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  • Points: 30
  • Code: S282
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

Overall a good course.

I took S282 as the first part of S10 and my first OU module as it was the recommended 'next step' from the OU FutureLearn astronomy courses ["Moons" and "In And Around Orion"], it is certainly not a 'next step' for anyone without a better than basic grasp of astronomy and maths.

That said the textbooks are very good [although there were a number of errata to download and correct] and packed full of information that a keen astronomer will find useful, but the additional excercises were often found wanting as they often referred to out-of-date software-sometimes references were up to ten years old. We [the other students on the module and I] often had to find work-arounds to the problems but it looks like the next version of the course will address this.

There is a non-OU weekend tutorial organised by an ex-student that takes place in May and is well worth attending. The tutors are from the OU and the workload is high but but very useful for revision and if weather permits there are observing oppurtunities as well.

On the maths side, if anyone is taking this as their first OU course I would check that you can rearrange algebraic formulae with no problems and can work with simple logarithms-more 'A' level than GCSE, but the work is fairly easy.

On the physics side a basic knowledge of protons, neutrons, electrons [and their antimatter equivalents] and neutrinos should be sufficient, as will a knowledge of the SI units.

The module is level 2, so the 'are you ready for study' parts of the OU website don't quite cover enough maths and science but they will give you an indication of your readiness.

There are online tutorials and many of the students also had a 'revision club' online which, along with the revision weekend, helped me get a distinction in the module.

You should expect to devote around 12 hours a week of study for the most part, chapters 4-8 of the "Galaxies and Cosmology" book will take longer because of some of the concepts. The 'rest weeks' should be used for study and aiming to be ahead of the timetable is a good idea.

There are four assignments that will need to be completed by set dates, a fifth 'multiple choice' type paper that is more involved than choosing one answer form four as there may be up to eight options and a three hour exam that gets you your final mark.

David James Morris

Course starting: October 2014

Review posted: August 2015

This course was excellent, providing a massive amount of interesting grounding information on astronomy and cosmology. The cosmology in book two was a bit more complex but nothing too taxing. There is a fair amount of maths on this course (as expected) but no calculus really, just general equation manipulation and other staples.

The TMAs were not particularly hard, and the scientific project TMA (of which you have a choice of two) was really fun to complete. The only downside is that the exam is based on the two hefty text books over 300 pages long which are rammed with data, so a lot of rote learning and memorisation is required to get a good mark in the final exam (which counts for 2/3 of the course marks. As such I'd recommend studying at a faster rate than the study planner in order to leave more time for revision at the end.

As always the best preparation for the exam is to buy every available exam paper and practice them for 2 months before hand, great for identifying and covering any gaps in your knowledge.

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: July 2014

I found this course challenging as my initial knowledge of physics was a bit light. At one point I thought I was out of my depth, I did however hang in there and was very glad I did as a few things came together in the run-up to the exam and I am now looking forward to S382 at some point.

Overall, this course is both fascinating and rewarding, but you do need to be happy with physics to some extent, and I'd say S104 is not quite enough. The maths is not particularly difficult, but you do need to understand trig and equations.

Lucy Evans

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: October 2013

Mixed feelings about this one. The subject matter is interesting, no doubt. But the whole thing's a bit of a compromise. One of the reviewers below complained about the maths content - my complaint is the other way, that there's not enough, and that concepts that are much better expressed mathematically were dealt with here in a rather less than satisfactory way (eg no calculus!). So no-one ends up happy!

My other gripe is the amount of rote learning involved. One of the things I've always liked about the physical sciences is the lack of memory work - but there was a lot of it here, to get a good grade.

Pity about these things. Understanding the way stars and galaxies work, and the cosmology, is fascinating, and the books are well written.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: March 2012

Faculty response

S282 is designed to be accessible to students with a wide range of backgrounds so we have tried to keep the mathematics content to a minimum. Third level S382 and S383 will give you all the maths you would like!

This means some physical concepts that can be expressed elegantly using more advanced maths are explained in a less concise but more accessible way in S282. Astronomy is a wide ranging subject (it covers the whole Universe!) so there is, of necessity, much to learn to prepare for the higher level modules.

