660.00

Registration closes 03/10/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2025.

Future availability

Software engineering (M814) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2025.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

This module is presented online – there are no printed materials.

All the study materials will be available from the module website, including:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • details of how to access, download and install the recommended software
  • all text units covering the core topics of the module
  • a wide range of activities to develop technical and professional skills
  • self-evaluation quizzes
  • access to the ebooks Mastering the requirements process and Continuous delivery together with a wide range of library resources
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online discussion forums.

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 materials for this module are provided as a series of web pages via the module website. Some elements may not be fully accessible using a screen reader (mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Figure descriptions of any diagrams will be provided and written transcripts of any audio components will be available.

Other alternative formats of the study materials, such as EPUB and Kindle versions, may be available in the future. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer, or think you may have difficulty using the online material you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to 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.

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