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Introducing health and social care

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We all depend on care services at some time in our lives – at home; in hospitals, clinics or GP surgeries; or in community and residential settings. This key introductory module provides an authoritative overview of health and social care, with real-life case studies taking you deep into the experience of receiving care and working in care services. Whether you're involved in care work (paid or unpaid), use services yourself, or simply have a general interest, this module will build knowledge and understanding, develop skills, and prepare you for further study.

What you will study

This online module takes you into the lives of health and social care workers and service users through in-depth case studies. The module materials are written in clear, simple language and a friendly, thought-provoking style. The module is brought to life through audio, video and interactive activities which will set you thinking – drawing on your own ideas and experience to deepen your learning and help you understand the essentials of good practice.

You’ll be encouraged to share your ideas, through joining online forums with other students and our tutors. You'll develop the academic skills needed to thrive at university through an introductory study skills booklet and activities that are threaded through the module material. The module also teaches you, quickly and simply, how to use information and communication technology for study.

Block 1: explores what it means to be a carer, firstly in the context of unpaid or family care and then moving on to formal or professional care. It examines the requirements for being a professional carer such as professional standards as well as the demands and rewards of being involved in providing care.

Block 2: explores human development across the life course through the lens of three case studies. The first focuses on the impact of migration on human development, the second considers how involvement in crime affects people across the life course and the final case study focuses on the needs of people with learning disabilities transitioning from children to adult services. The Block also explores the impact of disadvantage and discrimination to human needs across the life course. These issues will be considered through the lens of a video case study of a preschool play group supporting migrant families service in Edinburgh.

Block 3: examines the important issue of safeguarding. You will learn about the definitions of risk in the context of both adults and children's services. You will also explore the ways in which health and social care services respond to promoting wellbeing and protecting people who are vulnerable. These issues will be considered through the lens of a video case study of a drug and alcohol service in Belfast.

Block 4: introduces some of the core concepts of sociology and how these can help you develop a deeper understanding of health and social care needs and services. In particular you will learn about the importance of identity and how identities change in particular contexts. You will also learn about how needs change as people move through important transitions such as ageing and becoming more dependent.

Block 5: explores the settings in which care takes place and is managed. You visit a wide variety of care environments, from domestic homes, to residential and hospital settings, exploring their physical, social and psychological impact and the extent to which they are enabling or disabling. In particular you will consider the service user and also the professional perspectives on navigating services. These themes will be illustrated with a video case study of an educational mental health resource in Oxford.

Block 6: introduces innovation and digital delivery of health and social care services. You will learn about why technological innovation is important and the advantages and challenges of digital service delivery. You will consider your own digital footprint and use of social media. The issues of this block are illustrated through a video case study of a digital app to support the treatment of people with post traumatic stress disorder filmed at the National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff.

You will learn

This module is a compulsory part of all OU professional programmes in health and social care. It's designed to provide a broad foundation of essential knowledge and skills for studies in the care field. It provides a thorough and supported programme to develop the skills of independent learning that all students require, particularly the skill of communicating effectively in writing.

Professional recognition

This is one of a set of modules that together constitute an approved programme that leads to The Open University's social work degrees in England, Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland. If you would like to know more, visit Social Work. In addition, as KYN102, it forms part of The Open University's programme leading to the professional qualification of Registered Nurse (Part 1: NMC). It may also help you to gain recognition from a professional body. For more information, visit BSc (Honours) Nursing.

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for this module.

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to modules at OU level 2
This module is an ideal place to start your degree studies if you want to draw on your experience of caring, no matter how informal.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

In your first mailing of study materials you will receive guidance of how to get started online. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.

What's included

This module is primarily online and you will have access to a module website through which teaching and library resources are available. You’ll also be provided with a module book and an introductory study skills booklet.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material. They will also mark and comment on your written work, and you can ask them for advice and guidance. Your tuition is delivered online and contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion sessions, but some tuition will be provided through phone conversations.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K102 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Introducing health and social care starts twice a year – in February and October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2028.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)

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