• The Open University

The Earth in My Pocket: an Introduction to Geology

Get an introduction to geology. Discover where materials that make up everyday objects come from and how to use them sustainably.

20,727 enrolled on this course

A person holds a smartphone up to take a picture of a landscape scene.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Everything we use that has not been grown either contains or relies on materials that have been sourced by a geoscientist. Whether we are standing out in the wilderness, in the middle of a city or in our home, geology and the Earth’s natural resources are all around us, forming an integral part of our everyday lives.

During this free online course, you will discover the link between the ocean floor, volcanoes and your mobile phone; why tiny marine plants and animals are at the core of the plastics industry; and how colliding continents and mountain building processes influence the appearance of many buildings and numerous kitchen worktops.

Get an introduction to geological processes

The course will introduce you to some basic geological processes, focusing on ‘how, where and why’ different rocks and natural resources form across the Earth. You will look at some of the considerations geologists need to take into account when extracting and processing these resources.

You will not only consider the environmental consequences of natural resource extraction and usage, but also the innovative ways that geoscientists are finding to fix some of these problems.

Consider what sustainability means for geologists

The course will make you aware of the considerations that geologists need to take into account when extracting and processing rocks and natural resources.

You will consider what sustainability means for natural resources, how social trends affect the supply and demand of different resources, and the impact this is having both on the environment and the global economy.

The course will help you reassess and appreciate the wide variety of natural resources that surround you all of the time.

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What topics will you cover?

  • Identifying igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks
  • The rock cycle
  • Plate tectonics
  • Sources of metals and some of their uses in everyday life
  • The origins, exploration and uses of oil
  • Environmental impacts of using the Earth’s resources
  • Some methods of mitigating environmental issues

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify different igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
  • Assess and understand the origin, occurrence and availability of some natural physical resources associated with metals, oil and building stones.
  • Apply and use numerical and graphical methods to interpret quantities and concentrations of different natural resources.
  • Describe and appreciate societal and environmental issues associated with the sustainability of the Earth’s physical resources.

Who is the course for?

The course is open to anyone with an interest in geology and the natural environment. It will be particularly useful for anyone considering an environmental science degree course or teachers who are looking for additional geology and geography resources to use in the classroom.

You will need a camera capable of taking a digital photo – a smart phone is fine. You will also need a Flickr account – this is free and easy to use.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a lecturer in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the Open University. I research a type of volcano called large igneous provinces.

I am a Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the Open University. I use organic molecules preserved in rocks to study the past 66 million years of the Earth's carbon cycle and climate.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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