S282 is a challenging course and I would not advise anyone to take it as their first Level 2 course. Anyone considering taking the Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science would find it useful to start with S283, which is much easier. That said, S282 is indeed a very interesting course, with challenging TMAs which are not at all solved by just reading the books but require quite a lot of mental struggle. I would advise any new S282 student to start dedicating from the beginning of the course some time to the second part of book 2, since the Cosmology chapters are tough and correspond to the summer months, where the level of concentration required is not always possible to attain. My second piece of advice would be to buy the past papers at the beginning of the course, analyse from the most frequent questions what parts of each chapter are more relevant and dedicate some time from day one to exam-oriented study, since the TMAs are so absorbing that one easily forgets about the exam and is faced by September with the quite daunting task of revision.

Despite having had a lot of personal problems during the year, I enjoyed the course very much. The maths level is completely affordable for anyone having taken, for example, S151: just some basic algebra and a tiny bit of trigonometry is required. The e-tutorials were varied and very helpful, specially the Past Paper ones; the synergy between a team of dedicated tutors and the students worked wonders there. In our group, it was very clear from the exam results that many of us did badly in the questions related to Book 2, hence the suggestion of starting working with it asap, since it is fairly self-contained. After having taken S282 and S194 before it (you can read my comment about it too), my love for Astronomy has increased even more and I am now looking forward to S382 in a couple of years!

Maria Gloria Paz

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: December 2010

I loved doing this course and unexpectedly discovered that I really enjoy Astronomy as a result. Packed with really interesting topics although I must admit that I found some of the maths difficult.

Having said that, I loved discovering about how a star works and other really odd facts such as how to look at distant galaxies using gravatational lensing.

Good balance of media and book work, TMAs are interesting and pitched at the right level.

I did find the end of course exam difficult however. The course covers such a vast amount of information that I found myself revising everything and remembering very little under pressure!

Steve Short

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: October 2010

The course is split into two parts and books, The Sun and the Stars and Galaxies and Cosmology. By far the most interesting of the two for me was the first part. The whole book was absolutely fascinating. The first half of Galaxies is very good too, Active Galactic Nuclei are breathtakingly awesome as is their cause, but I thought that when it went into cosmology it wasn't all that clear, although the chapter on the time scale of the Big Bang was very good. I came away from the cosmology section with the impression that we didn't know a lot about it....

This was my first course with e-tutorials which I didn't like at all, I much prefer personal contact. I felt that I taught myself most of the course to be honest. Just my opinion.

Still, I managed a grade two pass, which for someone who is hopeless at exams because of my gnat like memory retention was quite pleasing. The maths content is straight forward. I did MST121 just before this course and I had no problems with the adding up.

All in all, if you are interested in astrophysics a most interesting course, well worth doing.

David John Wilson

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: January 2010

This well-presented course was one of the most fascinating I have tackled - quite awesome in many respects. Without a decent knowledge of physics and maths it would be difficult but not impossible. I was not, however, fully prepared for the level of detail required in the exam and this left a rather sad taste. But if you want to get a feel for some of the fundamental properties of our Universe, this is a brilliant course.

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: December 2009

A very interesting and informative course. However, since there were only 2 face to face tutorials for the course lasting only 2 hours each, it can be a struggle to get a firm grasp of all of the course content to a level that would ensure a decent examination grade. The course text is comprehensive but lacks a defined structure on linear events such as the stellar lifecycle.

The course is hard work and will tax your mathematical skills for the TMA's.

Cameron Robert MacKay

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: December 2009

Unlike other reviews made I didnt enjoy this course! The maths content is massive, much more then I had expected and wish that I had known about beforehand. Support from my tutor wasnt great, and in the forums different OU staff popped along (with the theory that they where now helping out), but I found this confusing and struggled to differentiate between them and fellow outspoken students.

The study books are good, in that the illustrations/photos of what is out there in space is amazing! quite mind blowing.

On the whole, this course is very heavy going, and unless you are very strong on Maths and a fanatic about astronomy I'd think twice before doing this course. Sorry.

David Stringer

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: September 2009

Of the 10 or so courses I have studied with the OU this has been the most interesting and if you have an interest in Astronomy and want to take it to a level above that put forward in popular science books this is the course to do.

The course is broken into two main parts - the first focusing on the lifecycle of stars which introduces such wonderful concepts as White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars and Black Holes. The second part is concerned with the history of entire galaxies and the whole universe, with the history of the Big Bang and the curvature of space/time being the only bit I struggled with.

Fantastic materials and well structured with lots of examples and 'side stories' about famous astronomers this programme is definately worth all the effort required to complete it.

Mark Justin Eaton

Course starting: April 2009

Review posted: June 2009

Having done an MBA with the OU and a range of other courses, doing S282 has been the highlight of my studies so far.

I did S194 and S196 prior to doing S282 and therefore missed out on some of the preparatory physics that might have made it a bit easier.

The first half of the course was the highlight for me in terms of the life cycle of stars, but the cosmology part was still very interesting even if the last part of it was a bit beyond me.

I have already signed up for S283 (Planetary Science) and will be doing SXR208 so that I can go and observe some of the wonderful things that S282 covered.

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: April 2009

I think this has to be the favourite of all the courses I've done with the OU so far (out of about 14). I had a basic background in astronomy, so I knew sort of what stars were, but this course opened my eyes to the details and their life cycles.

There is a fair bit of basic maths in this course, but nothing fundamentally difficult. If you are OK with scientific notation (how many astronomers does it take to change a light bulb? Ans 2x10^8 - because astronomers love big numbers) and re-arranging formulas, and a little trigonometry then you'll be fine. No calculus or differential equations!

The second book in the course about galaxies and cosmology I found a little less inspiring, although it does have some excellent material in it. I couldn't see the utility in learning galaxy classification - join galaxyzoo if you want to do that!

Anyway, all in all an excellent course, and I'm now doing S283 so I get a certificate from it, and looking hungrily at the new 3rd Level courses...

It's just a shame I'm aiming for a biology degree!

Julian Onions

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: March 2009

A really interesting course, which does get steadily more difficult as it progresses. There is a lot of emphasis on Maths, so make sure you are up to speed before tackling this. I would strongly recommend S151 before taking this course to make sure your maths is up to the job.

The final exam reflects the amount of maths, with a good number of maths based questions. That said, I managed to avoid most of the maths questions in the exam and still pass with Grade 3!

Overall, I found this course fairly heavy going, but the content is excellent, and you do learn about some really interesting things to do with stars and Astronomy in general.

It's interesting to also find out that there is still so much we don't know about Astronomy and the origins of the Universe, and this is covered in the book as well.

I found this course a lot harder than the Planetary Science course, S283, that I studied a few years earlier. Because of this, I had to do quite a lot of revision before the final exam, and I still didn't feel confident I'd pass. Happily, I did though.

Although thoroughly enjoyable, I'm glad this one is behind me!

Glyn Harper

Course starting: February 2007

Review posted: February 2008

A lovely course. I felt much in-love with this course towards the end, and was sad when it finished. The only section I couldn't quite grasp was the section at the end of book 2: cosmology!. I didn't leave myself enough time, and I would advise those studying this course to ensure they have enough time to come to grips with the cosmology part. Having said that, it wasn't a very big part of the exam at all.

I surprised myself with a Grade 2!

Melanie Stott

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: July 2007

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 2014 presentation of S282. The survey was carried out in 2015.

65 students (a response rate of 25.9%) 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 95.4 62
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 86.2 56
The module provided good value for money 80 52
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 89.2 58
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 92.3 60
The learning outcomes of the module were clearly stated 93.8 60
I would recommend this module to other students 93.8 60
The module met my expectations 92.3 60
I enjoyed studying this module 90.8 59
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 87.7 57
Faculty comment: "It is gratifying to note the extremely positive feedback for S282 as a whole. The individual feedback particularly highlights the quality of the textbooks and the mixture of books and online materials. Some concerns were expressed about the total workload, software issues with activities and lack of face-to-face tuition. Many of these have been addressed in the next presentation. New editions of the books have been produced for the current presentation, with some non-essential sections identified as optional reading. The activities have been updated, and the total number reduced, with a greater focus on reinforcing the key concepts and transferable skills."
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