The Open University of China (OUC) officially established the Open University for Older Adults (OUOA) on 28 January 2015 in line with the guiding principles of the State Council’s Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Social Services for Older Adults and Decision on Vigorously Developing Vocational Education and acting on Comrade Liu Yandong’s instruction that “efforts should be made to strengthen the building of the Open University for Older Adults to satisfy their learning needs.
” The OUOA vigorously promotes education for older adults in order to meet the diverse and individualised needs for spiritual culture among older adults and to respond positively to population ageing.
The OUOA was jointly constructed by the Office of the China National Working Commission on Ageing (CNWCA), the China Association of Social Welfare and Senior Service under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the Occupational Skill Testing Authority under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. It is China’s first open university for older adults. Supported by modern information technology, it is a new type of university that aims to provide degree and non-degree education to older adults and professional staff in social services for older adults through a combination of online and offline methods.
The OUOA provides all-round learning support and services for older adults; promotes the formation of a lifelong education system and a learning society; accelerates the cultivation and training of professionals that can serve older adults to compensate for the shortage of professionals in the market of older adult care services; and improves the quality of professional staff serving older adults.
Ever since its establishment, the OUOA has implemented the guiding principles of the Development Plan for Elderly Education (2016-2020), adhered to the principles of socialising the educational purpose and philosophy and diversifying the educational system and mechanism with on-demand teaching designs and contents, and advanced teaching methods and means. A great many people have been served through these innovative models. Relevant work on elderly education has been energetically advanced around system construction, educational training, information technology platform construction, resource building, and demonstration base construction. To date, a number of achievements have been made.
- Shaping the operational organisation system
The first step is to build an older adults education system in open universities and radio and TV universities by relying on the OUC’s branches and schools. To date, educational institutions for older adults have been established in 24 branches, and are under way in nine branches; the second step is to form a cooperation system for universities for older adults in partnership with various universities for older adults at different levels, Union of the Third Age University in Higher Education Institutions (U3AU), and universities for older adults under the national ministries and commissions and state-owned enterprises; the third step is to gradually open up a system of nursing institutions for older adults and social service institutions for older adults (enterprises and associations); the fourth step is to explore the establishment of colleges for older adults under direct management in cooperation with local governments and senior service industries with good school-running conditions. Five universities for older adults under direct management have been established to date. The OUOA has engaged in cooperation with nearly 50 units inside and outside the system.
- Carrying out non-degree education and degree education trainings
The first step is to work on non-degree education to serve older adults through distance mobile learning. To date, these have been 10,896 registered learners and about 3,000 training certificates have been issued. In addition, education training programmes, such as “Lecture Hall for Older Adults of the Open University of China,” have been planned and developed to advance study tour projects for older adults. At the same time, honourary degree diplomas are being designed for older adults, and the construction of degree majors for older adults, such as calligraphy and flower-bird painting, has started; the second step is to carry out online and offline integrated non-degree training programmes for professional staff in social services for older adults. Nearly 10,000 people have been trained and two vocational higher education majors, elderly service and management and social work for older adults, have been set up; the third step is to form a certificate system for the OUOA integrating and connecting course completion certificates, job training certificates, certificates of national continuing education bases, vocational qualification certificates and diploma certificates by relying on the credit bank system of the OUC; the fourth step is to establish a specialised team for elderly education and teaching and services. To date, nearly 50 teachers have been admitted to serve various educational training projects and activities in open universities for older adults.
- Creating a multi-dimensional learning platform
A three-dimensional learning network has been created, including the China elderly education network, learning network of the open university for older adults (lndx.oucnet.cn), the network of the Open University for Older adults, the training platform for professionals in social services for older adults, an app for older adults, and a new media matrix. A total of 34,000 people have registered on various platforms and the app has a capacity of 155,000 people with a total of 20 million page views.
- Integrating quality e-learning resources
The OUOA has gathered nearly 200,000 minutes of quality e-learning resources through multiple channels, and the Catalogue of Resources for Education for Older Adults has been compiled and issued. To date, nearly 5,000 video clips of quality course resources have been brought together on the network, and the first national super curriculum for education for older adults has been researched and developed. Several new unique courses, including “safe and appropriate use of drugs for older adults," have been offered, and the cooperative research and development of “records of growth rings” and five other grades of diverse original contents have been created and have received a good response.
- Positively promoting the construction of demonstration bases
The “Letter of the Ministry of Education on Application for Approval of the Project Proposal of the Experiential National Demonstration Centre for Healthy and Artistic Older Adult Care Services of the Open University of China” has been submitted to the National Development and Reform Commission through the Ministry of Education. At the same time, professional institutions have also been authorised to design, research, and develop an “education complex for older adults” that integrates advanced concepts and technology that can closely meet the needs of education for older adults, and to formulate educational products and service standards that can be replicated and popularised. Three cooperative units have been guided to promote the construction of demonstration bases for elderly education with local characteristics.
The OUOA has been noted and recognised by leaders of the Ministry of Education, the Office of China National Working Commission on Ageing, and other related government departments. It is well received and supported by all social sectors, such as universities for older adults and nursing institutions for older adults. It has played a demonstrative and leading role in the field of distance education for older adults and laid a good foundation for its follow-up development. In the future, the OUOA will break down the borders of institutions, information, and services between nursing services for older adults and education to provide multi-level diversified teaching services for older adults and professionals in social services for older adults. It is committed to building national-level open universities for older adults with an educational organisation system covering urban and rural areas all over the country.