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The Open University in Wales is Transforming Nursing Education with Introduction of Enquiry-Based Learning

Y Brifysgol Agored yng Nghymru yn Trawsnewid Addysg Nyrsio Drwy Gyflwyno Dysgu ar Sail Ymholiad



The Open University is releasing a new report in partnership with National Health Executive on the use of Enquiry-based learning (EBL) within nurse education. The ground-breaking teaching style closes the theory-practice gap, especially crucial within the nursing profession.

The report, Enquiry-based learning: Transforming nurse education, explores the feedback from the recent OU nursing cohorts who have recently completed new EBL modules as part of their nursing degree programme. Delivered in partnership with employers, The Open University provides a unique combination of supported distance learning and practice-based learning within the workplace.

The survey of the OU nursing students has revealed that over two-thirds (68%) of respondents said it was helping their nursing practice, with two out of three (66%) saying it had helped develop their skills in caring for patients. The students see EBL as a fuller and more realistic approach to practice.

In Wales, applications have reopened for healthcare assistants working in Wales to join its nursing degree scheme in February 2023, thanks to funding from Health Education and improvement Wales (HEIW). The programme, which operates in every health board in Wales, allows staff to study towards a nursing degree while continuing to work with their local employer, combining theory and practice and enabling students to learn flexibly alongside their job.

Pioneered in the UK by The Open University, EBL emphasises a nurse’s role in the learning process and asks them to engage with an idea or topic in an active way, compared to traditional learning models. It involves peer collaboration and builds a community of learning. Working interactively in groups benefited students as it included widening of perspectives and retention of knowledge, with three quarters (75%) saying that EBL has helped their team-working skills and enhanced their critical thinking.

EBL encourages students to take the lead in directing their learning, which can make it more impactful. That’s why The Open University will be using the students’ suggestions for improvements to make EBL work even better in the future.

Dr Rebecca Garcia, Associate Head of School Nursing and Health Professions at The Open University said:

“We wanted to create a new nursing curriculum in 2018 as at The Open University, we always strive for innovation. This offered us the opportunity to rethink our qualification and develop learning modules in our nursing degree programmes which reduced the important gap between nursing theory and nursing practice.

“We have embraced the concept of Enquiry-based learning (EBL) as the theory of learning of our nursing programme. Our EBL modules educate nurses differently and this report highlights how this concept is transforming the way we develop nurses.”

Staff tutor for nursing in Wales, Majella Kavanagh, added:

“Enquiry based learning helps nursing students develop as professionals. They can apply their skills to unique situations, and it also prepares them to expect that they’ll encounter situations they can’t manage alone, promoting interdisciplinary working. EBL develops social intelligence – particualry working with others. We’ve embraced the concept of EBL into the curriculum and our EBL modules educate nursing students in a richer, more collaborative way, benefitting patients, service users and care delivery across Wales.”

To find out more and download the report visit: