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    An undergraduate course in Science.

Understanding the continents

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This wide-ranging course develops your knowledge of the continents: its theme is crustal evolution in contrasting environments. It revises and extends your knowledge of plate-tectonic processes and looks at the East African rift system and Iceland as examples of extensional regimes. You will study subduction zone processes; consider the Tibetan mountain range; examine the Himalaya and the Scottish Highlands as examples of collisional processes; and analyse the tectonic and magmatic framework of Britain. This course is intended for those with an understanding of the essentials of igneous and metamorphic rock-formation processes, plate-tectonic theory and structural processes.

Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

Register for the course


Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

An additional fee for the examination may apply.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£865.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

The course consists of five blocks, with associated online activities that include exercises based on the home kit, the DVDs, maps and offprints from the scientific literature.

Block 1 reviews and revises plate tectonic processes, how heat moves within the Earth, and the consequences for deformation and the production of magmas. It sets the context for more detailed studies in later blocks.

Block 2 examines how continents behave during rifting and break-up, taking the Red Sea, the East African Rift and Iceland as examples.

Block 3 investigates how continental growth and continental evolution occur at subduction zones. Case studies of volcanic and tectonic activity at selected plate boundaries (including the Andes, and Santorini volcano in the Aegean Sea) illustrate the key processes.

Block 4 presents examples from the Alps, the Moinian and Dalradian rocks of the Scottish Highlands, and the Himalaya to illustrate the principles of mountain-building.

Block 5 describes how the crust’s architecture beneath the British Isles is revealed by geophysical data, and covers the tectonic and magmatic history of the British lithosphere in the context of the history of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Entry

This is a Level 3 course. Level 3 courses build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at Levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. 

You are expected to understand the essentials of igneous and metamorphic rock-formation processes, including igneous and metamorphic rock classification and geochemistry (e.g. three-component phase diagrams), structural processes and geophysical techniques, as well as the main features of plate tectonic theory. 

If you are not familiar with those topics, you are advised to have first studied our Level 2 Earth science courses, such as Geology (S276) and Our dynamic planet: Earth and life (S279), which cover them. You might also find those study materials useful as revision. Your regional or national centre will be able to tell you where you can see reference copies, or you can buy selected materials from Open University Worldwide Ltd. 

The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are You Ready For S339? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course or whether you need a little extra preparation. This can be viewed or printed from the Are you ready for science? website. It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the course, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Most of the study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader, and mathematical and scientific equations, technical language terms and graphical materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Written transcripts and subtitles are available for the audio-visual material. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

You will occasionally be required to observe and interpret small-scale features of rocks from the home kit, as well as material on the DVDs, so good visual acuity and, preferably, the ability to distinguish colours are required to fulfill the learning outcomes. Alternatively, use of a sighted assistant may be appropriate. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, DVDs, small home kit containing rock specimens, online study calendar, a website holding other essential study materials, e.g. activity instructions and assignments, which you may choose to print out.

You will need

You will need broadband access to the internet as some components that are used in assessment cannot be accessed via a dial-up connection.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the course. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above. 

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in November 2013. From 2014 we expect it to be available once a year, in October.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

“This is a level three course and there is a lot of material in it. Most of it is readily ...”
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“Strongly recommend S276 and S279 before starting this tough course which is based on 5 blocks and 600 pages! I ...”
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“We concur with the overall view of many of these comments that S339 is a rewarding but challenging module. This ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code S339
Credits 30
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

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