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Student and tutor module reviews

Exploring science

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: S104
  • Level: 1

Student reviews

This a very varied course that covers a wide range of subjects. In this respect it is intense and will take a lot of study time. My advise is to not get bogged down with the TMAs and skip one if you have to. The exam was hard but is designed to give you the very best chance of passing!

You can pick up most of the pass points from the multi-choice questions from part 1 and the graph question from part 2. Part 3 requires answering 2 questions from 4 so really concentrate on your two favourite subjects as you progress through the books.

This is a good course, frustratingly varied at times but overall enjoyable and a wonderful sense of achievement on passing!

Adrian Smart

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: August 2014

I found S104 really interesting. I know a lot of people thought that there was too much information, but I enjoyed the varying subject matter and pace. The only thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of TMAs/iCMAs (about one of each per month). That said, if you keep up with the reading, these should not be an issue.

I did not enjoy studying biology, but simply because it is not an area I have ever enjoyed studying, but the material was not particularly difficult. The rest of the material I found enjoyable and I really enjoyed learning about the different aspects of sceince. I love astronomy (and that is what my degree is going to be in) but there wasn't very much of it, which is my only real criticism.

My tutor was excellent; really helpful and always e-mailed back promptly.

All I would say is that the exam is a lot harder than the specimen paper. When I sat the exam there had been no previous exam and there was a specimen. I found the specimen quite easy but when I went to the actual exam I was stunned that it was nothing like it! So if you are starting S104 I would suggest purchasing previous exam papers from the OUSBA shop. They are cheap and will help you get a real flavour of what the exam is going to be like.

Laura McCafferty

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: June 2014

S104 for a level one module is very intense and will probably nearly break you, as it did with me. I wouldn't suggest that anyone takes this course in conjunction with another because it does eat up a lot of time for studying and writing TMAs.

However, that said - I had the best tutor you could ask for who took the time on many occasions to help me understand sections of the course I was unsure of. And the information in S104 is invaluable as you progress on to level 2 modules.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: May 2014

I really enjoyed this course and this is what started the OU addiction for me. I found Book 1-3 easy going and the concepts introduced were stimulating.

Book 4 and 5, I knew from reading past comments, were tough but I didn't feel I couldn't keep pace with the course. By engaging more with the material I found that the results for TMAs were my best on these. I would definitely make sure you plan your time well as doing so, pays dividends.

I would recommend this course to anyone wanting to see where their strengths lie in science if that is your chosen path. It might surprise you what you think you liked and what you are actually good at. It did me.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: May 2014

This is a great course covering many subjects of science and makes for a solid foundation to build on no matter what discipline you wish to follow. The work load and pace is demanding but very rewarding and some key maths skills are a definite prerequisite to understand and work through much of the material. There are a few home-experiments to carry out and report your findings. I found one in particular fascinating, the light-bulb experiment...almost magical!

The TMAs reflect the numerous books as you would expect and the exam is a combination of the various TMAs so it's important to keep up and submit all of them on time as feedback from your tutor is paramount.

We had a specimen exam paper (with solutions) and I found it especially useful to time myself as a mock exam. I didn't have enough time to finish the exam as before you know it, its over, so I would stress the importance of timing yourself in advance of the actual exam! The face-to-face tutorials are encouraged but really depend on where in the materials you are up to. Help, encouragement and feedback from my tutor was excellent.

Revision is a must as there is an awful lot of material to work through and learn, but by the end of it, you certainly feel as though you have achieved something.

Andrew Whitworth-Barlow

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: April 2014

What a fantastic way to get back into education. A great deal of information which gave me a total new outlook on this planet. From tectonic plates to global warming, I found this course an absolute pleasure hardly ever a chore. If anybody is considering doing this course, please attend the day schooling sessions as I found them so helpful in tying up loose ends, especially in the biology section.

Kennie Lee Pritchard

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: March 2014

This was my first foray back into education for a long while, the work load at times was slightly high with 8 Books, a DVD and a practical kit.

The course covers a great deal of subjects from Global Warming to Physics, Biology, Chemistry all the way to exploring life in the universe.

You are eased into the course but as you delve deeper into S104 the work load increases as you start doing experiments and more in-depth assignments.

I found that the material is well written even for myself with learning difficulties, and the support I received from my tutor was second to none with my assignment feedback, any queries I had and the enthusiasm in the tutorials was great which really rubbed off with the students.

