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Student and tutor module reviews

Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis

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  • Points: 10
  • Code: S186
  • Level: 1
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Student reviews

Its been a while since I studied, almost 30 years and I wanted something to break me in gently. I have an interest in this subject so thought I would give it a go. I absolutely loved it. I can now understand why these things happen, Ive had such a good time studying this subject that Im looking for something else. Im not working towards any qualifications, I just want to continue my learning. Great course to take. You will enjoy it!

Sandra Hutton

Course starting: April 2014

Review posted: August 2015

I really enjoyed this course. It leads you gently into earth sciences and geology. The writer of the course, David Rothery, is a legend in the world of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, being the go-to person for the media when things hot up around the world and they need a true expert to explain what's happening in language we can all understand. That is the strength of this course in that it covers common events in a scientific way but doesn't require a huge amount of prior knowledge, just enthusiam for the subject. A great way to enter earth sciences.

Simon Holroyd

Course starting: April 2013

Review posted: July 2014

What a great course! Very interactive on the forums, great involvement from David Rothery and all other moderators.
Do this course if you have a slight interest in the subject, by the end of the course, you will LOVE it.
Great investment, good materials and really felt I learnt a lot.

Kristen Dorcey-Joyce

Course starting: April 2013

Review posted: October 2013

I really enjoyed this course, it is very much direct to the point and I feel I learnt a lot from it. I will be studying another short course in the future!

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: April 2013

Really enjoyable course. I can't understand some of the negative comments posted, yes the module goes in depth, and yes it's harder than I first expected, but if you follow the study guide, it links you through the course fine.

I found the websites very informative and interesting, linked in with the study book and the Teach Yourself book, what more can you want!
The subject is one of the most interested I have studied, and made me think how insignificant humans living on this ever changing planet are.

At some points it almost scared me into thinking that the world was going to end with some huge volcanic eruption etc. The speed in which the world has, and is changing is a frightening reminder that we cannot change the movements on earth.

Overall a really enjoyable course, covering excellent topics, with a well written course, highly recommended.

Andrew Harrison

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: March 2013

An enjoyable romp through the subterranean world of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, using a 'teach yourself' book and a rather good study guide. There are no tricky maths to conquer on this Level 1 science course and the entire thing entertains as much as it educates. The course tutor appears online within hours of adding a plea for help in the forum, and the student will gain a good understanding of why volcanoes blow their tops (and sides) and why buildings fall over in earthquakes.

The overall of the study guides is conversational, the final EMA not arduous, and the student of any age will be able to conquer an understanding of the hazards and risks of volcanolgy.

I took S186 as break from Arts modules, in many cases it's an easier course than analysing Haiku, and the only danger is that the spectacular nature of volcanoes, even when supposedly dormant, may see the student planning trips to hot spots all over the world.

The only gear you will need is a computer with internet access, and from that you'll head off to earth science sites, analyze tsunami data from ocean buoys, get a grip on plate tectonics and understand the gas composition of Iceland's volcanos.

Recommended for students of any age, and presented in a very readable style, S186 - Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis is a lot of fun, especially when combined with online resources such as Google Earth and the earthquake and ocean monitoring sites in the Study Guide.

Course starting: May 2012

Review posted: October 2012

So, having just received my - albeit unsurprising EMA result - I feel I must comment.

I wanted to do this course as a last 10 pointer for the Certificate in Contemporary Science and I planned to do it over the short term. However due to a number of personal-, work- and course-related factors I didn't achieve this, so I set myself up for the longer course and was "determined" to do it justice. I am afraid to say that despite being an interesting subject to some, this just didn't grab me enough to give it the attention it needed to study it properly, and my result proved it.

With the above in mind, I found this course technially quite challenging; it is VERY wordy and it's so very DRY. I found the backwards/forwards nature of the Course book and the TYVET book very frustrating. I tried to read both as a standalone book AND as a complement to each other, and in the end neither suited me. I didnt really get to grips with the activities and the websites were just way too confusing and I found it easy to miss data I should have found.

The forum over the two presentations was not very well used by anyone, the mods included, which added to my frustration with the course.

Would I recomend the course? YES if you have a liking for the subject, YES if you can force yourself to study even if the course hasn't "grabbed" you, and YES if this is needed for your study plan. However if any of these are a challenge for you then I would probably say don't do it.

But my caveat on all of this is that I did NOT apply myself to the course with enough zeal and vigour to achieve any kind of enjoyment from it, and this showed in the result and on this basis I am not surpised by the result. So I am now onto another 10 pointer in the hope I like the next one more and can complete the CCS!

Donna Smith

Course starting: July 2012

Review posted: September 2012

The description in the prospectus of short courses led me to believe that the module would be really interesting. I had never studied the subject before. However I found this module considerably harder than expected. Teach Yourself Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsumanis was often difficult to understand and consequently I did resort to using other text books to clarify matters. TYVET was biased towards volcanoes - 8 of 11 chapters covering volcanoes. The OU Study Book was more helpful. Understandably I was pleasantly surprised to receive a successful result in the EMA.

Daphne Gillian Williams

Course starting: April 2012

Review posted: July 2012

Faculty response

It is not true that “8 of 11 chapters” cover volcanoes. The content is more balanced than this implies.

Chapters 1 and 2 are introductions to how the Earth works, and are equally relevant to all topics.

