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Questions in science

This introductory science module encompasses astronomy and planetary science; biology; chemistry; Earth and environmental sciences; and physics. A series of questions, starting with ‘Can you make a hole in water? and ‘How do you know what is alive?’, teaches scientific thinking. You will undertake a number of practical experiments, both ‘hands-on’ in your own home and online. This module is the entry point for the Natural Sciences degree, and develops generic study skills, maths skills and investigative skills alongside key concepts in science.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
S111
Credits

Credits

  • 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.
60
Study level

To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).

OU FHEQ
1 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module consists of 11 topics, most of which are phrased as questions to highlight the key scientific skill of enquiry. The final topic, ‘Bad science’ brings together the principles of good science practice that you will have learnt throughout the module. 
 
Topic 1: Can you make a hole in water?
Water is essential for life as we know it and water has many special properties singling it out from other substances, making it of interest to all scientists. This topic will introduce you to some fascinating science including chemistry, Earth sciences and physics. 
 
Topic 2: How do you know what is alive?
This topic will focus on the biological functions which are used to define 'life'. First you learn about the diversity of living things, and what living organisms are made up of. You will learn about the basic functions of life; growth, reproduction, metabolism, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment. 
 
Topic 3: Why does it snow in winter? 
You will gain a basic understanding of what makes the weather on Earth, and its seasonal cycle. The topic starts with forces, then investigates gravity, and the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth. Finally the topic looks at how these forces combine together to give the Earth its distinctive climatic zones.

Topic 4: Is there life on Mars?
Life can be found all over the Earth, with a huge range of diversity and abundance. Some organisms have developed ways to live and thrive in extreme environments such as hot deserts or deep oceans. Knowing how these organisms survive enables us to consider whether life might exist on Mars
 
Topic 5: Why do metals corrode?
This topic explores the main characteristic properties of metals. You will look at the chemical interactions of metals with different surrounding environments (in air, soil and water) and how the reactivity of different metals varies greatly. Easy ways of preventing metal deterioration will be also discussed. You will build a battery using galvanized nails and copper wire and carry out simple chemistry experiments with copper coins and iron nails. 
 
Topic 6: How similar am I to a plant?
The diverse array of organisms that exist on Earth seem to have very little in common, apart from being ‘alive’ as described in Topic 2. You will learn about the principles of inheritance and genetics and you will be asked to consider how different humans are from each other and to investigate this yourself.  
 
Topic 7: Does the Earth move under your feet?
The Earth is very diverse, yet we do see similarities between separate parts of world in the geology, and the species living there. How has this come about? Is it the result of moving plants and animals or a moving Earth? This topic discusses the different mechanisms underlying the movement and distribution of organisms around the world, including ocean and wind currents, continental drift and sea-level change, as well as the role of humans and the influence of evolution. 
 
Topic 8: Are waves everywhere?
What are waves and how do they form? This topic is all about conservation of energy and restoring forces. There are waves you can see as well as waves you cannot see. You will develop an understanding of what waves are, and why and how they happen, as well as how we as humans can exploit some of their properties.
 
Topic 9: Can we lead a chemical-free life?
This topic examines some common misconceptions, responsible for turning the word chemical into a shorthand for “unpleasant additive". Are synthetic chemicals dangerous? Are natural chemicals better for us? We look at chemicals within the Earth and their use as ‘natural resources’; at chemicals in our diet and inside our homes; and at chemicals as treatments for disease. This topic includes a home experiment on toxicity and a field trip to survey the ‘health’ of a local water body.
 
Topic 10: Why does the Sun shine?
The Sun provides the energy necessary for life on Earth but how does it work? We look at the physical properties of our own star and the physical processes that power it.  In the latter part of this topic we examine the Sun in a wider astronomical context, relating it to other stars, examining its evolution and death in the far future and the  intimate role played by the death of stars in the birth of life.
 
Topic 11: What is ‘Bad Science’?
The module concludes with a look at the ethics of scientific experimentation; a discussion of good practice in experimentation to ensure results are unbiased and scientifically sound. This final topic leads to the final piece of assessment which looks back over experiments undertaken throughout the module.
 

