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People, work and society Access module

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An Access module is a great place to start if you want a gentle introduction to Open University study. It can also help you to find out more about your interests and where you want your learning to take you.

This Access module gives you the chance to dip into some of our most popular subjects, such as psychology, childhood and youth, social science, health, business and law. These areas are introduced and explained at a comfortable pace, perfect if you want to discover something new or brush-up on your study skills. You'll use theoretical discussions and real-world events to build up your knowledge and understanding of the wide-ranging topics that make up people, work and society.

Choose to study this Access module if you:

  • want to gradually build up to university-level study with the OU
  • would like learning materials prepared with new learners in mind 
  • need time to decide your future study plans while developing your study skills.

Study for free

If you are resident in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you may be eligible to study an access module for free. See Entry requirements for more information.

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.

The module is divided into three blocks:

Block 1: People

This block, which you will study in print, considers whether people can change. You will be introduced to some influential thinkers and debates around the topics of childhood development and early relationships, health and the extent to which we can choose to be healthy, how disability can shape what we can do, and how it can impact on activities like study. Using case studies of Open University students who have physical disabilities and mental health conditions, you will focus on research methods and consider how they can convey information. You'll also look at responsibility, from an age and a cognitive perspective. We consider when children become legally responsible and also when adults who experience cognitive decline though Alzheimer’s dementia for example, are no longer responsible.

Block 2: Work

Moving to online study, this block addresses the topic of work and what people do. The focus moves from the individual to consider how organisations work and their value to individuals and society. You will explore the impact of globalisation on consumers and the extent to which our choices relate to some of the negative aspects like child labour. The idea of work in a traditional sense is also explored as we consider how organisations and businesses operate and thrive. You’ll also think about how delegation and budgeting is used in your own life and take a look at the future of work.

Block 3: Societies

Continuing online, moving beyond the world of work to the world at large, this block explores whether we can all get along in society. You’ll begin by looking at how people operate in groups, and what the minimum requirements are for a group to form an identity and sense of belonging. You will be introduced to the theory of social identity as a way to explain some behaviours. You’ll also look at the law and how it enforces order in society, and consider how physical appearance, location and where you live can also influence the feeling of belonging. The block ends by looking at how people and societies can change, and what the future holds.

After each block there is an Options week, giving you the opportunity to learn about an area that interests you. You may also choose the option of catching up, or revisiting material that you missed or would like to engage with again. There are so many things to learn about in the social sciences and we can’t possibly fit it all into one module, so this is your opportunity to choose an area that interests you most.

The module includes multimedia material and a website with further study materials and resources as well as online quizzes and interactive exercises to help test your understanding.

As you study this module you will build your confidence and develop your study skills, including:

  • reading and interpreting information
  • planning and writing essays
  • time management and organisational skills
  • problem solving

You will also have the opportunity to gain skills such as working with audio and visual material, using online forums and searching the internet for information. This experience will provide you with a gentle introduction to using a computer to support your study, and will equip you with the basic computing skills you will need for the next step in your studies.

Towards the end of the module you will have the opportunity to participate in activities which will help you to make decisions about your future study plans.

On successful completion of this module you will receive an Open University Access Module Certificate.

Entry requirements

No special knowledge or previous experience is required.

You can study our People, work and society Access module on a standalone basis, or to prepare for your OU qualification. The module won’t count towards a future qualification, but we know that students who start with an Access module are more likely to succeed. It may mean that you will study for longer, but it’s well worth the investment.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, or would like help registering, you can speak to an adviser by calling +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can book a call back.

The study materials have been prepared with the needs of new learners in mind, so it’s great if you’re a beginner or returning to study. You’ll use your general knowledge and interests to gradually build up to university-level study. This module will develop key study skills such as time management, note taking, reading for study purposes and reflection on your own learning.

This module is only available if you live in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, or if you have a British Forces Post Office (BFPO) address.

Study your Access module for free

The option to study an Access module for free is only available if you are resident in either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and you meet the criteria below.


In order to qualify you must:

  • be resident in England
  • be registered on a qualification
  • have a household income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
  • have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ Level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study


In order to qualify you must:

  • be resident in Scotland
  • have a personal income below £25,000, including replacement living-cost benefits
  • have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at SCQF Level 7 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study


In order to qualify you must:

  • be resident in Wales
  • be registered on a qualification
  • have a household income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
  • have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ Level 4/CQFW or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

Northern Ireland

In order to qualify you must:

  • be resident in Northern Ireland
  • be registered on a qualification
  • have a household income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
  • have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ Level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

Follow the online instructions as you register or, if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can book a call back.

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
  • assignment details and submission section

You'll also be provided with a printed module book, a study planner and assessment guide.

Digital copies (PDFs and web versions) of most study materials, and transcripts of the DVD can be found on the website. Transcripts are also available on the DVD itself if it is accessed through a computer.

You will need

You will require access to a phone and the use of a computer with internet 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

You will have a tutor who will keep in touch by a combination of telephone, written correspondence and, if you want, email. There are no face-to-face tutorials; all tutorials are conducted on a one-to-one basis between you and your tutor. You may have an opportunity to experience a group tutorial and use online rooms. Your tutor will help you to plan your work and to think about the ideas explored in the module. Your tutor will also comment on and help you with your written work. At the end of the module you will discuss your progress with your tutor, and you will work together to review your learning.


You do not have to sit an examination for this module. Assessment consists of short written assignments (TMAs) and online activities (iCMAs):

  • TMA stands for Tutor Marked Assignment. There are four TMAs for this module. Your tutor will give you constructive written feedback to develop your study skills and confidence, and a score. 
  • iCMA stands for Interactive Computer-Marked Assignment. There are five iCMAs for this module. Typically these are short, online, multiple choice quizzes.

The study materials give you lots of support and practice, and detailed feedback from your tutor will help to hone your study skills and build your confidence. You’ll submit most of your assignments online through our eTMA system – the Assessment Guide gives full details.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying Y032 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Your next step

To get started with this Access module you can register online.

If you'd like to speak to one of our advisers or need help registering, you can call us +44 (0)1908 659253 or book a call back.

Future availability

People, work and society starts three times a year – in February, May and October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2021 and February 2022. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2025.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No examination
No residential school

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