What it's like to study the Social Work programme

Teaching and support for your studies is provided by the university and by your employer.

Module materials

You will receive study materials, module calendars and details of tutors and tutorial/workshop dates a few weeks before the module start (or they will be available online). You will study mostly at home in your own time.


Developing your IT skills, and using them to enhance your studies, is an essential part of the degree programme. You will have an email account, a suite of online facilities and access to online library resources. See advice on computing skills.

Tutorials and practice workshops

You will be invited to attend tutorials or day schools in conjunction with K102, K271, and other open modules.

The practice learning modules include face-to-face workshops as well as some online learning events. These will provide an important link in helping you to integrate your academic study with practice experience. They are obligatory and whilst studying K216 and K315 you may use your practice learning hours to attend them.

Workshops are normally arranged on Saturdays. If you cannot attend on Saturdays, please let us know in good time so we can try to offer you an alternative.

Tutorial support from the OU

OU tutors, appointed for each module, will guide and support you throughout your academic studies. A Programme tutor is also appointed by the OU in order to monitor your progress throughout the years when you are undertaking practice learning and take appropriate action if you appear to be in difficulties either academically or in practice. The Programme tutor organises practice learning meetings with students, practice assessors and workplace supervisors in order to draw up and review practice learning agreements.

Practice learning

Your employer is responsible for ensuring that you undergo a 10-day period of preparation for practice while you are studying K113 Foundations for social work practice.

Your employer will also provide you with two practice learning opportunities (PLOs), of 100 days each, while you are studying K216 Applied social work practice and K315 Critical social work practice. The PLOs will take place between February and August and will be three or four days a week. A suitably qualified Practice Educator will provide supervision, observe your work and write a report (which forms part of your assessment for the module).

Most students are likely to have one PLO in their sponsoring agency. The second PLO must be outside the agency and should provide as much contrast as possible. It must be in a different setting with a different user group. One PLO must include statutory tasks involving legal intervention.

Study time and study leave

Employers are recommended to give students the following minimum study leave (for private study, exams and tutorials):

  • 36 days per study year for students studying a full stage (120 points) in a year
  • 18 days per study year for students studying a 60-credit module

Exact arrangements for study leave will depend on people’s work patterns, whether they are full- or part-time, and so on, so it is wise for employers and students to come to an agreement at the outset. Students will normally need to allow personal time towards their studies in addition to any study leave granted.

Exams and assessment

For each academic module you will be required to submit regular assignments (which will form part of your assessment on the course) and normally there will also be an exam or other form of final assessment at the end. You must pass both the continuous assessment and the final assessment.

For each practice module you will need to submit regular assignments (some written and some computer marked) and an end-of-module examinable assignment. The OU will also need a satisfactory Practice Assessor’s report for each period of assessed practice.

Support from fellow students

The establishment of self-help groups by students working within the same agency or same locality is encouraged. The sharing of ideas and experience will enrich your studies, and encouragement and support from others will often help you to keep going when energy and enthusiasm are at a low ebb. You will be required to participate in computer conferencing with fellow students.