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Online course

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.

The Earth in My Pocket: an Introduction to Geology

Why join the course?

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.

Download video: standard or HD

When would you like to start?

  • Available now
  • Date to be announced

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?

Anne Jay

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.

Marcus Badger

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 (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

Learners collage mobile
Join this course


  • Access to this course for 6 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

Upgrade - $39

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • A Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course