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Educational aims

Your studies will equip you with knowledge and key transferable skills to enable you to understand the relations between the human and natural environments and to take responsible roles as a citizen with regard to environments. You will be able to take an active part in debate about human–environment interactions and to apply your knowledge to related issues such as sustainable development.

The programme will:

  • provide you with a foundation of scientific understanding of natural and anthropogenic processes operating on the Earth
  • provide you with a systems approach to understanding the present and past interactions between the processes operating in the biosphere and the changes in these introduced by human activity
  • enable you to understand the political, economic, social and technical factors influencing human interaction with the biosphere
  • demonstrate the relationship between environment, human cultures and values
  • provide you with an understanding of environmental change and the possible responses of humanity to this.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of the following:

  • the role of the Earth’s systems in supporting life and human activities, and the complexity, sustainability and interrelatedness of human and environmental systems
  • interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary approaches: the contribution of the social sciences, natural sciences and technology disciplines to the identification, understanding and resolution of environmental issues and concerns
  • the relationship between environmental, social and cultural values
  • time and space: the importance of timescale in considering the environmental impact of human activity and the spatial nature of environmental change and human responses to it, including unevenness
  • alternative approaches to and explanations of the causes and consequences of environmental problems, the social conflicts that may contribute to or arise from such problems, and possible solutions to these problems.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • analyse and critically evaluate evidence and arguments from a range of sources, recognising possible limitations in these sources
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential subject specific theories, concepts and principles
  • recognise and debate the moral and ethical dimensions associated with environmental issues
  • study and learn independently, including using feedback from various sources
  • take part in discussion of environmental issues in face-to-face or online forums
  • use information technology to obtain, prepare, process, interpret and present data including using the Internet critically for communication and as an information source
  • apply numerical and mathematical skills to analyse, model and interpret data and to solve appropriately structured numerical problems.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • plan, conduct and write an independent investigation using primary and secondary data, being sensitive to the impact of investigations on environment and other stakeholders
  • collect, record and analyse data using a limited range of techniques
  • reference work to commonly accepted academic standards.

Key skills

Note: not all skills are addressed fully in each module in the degree programme.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding are acquired in the programme through published distance-learning materials, including specially written teaching texts, other texts, audio-visual and computer-based resources. Understanding of interdisciplinary work and its contribution to Environmental Studies is acquired largely through the three compulsory modules and through the inclusion in the programme of modules from three distinct faculties. Student learning is supported by self-assessment activities and questions within the main texts and in formative assignments. This gives you the opportunity to tailor the degree to your own requirements.

Study guides, assignment and project guides and specimen examination papers are provided for all modules. You will work independently with the teaching materials, but will also be encouraged to form self-help groups with other students, communicating face-to-face, by telephone, email and online forums. Tutors, usually locally based, will support your learning in tutorials and day schools organised regionally.

Knowledge and understanding are assessed via tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and multiple-choice computer-marked assignments (CMAs) within modules, and by written examination or equivalent examinable component, such as a report on an independent project or end-of-module assessment (EMA). Tutors will mark your continuous assessment work guided by marking schemes produced centrally by the relevant module teams, and provide written feedback to you on your performance.

Cognitive skills are promoted through written study materials, including in-text questions, through audio- and videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, through carefully monitored feedback on your work from tutors, and through group work in tutorials and residential school (if appropriate).

Learning to apply these cognitive skills to environmental issues is practised in written tutor-marked assignments, independent student projects and some group work. Increasingly, online forums provide you with an environment for interaction with other students, tutors and module-team members and provide an opportunity for critical discussion and guidance.

These skills are assessed using self-assessment questions in text, through tutor- and computer-marked summative assignments, through independent but guided project work and through unseen examinations.

Key skills are developed using published materials, peer-group feedback in tutorials or online, detailed tutor feedback on your assignments and at residential schools (where appropriate). Learning skills are developed explicitly at Level 1 and in some Level 2 modules. At higher levels, skills are developed implicitly in context.

Key skills of effective communication and problem framing are developed within the teaching materials and supported by tutor feedback and guidance on assignments. Presentation skills are promoted at tutorials and at day, or residential, schools.

IT and application of number/mathematical skills are taught, developed and assessed as part of relevant modules, supported by on campus and regional computing services.

You will practise and develop skills throughout the programme, although there is more emphasis on skills associated with project work at Level 3. In-text questions and activities encourage you to take a self-evaluative approach to the practice of all skills.

Assessment of skills is by continuous assessment, formal examination and through project work in the three compulsory modules.

Development of practical skills is encouraged throughout the programme. You will be encouraged to make use of your own situation to provide exemplars with support from your local tutor. Development of these skills is associated with project work in the three compulsory and other modules.