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Student and tutor module reviews

The quantum world

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: SM358
  • Level: 3

Student reviews

The course content and course books are very good; well-written, clear and interesting.

Assessment isn't onerous - relatively short TMAs plus iCMAs, and in common with other Level 3 physics, provided you pass a minimum continuous assessment threshold, it does not contribute to your final grade. The exams are pretty similar year on year.

Now the negatives!

The module forums could be more useful and interesting if there was a little more engagement from tutors and module team. This is a significant contrast to other modules (including several Level 3s) that I've done.

Although there were quite a lot of Elluminate tutorials, a number of them really weren't that good. It didn't seem to me that some of the presenters had engaged with how to make Elluminate work properly - I don't mean on the technical side, but as a learning experience.

I'm not an Elluminate hater - I've done other modules where I've loved all the Elluminate sessions - that's what made this so marked.

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: January 2013

Faculty response

We are very pleased that the course content, books and assessment are well-received.

It is very helpful to have comments about the forum and the e-tutorials. In previous years some students have said that there is a danger of us stepping in too early and stifling debate. We will keep an eye on this though and reply promptly when necessary.

We are trying to make the Elluminate tutorials more effective. A peer review process is in place, and the topics covered have been adjusted slightly for the coming year.

Absolutely fascinating course. Found it challenging, but not impossible and extremely interesting. One of the best courses I have ever attended.
Did not enjoy the exam as much, found it too long (ran out of time) and was more of a speed math competition rather than an assessment of knowledge.
But overall it was great and am glad I did it!

Emiliano Cipriani

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: November 2012

SM358 is a superb course. It provides a clear and accessible introduction to modern quantum mechanics. The course makes a great effort to teach the subject by including many carefully thought out problems in the course books, iCMAs and additional exercises, all of which help develop a deep understanding of this fascinating subject.

Previous study of MST209 is more than enough to cope with the level of maths. The fifteen Elluminate lectures in addition to many smaller tutor-group etutorials sets a benchmark for support that other modules could aspire to!

Overall, SM358 makes the study of quantum mechanics a very doable and enjoyable experience. The OU should be proud of this course.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: April 2012

This is simply the most fascinating course I have done with the OU to date. One where you make a key transition in your study of physics: from relying on your physical intuition to inform the maths; to relying on the mathematics to tell you what your intuition should be!

Starting with wave mechanics, you get taken step-by-step up to using the formalism to analyse in full the energy levels in 'real' atoms, molecular bonding, tests of fundamental parts of quantum theory that fly in the face of normal experience and how electron behaviour in solids accounts for conductivity, appearance and physical attributes. The course is, necessarily, heavily mathematical and a solid understanding of MST209 is a real must.

This course includes an extended section on the fascinating area of quantum information. It also covers the Dirac notation, which is often listed as a pre-requisite for post-graduate courses in physics with the caveat that it is absent in many undergraduate programmes.

The teaching on this course is excellent - and there are features that I believe were new for 2009. The computer marked assignments, whilst only formative, are excellent for testing and correcting your understanding. Quantum mechanics is a very counter-intuitive field and so opportunities to test your grasp of it are golden. The computer system is very good at assessing what you've done and giving you appropriate hints to allow you to reach the solution yourself, rather than passively looking it up when you don't get it fully correct. There is also an extensive package of e-tutorials, both national and within your tutor group, where the excellent course tutors really draw out, emphasize and clarify the main concepts, themes and methods. These tutorials are live, so you can ask questions and discuss the material with the tutors and students (by text) whilst they are taking place. There are also a selection of face-to-face tutorials and a couple of fantastic day schools.

My only criticism of the course is that perhaps too much has been squeezed into it for a 30pt course. I understand why this is so - quantum mechanics forms the backbone of modern physics. Indeed, I am glad that I got to learn so much about the subject, which will be essential as I intend to pursue postgraduate study. It's just that I'd like to have seen it made into a larger course (or split into two smaller ones), keeping everything in it and extending a little more into solid-state physics. This is a key area of physics (usually expected in an undergraduate degree) and is sadly, other than a few chapters in SM358, missing from the OU's physics offering.

All-in-all a fascinating, well-delivered course. Be prepared for a voyage into the fantastic!

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: June 2010

This new quantum mechanics course is a twenty-first century version of previous courses offered by the OU (and elsewhere). A highly well structured and organised course which I found takes you from ground-level right up to the upper level of a modern undergraduate level in quantum physics. I enjoyed the physics and historic aspects as much as the mathematics. A fabulous feature is the use of substitions and symmetry in the formula sheets to cope with difficult intregrals and this enable you to get on with the calculations swiftly ( once you get the hang of it).

The main 21st century topics include entanglement, quantum teleportation , encryption and computing and are well covered. In fact entanglement is dealt with at a very mathematical level, a feature I have not seen in other courses on QM.

I think this course forms a firm foundation for higher physics and applied mathematics. The exam and TMAs are made to be do-able but and by no means all straightforward so you will be challanged.

The only downside is that the last two chapters of book 3 do not get tested in TMAs and run off the bottom of the study calender which is quite irritating as this is the time most students study for their exams and yet these 2 chapters appear in the final exam. This is something I personally think should be amended by the course organisers.

I think otherwise this is a fabulous course in quantum mechanics.
A really first rate course. Thoroughly recommended.

Course starting: February 2007

Review posted: January 2008

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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Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2015 presentation of SM358. The survey was carried out in 2016.

86 students (a response rate of 30.7%) responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module.

Please note that if the percentage of students who responded to this module survey is below 30% and/or the number of responses is below 23 it means that only a small proportion of students provided feedback and their views as shown here may not be fully representative of all students who studied the module.

See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

% Count
Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 93 80
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 91.9 79
The module provided good value for money 84.8 67
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 92.9 79
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 91.9 79
The learning outcomes of the module were clearly stated 91.9 79
I would recommend this module to other students 85.9 73
The module met my expectations 89.5 77
I enjoyed studying this module 87.2 75
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 80.2 69
Faculty comment: "The module team would like to thank all the students who took part in the survey and gave their feedback. We are pleased that the majority of respondents provided positive feedback but we continue to look for ways to improve and add to the resources we offer in support of this module. For example, we offer a wide range of 'FAQ' resources designed to reinforce important skills or provide further clarification of the topics which tend to generate the most queries and some optional enrichment material."
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