Chapters 3-8 (six chapters) deal systematically with volcanic processes, but establish general principles applicable to earthquakes and tsunamis such as hazard and risk mitigation, as well as covering earthquakes associated with volcanism, and tsunamis caused by volcanic eruptions.

Dave Rothery S186 Module Team Chairman

As a student on a gap year, who is going on to study geology at University, I wanted to maintain and improve my geological knowledge during my year off. Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis was my first OU module. The module revolves around a 330 page book called 'Teach Yourself Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis'. An accompanying study guide tells you which chapters to read at certain points, summarises the information you've studied and contains questions and links to online activities to reinforce what you've learnt.

I found this module really interesting and the materials provided and the online activities we're great. I did find the highlighting and note-taking from the 330 page book time consuming, but this process does provide foundational knowledge which you then use to complete the questions, activities and the end-of-module-assessment (EMA). On two occasions I required some help; this was easily accessible online and my questions were answered by study advisors very swiftly. The online activities included studying video's and external websites and also featured appropriate questions. I used a 2008 MacBook to complete the online activities and found that all were compatible with Safari.

The EMA comprised of six questions, with each question looking at a different aspect of the course (3 were on earthquakes, 2 featured volcanoes and 1 was based on tsunamis). The study calendar provided shows you which questions you can complete after studying certain chapters; I followed this (instead of completing all the questions at the end) and found the questions accessible. The questions are also well structured and contain 'action words' (i.e. explain, describe etc), allowing you to break them down into small chunks, before amalgamating your final answer.

I would definitely recommend this module to anyone interested in geology, and I would say in my opinion, that it is suitable for those wishing to expand their academic knowledge or for those just studying for pleasure. I would certainly use the OU again in the future after finding the whole experience very professional, supportive and enjoyable.

Jonathan Hall

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: June 2012

My first OU course having left Uni many years earlier. I really enjoyed the OU experience and the course subject matter is really interesting and helps a bit with S104 which I'm currently doing.

A gripe might be that a newer edition of the book Teach yourself volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis was available but not used on the Autumn 2011 course I took. The book is variable in density and detail, perhaps unsurprisingly, and I know from the active course forum that some found it hard going. It is well written. I liked it and learnt a lot.

The course pace is reasonable. I have to say the EMA was testing, but with effort, easily passable. They don't just give these credits away. That said you don't need any maths or science background to take S186, though interest in things scientific will clearly help you engage.

The module left me with an interest is this stuff and I still check websites regularly for active and new volcano alerts. It really surprised me how much volcanic activity is going on all the time. Perhaps that's the really important legacy of this nice Level 1 short module.

If you think you need a more gentle intro to OU science study, then look at S154.

Ian K

Course starting: September 2011

Review posted: February 2012

Out of all the courses I have done I probably enjoyed this the least. The subject is fascinating, I didn't get that feeling from the book and I didn't particularly enjoy the format of reading one book and then switching to another to work from. It might sound quite trivial, but the text book with all the content isn't really designed to take notes and as such I ended up making separate notes which was time consuming.

As there are no tutorials, and no opportunities to check your learning, I found the TMA a bit hit and miss. Whilst I felt relatively confident and passed, it was apparent in feedback I hadn't quite grasped all the concepts. It's a shame because this put me off geology-based subjects a bit! I would say that there are more fun and interesting short courses to do.

Course starting: September 2010

Review posted: October 2011

This was my first OU course and I enjoyed it very much. I found the books easy to read and understand, I didn't realise there was so much to learn about volcanoes but found it all very interesting. The DVD helped me to picture everything and brought it all together.

David Rothery updates the forum very regularly which is helpful not only to learn but also to help keep everyone going. Any time I watched something volcano or earthquake related in the news, David would already have updated the forum hours before!

I passed the course and am very happy with my result. It has given me the confidence to work towards a degree in Natural Sciences.

Laura Cooper

Course starting: May 2011

Review posted: October 2011

This was the first OU science short course I have completed and I thoroughly enjoyed it, having always had an interest in the subject matter. The course book and set text were interesting and I really enjoyed watching the DVD materials. David Rothery's contributions to the forum were very helpful and the updates on current volcanic and tectonic activity really helped to reinforce the ideas and concepts presented. Some of the earlier part of the course is terminology heavy but if you persevere it all comes together as the course progresses - so don't let that put you off.

I found the forum contributions helpful and was very pleased to pass the module. I would have welcomed more detailed feedback on the EMA but appreciate that individual feedback at this level would be difficult to achieve given the relatively low cost of the course.

I have already signed up for my next course.

Alison Owen

Course starting: May 2011

Review posted: September 2011

This was the first course that I have studied with the OU. I picked it because of a long standing interest in earthquakes and volcanoes and I have to say it didn't disappoint. I found Chapter 2 a little hardgoing for a while, but I think after a couple of re-readings I was able to understand the concepts better and it was reassuring to find that other students were at the same point. The forum was very lively and questions posted always seemed to be answered quickly, both by the course advisors and other students. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and passed. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in the subject.

Vanessa Wellings

Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: August 2011

I loved this course and found the books fascinating. It was my first OU course and so I found it hard to understand exactly what was required in the ECA but I still managed a good pass - and it is only a pass/fail course. The electronic forum was excellent and it was great to get the technical appraisals of current events - and volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis were in the news a lot.
I would definitely recommend this course to anyone interested in understanding our planet better.

Claire James

Course starting: September 2010

Review posted: August 2011

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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