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An introduction to law

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This module is now only available as part of a joint degree qualification. It has been replaced by Criminal law and the courts (W111).

This key introductory OU level 1 law module is taught entirely online and considers the nature and role of law. It examines the role and function of a legal system by considering why laws develop, how laws are created, interpreted and applied and the role that law plays in regulating and administering justice within a society. The relationship between law, judicial reasoning, public policy and politics is also explored. The key aspects of law making in England and Wales are covered, including the mechanisms created for the administration and enforcement of justice in these jurisdictions. The module also considers a number of fundamental legal concepts such as liability, culpability, evidence and sanctions. You'll work through the module using a blend of online text materials, audio, video and interactive online activities.

What you will study

The module covers a range of substantive legal principles and the law making framework in England and Wales. Throughout your studies you will develop a number of key legal academic skills and learn to interpret and apply the laws which have been created by the Westminster Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the courts and European institutions.

The module begins by asking you to consider the nature and sources of law. Why do we have law and what role does law play. It then examines the fundamental principles which form the UK’s constitution before considering law making in England and Wales. Through your studies of the law making process you'll learn about the range of institutions and bodies which have power to make law which impacts directly or indirectly in the UK.

You'll look at the role of the Westminster Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the wider impact of devolution, secondary legislation and the role of common law. You'll also explore the relationship between common law and equity, law making processes in the EU and the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

You'll then explore how laws are administered and what sanctions can be imposed when laws are broken. Creating law is only one aspect of the legal system and you will consider the importance within a legal system of the administration of justice and the relationship between judicial reasoning, public policy and politics. Fundamental legal concepts will be introduced, such as evidence (burden, proof and truth), legal personality, culpability and liability.

Throughout the module you'll be asked to think about the role and nature of the law and key legal concepts and the features of a just legal system.  An integral aspect of this module is the development of legal and other study skills. These will enhance your ability to reason, explain, and present an argument. They will also enable you to challenge accepted ideas and practices. You'll be expected to become a critical thinker and also spend time reflecting on your own learning and progress.

The development of skills forms an essential part of legal study and is an integral part of legal study. The thinking, reasoning and organisational skills developed through academic legal study are highly sought after and valued.

You will learn

In addition to the knowledge you will gain from this module you will also develop essential legal study skills. This includes the ability to:

  • interpret, describe and apply legal principles in a logical and coherent way
  • identify the characteristics of a legal argument
  • identify and analyse conflicting accounts, interpretations or points of view.
  • read and discuss legal information
  • use legal authority, legal material and other sources appropriately 
  • identify and use appropriate primary and secondary sources of law and legal information
  • reference and cite relevant material including case and statute law.

The module is also designed to develop a range of general skills which form part of study at this level and which aid the development of your legal skills. The ability to communicate effectively in writing is an essential skill for a law student and the module has been designed to develop the skills listed below throughout the module and your study of each unit. You will be provided with the opportunity to learn how to:

  • identify relevant points and take notes in a manner appropriate to the task
  • summarise the key points of a piece of written material
  • present and structure information clearly
  • make accurate use of the English language and legal terminology
  • manage tasks and solve problems
  • make appropriate and professional use of IT including presentation of word processed documents
  • make use of electronic communications and websites
  • plan, adapt an electronic search and accurately record the results of that search
  • engage in appropriate and effective communication online
  • discuss information contained in a table, graph, pie chart or bar chart.
  • effectively plan and manage your own time and studies .
  • analyse tasks and make plans for tackling them 
  • learn from feedback, monitor and reflect on personal progress, identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • identify and implement ways of improving learning and performance
  • develop as an independent learner.

Professional recognition

If you are intending to use this module as part of the LLB, and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You should read the information on the website as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for higher education and distance learning. It will give you the foundation knowledge and study skills to study law at a more advanced level (levels two and three). By the end of the module you will be expected to be working at the level required of first-year undergraduate students.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • interactive online activities
  • assignment details and resources
  • online tutorial access.

Computing requirements

You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

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

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you'll likely need a headset with a microphone.


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

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W101 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

An introduction to law is no longer available to study as a single module or as part of a law degree. It has been replaced by Criminal law and the courts (W111). 

For those intending to study this module as part of a joint degree qualification there will be one extra presentation of W101 in October 2021.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
No examination
No residential school

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