I did however find the Exam was harder than the specimen paper but thanks to all the support from my tutor and the hard work put over the course was manageable.

On the whole S104 is a must for anyone interested in science, it gives you a good basic grounding in science and the right preparation for further studies.

My advice for this course is be prepared to work hard and set as much time as you can aside for revision for your exam, and never be afraid to ask for help from your tutor or from fellow students in the forums.

On the whole this course can be quite challenging at times but truly is great fun, and gives you a great sense of achievement and increases your love of science.

Matthew James Paylor

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: March 2014

I really enjoyed this course. After been out of education for 10 years it was a great way to get back into studying again.

At times it was tough going, and the intensity does pick up at around book 4, but as long as you try and stick to the study planner as much as possible, you do get through it.

I found the exam a little tough but looking back, I think I needed more revision time that I set aside, however, I passed the exam so I did a lot better than I thought.

My tutor was excellent, and very supportive, giving constructive criticisms and feedback on my TMAs I found really useful, as if I had not quite got the idea my tutor would give me a good example answer, which was helpful when it came to revision time.

It's just a shame the overall result for the module depends entirely on the exam result for me personally, as I am not great in the exam situation, and my TMA results were all pretty high.

That said overall really enjoyed the course, has given me a great grounding for my next planned modules, and the text books are great, and I still refer back to them now for some things.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: December 2013

I found this course fantastically interesting. The work load, as mentioned by other reviews was high in places but for me, as long as I kept up with the study planner there were no real dramas or late nights.

If you have done any science at college I would say this course will refresh you and build on that. The maths was challenging in places but the text books are good and the tutor support was fantastic with any questions being answered within 24 hours.

Even if you havent studied science before it does start off at a quite basic level but it builds up quickly to more challenging ideas.

The TMAs and ICMAs were a great method of confirming understanding and for me they consolidated the subjects they covered.

Personally I didn't enjoy a couple of the books purely because I have no real interest the subjects they covered but I would say the books and activites do a good job keeping your attention and I found that in the exam I answered one the optional questions on one of the subjects I wasn't interested in.

The home experiments were fun, especially building the light box and the rain gauge experiment.

Definitely use the online live tutorials, mine were on illuminate but the OU also uses collaborate which is just a jazzed up version of illuminate.

I can't stress enough you will have to study on this course but depending on your previous experience you may get away with less than the recommended amount. Just follow the study plan and you cant go wrong.

It's just a pity that the iCMA and TMA results don't count towards your final mark. As long as you average over 40% for all of those, your final grade is determined from just the exam. So definitely work through the provided sample paper as there doesn't seem to be any past papers to purchase in the OU shop.

You will definitely feel you have achieved something when you finish. Good luck!

Edward John Holt

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: November 2013

S104 is an outstanding course. All the course materials where well written and easy to follow. There are a number of experiments to do which I found great fun, as there are not many courses with practical experience out there.

I loved science at school but had never done physics, chemistry or biology. I got my best marks in the physics TMA as the book was so well written.

The tutorials were absolutely brilliant. It was great to meat the other students and my Tutor face to face. Much more helpful and worthwhile that the elluminate sessions (which are good but not as much).

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who likes science. It is a fast paced course and doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else, but that said if you are doing a degree this is what you need to be doing to achieve good marks in anyway.

A thoroughly enjoyable course. Thank you OU.

Joanne Marie Reynolds

Course starting: January 2012

Review posted: November 2013

The course provides an excellent foundation in the sciences. It covers all main sciences allowing students to decide on their specialisms for year 2 options. Exploring all subject areas led to me discovering that I was better at biology than I'd thought as I didn't take it at school.

Although I passed the exam, I did find it tough to complete in time. Frustrating in section C as I understood all 4 questions but didn't have time to finish the required 2. Strategy is required in the exam to maximize marks.

My tutor on this course was second to none. A lovely bloke, brilliant scientist and a very fair tutor!

Darren Warden

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: September 2013

S104 was my re-introduction to the world of science education. I had always had an interest in the subject
but needed a way to join up the dots of my previous school and college education, experience from work and
my own personal interest.

I had been out of education for more years than I care to recall and found much had changed in the way information is presented.

Course material, including Books DVDs and practical kit, in addition to encouragement from course tutor both remotely and in class room environments, made the time fly by. Soon coursework and exam was completed and you are left craving more.

