The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the DeepTuesday, 31st May 2016 09:00 - EdenLife under the waves. Read more: Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the Deep
Life - with David Attenborough: PlantsTuesday, 31st May 2016 10:00 - Eden
Life - with David Attenborough: PrimatesTuesday, 31st May 2016 11:00 - Eden
Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the DeepTuesday, 31st May 2016 16:00 - Eden
The Educators: Series 2: What Finland Did NextAvailable for over a yearFinland has one of the highest-performing education systems in the world, yet it is overhauling the way schools teach... Read more: The Educators: Series 2: What Finland Did Next
The Educators: Series 2: Character LessonsAvailable for over a year
Thinking Allowed 2016: 'Queer' wars, Nigerian beauty pageantsAvailable for over a year
Old School With The Hairy Bikers: EPISODE 3Available until Sunday, 26th June 2016 20:00
Life - with David AttenboroughDavid Attenborough explores the vibrant mix of life found on our plant - where it comes from, and... Read more: Life - with David Attenborough
Take the photographic memory testCan you capture scenes just by looking at them? Find out with our photographic memory test. Launch now: Take the photographic memory test
Una lengua en movimientoThis free course will develop your knowledge and understanding of the societies and cultures of... Try: Una lengua en movimiento now
Returning to STEMThis free badged course, Returning to STEM, offers useful skills and solutions to help you get... Try: Returning to STEM now
Plate tectonics is an earth sciences topic that attracts a good deal of interest, given that it a topic very often featured in popular science programmes on TV and radio. It is a subject that has strong visual appeal. In this 15-hour free course the coverage is self-contained, up to date and is written in a way that will be accessible to those with interest and motivation, all the more so for those who have some pre-existing scientific understanding.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the theory of tectonic plates and the different forms of evidence (e.g. palaeontology, palaeomagnetism, continuity of structures etc.) that can be used to understand the movement of the lithospheric plates over geological time
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms of crustal growth and transfer of heat at spreading ocean ridges
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the three main types of plate boundary (constructive, destructive and conservative) and how they interact at triple junctions
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the difference between relative and true plate motion
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the driving and retarding forces that influence plate motion at constructive, destructive and conservative plate boundaries.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Preamble: the moving Earth
- 2 From continental drift to plate tectonics
- 2.1 Continental drift
- 2.2 Evidence for continental drift
- 2.3 Sea-floor spreading
- 3 The theory of plate tectonics
- 3.1 Assumptions
- 3.2 Heat flow within plates
- 3.3 Constructive plate boundaries
- 3.4 Destructive plate boundaries
- 3.5 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-ocean (island-arc) subduction
- 3.6 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-continent (Andean type) subduction
- 3.7 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: continent-continent destructive boundaries
- 3.8 Conservative plate boundaries and transform faults
- 3.9 Triple junctions
- 4 Plate tectonic motion
- 5 Plate driving forces
- 5.1 Why do plates move?
- 5.2 Forces acting upon lithospheric plates
- 5.6 Implications of plate tectonics
- 5.8 Further reading
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
In this course, you will examine how the evidence for the movement of continents was gathered and how this movement relates to, and generates, geological features and phenomena such as ocean basins, mountain ranges, volcanoes and earthquakes. You will learn how and why the continents have moved, and continue to move, and the forces that drive them around our globe.
To get the most out of this course you will need the latest Flash Player plug-in. You can download it here.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course S279.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Geology courses or view the range of currently available OU Geology courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
Last updated on: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.
- Latest OpenLearn pages
- Latest pages from OpenLearn - Geology
- Latest pages tagged - highways
- Latest pages tagged - continental drift
- Latest pages tagged - Repo-to-maturity
- Latest pages tagged - palaeontology
- Latest pages tagged - financial risk
- Latest pages tagged - earthquakes
- Latest pages tagged - problems
- Latest pages tagged - S279_1
- Latest comments on this page
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (3.5 MB)
- PDF (5 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (2.9 MB)
- ePub 2.0 (2.9 MB)
- Kindle (1012 KB)
- RSS (408 KB)
- HTML (4 MB)
- SCORM (4 MB)
- OUXML Package (48 KB)
- OUXML File (169 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.