You will learn

Scientists have questioning minds and this fundamental skill is developed by this module. You will learn key scientific concepts, develop your own scientific thinking and, by the end of the module, you will be a confident, independent learner. You will develop skills of scientific investigation through practical experimentation and share your findings with other students. An important part of this module is the development of your key mathematical skills, crucial for scientific analysis and explanation. As this module is entirely online, your skills for learning online will also be developed.

Vocational relevance

While exploring a variety of interesting topics, this module will develop your problem-solving abilities, and improve your mathematical and communication skills all in an online environment. These skills are very useful in a work context, particularly in jobs requiring a precise and quantitative approach. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned a named tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for academic advice and guidance. If you are new to The Open University, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned with helping you with your study methods. Your tutor will also offer support through email, phone and online forum discussions. There will be face to face and online tutorials that we would recommend you book into and attend. The tutorials will be advertised before the module starts and will be taken by the module tutors, but not necessarily your own named tutor.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

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

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Questions in science (S111) starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018 and February 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2024.

Regulations

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.

    Course work includes:

    7 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    10 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
    No examination
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


    Entry requirements

    This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress towards OU level 2 study.

    The module is designed for students who are new to science as well as those with some background in a science-related subject. Although you’re not expected to have any previous knowledge of science, you should be able to do simple calculations (add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers) and to understand written English of the standard of a broadsheet newspaper (for example The Daily Telegraph or The Guardian). You should also be able to write clearly and concisely, structuring short pieces of writing so that they flow coherently; log on to the internet, find websites and communicate by email; and create, save and retrieve documents using basic word processing skills.

    If you haven’t studied science or maths up to GCSE level fairly recently, or you’re new to using a computer to access online resources, you may need to spend slightly longer on the study materials. An adviser will be able to discuss with you how much extra time you are likely to need and whether you should consider completing an OU Access module or some preparatory study before beginning this module.

    It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully and get the most enjoyment out of the module. To help you decide whether you already have the background knowledge or experience to start the module we have an interactive quiz Are you ready to study S111?

    By the end of the module you will be expected to be working successfully at the level required of first-year undergraduate students. Successful completion of this module will equip you to go on to study a new module that focuses on some of the key ideas in science that is planned for introduction in October 2017, for our BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Q64) or Essential mathematics 1 and 2 (MST124 and MST125) for the BSc (Hons) Physics and Mathematics (Q77).

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

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    13 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 -

    Registration now closed

    26 Jan 2019 Sep 2019 £2928.00

    Registration closes 10/01/19 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2024.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

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

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 22/09/2018.

    What's included

    The study materials, study guide, activities, assignments, forums, online tutorial rooms and other resources are all provided via a dedicated website. Where possible the materials are also available in other formats including PDF, EPUB, interactive eBook (EPUB3), Kindle eBook and Microsoft Word should you wish to study on mobile devices. Note: The purchase of ‘print-on-demand’ texts will not be an option for this module. 

    You will need

    A digital camera1 – to take photographs of your experiments and upload images.

    A simple scientific calculator – of the type sold as suitable for GCSE/A level use in any large supermarket. The calculator on a mobile phone, tablet or computer isn’t suitable as your only calculator for this module.

    Some basic kitchen, DIY or garden equipment – for simple home experiments – including (but not restricted to):

    • a kitchen weighing scale
    • a means of freezing water
    • re-usable plastic and glass containers of various sizes
    • a clock or watch
    • galvanised nails
    • copper wire
    • electrical cable
    • items of fruit or vegetables
    • offcuts of cardboard

    It’s difficult to estimate the cost of buying the home experiment items, as you probably already own some of them. At 2017 prices, we’ve estimated the cost of all the resources to be £50 (or £1.66 per study week).

    If you’re unable to undertake the experiments, and they form part of the assessment, we’ll provide alternative ways to enable you to take part.

    1A scanner is recommended for uploading drawn images.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying S111 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.