There is something here for every interest. A journey through time, space, Physics, Chementry, Biology, Geology, Ecology and even into the realms of quantum physics all presented in a way that is both accessible yet challenging for all abilities. For me this included areas I had experience of as well as introducing subjects I had never before covered.

The course also teaches the value and method of researching, and referencing information as well as the value of
timekeeping, learning to pace yourself. This is in some ways a marathon not a sprint as you manage your workload and submit regular TMAs and iCMAs.

I personally found TMAs, and their teacher assessment notes most valuable in my final revision period before my final exam.

TMAs also included and introduction to excercises in team working via a shared online forum as well as online discussion rooms.

If you need a course to fire your imagination and introduce you to the world of science in a way that will develop and enhance the hidden abilities you already have, but didn't realize, this is the one.

Philip Crisp

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: September 2013

I had plenty of enthusiasm for this module at the start despite the fact that I had not studied any science since secondary school (some 25 years ago) and the rumours that the module was fairly intensive. When the books/study materials arrived, it was apparent there would be plenty of reading, the Biology book being particularly bulky. Things started off ok, however, it became apparent very quickly that the weekly 16 hours recommended study time was nowhere near enough and at times I was having to put in nearer 25 hours or more to keep up with the reading and workload. As I work full-time as well and have children, it became a mammoth task to keep up.

I feel there is just too much information in this module that needs to be absorbed for it to qualify as a part-time module. This is almost a full time job in itself. I felt that the Quarks to Quasars book (quantum physics) was beyond this module level and infact I didnt finish the book because I just didnt understand it at all.

In the end, it became an exercise to just pass the exam (which fortunately I did just scrape through)as all the enjoyment had gone out of it. I feel this module needs to be condensed down to make it more managable - this is a part-time degree after all but this is not a part-time module in my opinion.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: September 2013

Really enjoyed this module, it covers a huge amount of material although I did find it somewhat biased towards chemistry and biology which can be heavy going at times. The pace and workload can be high at times although I didn't find it too bad, just don't get behind or you will struggle later on in the course. In terms of the maths content it is all pretty straightforward; attention to detail is the key! All in all a very worthwhile course.

Robert Ian Whiting

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: September 2013

I have to admit to having been wary of this course and putting it off since I began my OU study in 2009 due to the reviews I had read about workload, intense learning etc! How wrong was I!

Having decided to finally take the plunge and go for it, I was amazed at how it all fell quickly into place. There is a lot of reading, especially around biology and chemistry, but the books are well presented and explain everything clearly.

The tutors were fantastic and made the day schools very enjoyable. They provided great comments on the TMAs which helped me improve them as I went along.

The workload was tough, and I did hear
of people spending 25+ hours a week on it. In all honesty, I actually only managed to get an average of about 12 hours max each week and still managed to get a good pass mark. I think this is because the books do explain everything logically and step you through new ideas, and I guess I was lucky that a lot of these seemed to sink in first time!

I had been dreading the exam from the moment the books first arrived, but can actually say that I enjoyed it on the day. It was my first exam since I left college 20 or so years ago, and it was not as scary as I had imagined!

I learnt so much about science and the world around me, and really do look at things in a different way now. I definitely recommend this course and
feel proud of myself for having finally completed and passed it!

Scott Carter

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: August 2013

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.


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 2013 presentation of S104. The survey was carried out in 2014. 31.5% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 95.3 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 91.9 %
The module provided good value for money 73.4 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 90.2 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 91.9 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 91.4 %
I would recommend this module to other students 88.2 %
The module met my expectations 86.3 %
I enjoyed studying this module 88.3 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 72.1 %
Faculty comment: "The module team would like to thank all of the students who took the time to take part in the survey and to give their feedback. We are pleased that overall students express satisfaction with the quality of the module, in particular with the standard of the teaching material, the level of tutor support and the clarity and effectiveness of assessment. A significant number of students reported difficulties keeping up with workload. The Faculty have undertaken a review of the module and as a result have introduced an element of choice in the later part of the module and so reduce the overall workload. The module website has also been revised as although students report being able to find clear information as to “what to study and when” navigating the module website was a possible barrier to learning for some students. One student has described this module as a ""science theme park"", to enjoy the ride you need to be aware that it does take at least 16 hours of study a week to study this 60-credit module and more if you do not have the recommended background scientific knowledge and mathematical skills."
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