Skip to content The Open University

Student and tutor module reviews

Researching biology and health science

see module description

  • Points: 30
  • Code: SXL390
  • Level: 3
On this page

Student reviews

This was the single most challenging OU module that I have taken, but ultimately the most rewarding. It is completely different from the usual taught modules, and I found it a real culture shock when I started. The module calendar consists of a start date, three tutor-marked assignments deadlines and an end-of-module assessment deadline; how you fill and manage your time around these is up to you.

This is not to say that there aren't plenty of resources and support available; there are, and building a good relationship with your tutor early on is invaluable. Again, this is not like other modules - your tutor doesn't know what you're doing, or therefore what you might be struggling with, unless you tell them, so keep the lines of communication open. You won't be marked down for asking too many questions!

I think the biggest frustration for many of us was a lack of clarity about what exactly is required, but this is inevitable with a cohort of students each doing their own unique project in one of multiple sciences. Attempts have been made to provide more specific guidance for each area, but it is very much down to you to pick through the information, and work out what is and isn't relevant to your project.

All that said, the satisfaction of completing a piece of detailed research, under your own steam, is enormous, and makes a great finish to your degree.

Maria Padley

Course starting: February 2019

Review posted: December 2019

Loved this course. My tutor was fantastic and gave great guidance and support. Some people may dislike logging everything and creating plans before action, reflective entries etc whilst undertaking the project itself. I found that it really helped me to focus and become task orientated. I initially wasted lots of time aimlessly browsing Web of Science.

To answer the claim in a previous review that this module was totally unscientific, I couldn't disagree more strongly. The whole point of the module is to engage with high level primary research rather than be spoon fed by a textbook. In the end I managed to discuss epidemiology and molecular biology in more than enough depth to satisfy my inner nerd.

The end product was a dissertation that I was proud to have created. If you really want to apply and build on your prior learning in an area that you can basically tailor to your own interests then this is the course for you.

Joseph Cloran

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: March 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed doing my project course. Once I had decided upon a topic and it was agreed with my tutor, I was more or less left to get on with it in my own time. My tutor was the best I have had for an OU course and gave invaluable feedback. The downside, from my point of view, was keeping a log of everything that I did. I found it a bind and extra work that I could have done without. However, it is supposed to prove you have done your own work so had to be done. I also feel proud that I have something to show my employers - my final bound project.

It does take a bit of getting used to, after other OU courses where they are more structured, but gives you a taste of what it is like in research.

I can thoroughly recommend doing this course.

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: December 2012

Truly unscientific module. And it's not about the research, but about time management, reflection on your progress, etc. I found it frustrating. On top of this, I received limited support from the tutor and huge disappointment as result.

If you are really considering doing this, read this module specification very carefully in advance.

If I would have a second choice I would rather do something else, with an exam at the end.

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: December 2012

Faculty response

"Unfortunately, the claim that this module is 'truly unscientific' is both misleading and inaccurate. The module clearly embraces a key feature of the scientific method - undertaking a critical review of the literature of a particular science topic. This is the foundation for all postgraduate research, whether scientists are working towards a PhD, MSc, or MPhil. The robust scientific credentials of this module have been vetted and validated by External Examiners. The Module Team is sorry that this student found the module frustrating and disappointing. However the module has provided hundreds of students with scientific skills that have proved valuable in their further studies and employment."
S390 Module team

Although at times baffling, frustrating and anxiety inducing, this was ultimately a very rewarding course.

Choosing your own project topic (within the set themes) and following your own research patterns is great, but compared with the highly structured content of other OU courses, it can leave you feeling a bit lost and uncertain. Only three TMAs and no substitutions means if you bomb one question on one TMA it can destroy your chances of a good result overall. The problem lies with the rigidity of the OU marking system, not the project module itself, but leaves you feeling very anxious waiting for your TMA mark.

The Project Guide is not the bible that the tutors say it is. It is ambiguous and misleading in places and seriously needs updating, while the project methodology it prescribes is not a best fit for everyone. It was frustrating to hear through the project forum that people had similar issues last year, especially with the first TMA, but nothing was done to address it for subsequent years. In this respect the tutors could be a bit more receptive to feedback.

It is, however, the tutors that save this module. The project forum was full of additional (non-official) guides and commentary, and the tutors were active participants in an already lively forum. Feedback on TMAs and emails was prompt, constructive and extremely helpful; and I genuinely felt my tutor was invested in me producing a good project.

If you can deal with the emotional rollercoaster and the odd argument then this course is well worth doing.

Craig Steven Chandler

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: December 2011

Well I loved every minute of this course. Being able to choose your own topic within very broad subject areas and then setting your own title, objectives and project plan was brilliant. I chose a subject of personal interest but then learnt such a lot about not only that emerging disease but also research techniques, cooperation between researchers and lots about climate change and zoonotic diseases generally.

I enjoyed it so much I am doing another project course this year!

Do be prepared for some hard work and some frustration as not all journals are available under the OU Library subscriptions. I spent about 450 hours rather than the 300 the OU suggest and managed to get a Distinction. I think the more time you can put in the better.

I definitely recommend this course, or one of the other project courses, to anyone who enjoys internet research and likes reading scientific literature.

Janet Bliss

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: January 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.

Enter a module code to find a review

To send us reviews on modules you have studied with us, please click the sign in button below.