On the morning of May 6th, 2015, the Opening Ceremony of the 4th China International Senior Services Expo & the 4th Forum on the Development of Chinese Senior Service Industry was held at China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing. The sponsor, China Association of Social Welfare (CASW), invited the Open University of China (OUC) to participate in the Expo, and jointly organized the "Education and Services for Older Adults Staff Building Forum".
The OUC's booth was designed around the theme "The Open University for Older Adults: Launch a New Model of Education Service for Older Adults", fully demonstrating the top-level design and the school system of the Open University for Older Adults, focusing on the integrated design of degree and non-degree education for pension services practitioners and professional training programmes, displaying the website of the Open University for Older Adults, APP, training platform and the education products for older adults. At the Expo, the OUC also introduced the planning and design of the Healthy and Artistic Pension Service Experiential National Demonstration Centre.
At the “Education and Services for Older Adults Staff Building Forum”, Yang Zhijian, President of the OUC delivered a keynote speech entitled Construction of the Open University for Older Adults - Launch a New Model of Education Service for Older Adults. In the speech, he said that the OUC has accumulated rich experience in IT-based distance education over the past 30 years. Now, in the era of "Internet +", in the face of new opportunities and challenges, the OUC will combine the technical means of the Internet and Internet-thinking with education for older adults. This is not only an important embodiment of the OUC’s advocacy of the life-long learning concept, but also a strategic choice made by the OUC to expand its social function and implement its task of “running universities in the society”.
In exploring a new model of education service for older adults, the OUC has made notable progress in the following aspects:
1. Exploring innovations in the system and mechanism. Under the support of the Ministry of Education, the Open University for Older Adults integrates national education policy resources for older adults, and advances the school together with the National Aging Working Committee Office, CASW under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Occupational Skill Testing Authority (OSTA) under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and other institutions. With an open concept and in the spirit of openness, the Open University for Older Adults will resolve the problem of policy fragmentation on education for older adults with collaborative innovation and joint efforts. The Open University for Older Adults will rely on the OUC to cover the nationwide urban and rural education system in all respects, build the training demonstration base and learning centres, gradually associate the university system with the system of welfare institutions (nursing homes, apartments for the aged), so as to realize the mutual connection between education and pension services, leverage its complementary advantages, and promote mutual and common development.
2. Exploring operational models integrating degree and non-degree education. The university caters to the needs of the aged and follows their characteristics to provide them with a variety of courses, conducting various training and academic tour projects, including calligraphy, painting, traditional Chinese, revolution classics, computers, smart phones, piano, dancing, Taiji, and health care. Based on this, the university tries to explore some degree education programmes that suit the study characteristics of the aged. Also, the programmes, including services and management for the aged, social work for the aged, medical care for the aged, etc. are provided for the purpose of cultivation and training of practitioners in the pension service industry. Meanwhile, some training programmes will be developed such as nursing and health management for the aged.
By designing the integrated and cohesive certificate system of "course completion certificate, certificate of on-the-job training, vocational skills certificate and diploma certificate", the university leverages the credit bank’s accreditation and transfer system and adopts an innovative learning mode to implement "open registration, flexible learning, credit accumulation, and lifetime effective", breaking through the boundaries between degree education and non-degree education. Either the aged or pension service practitioners can choose the corresponding course portfolio and personalized learning services according to their own interests and their own actual demands. They really can have fun while learning.
3. Exploring seamless online and offline web-based learning models. The university makes full use of modern information technology to build a one-stop integrated information support platform, including the launch of the portal website (www.lndx.edu.cn), the construction of the digital learning platform, application development based on the mobile client APP, operation of the weibo account "the Open University for the Older Adults" and WeChat certification subscription account "The Open University for the Older Adults". The university integrates and explores high-quality learning resources covering all aspects of life for the aged, including health care, photography & gardening, raising grandchildren, etc. These online and offline learning resources are free to be accessed by the aged at any time, in any place.
In addition, to meet the diversified and personalized learning demands of the aged, since October 2014, the university has opened MOOC experimental classes of Chinese calligraphy, Chinese painting, operation skills of computers and smart phones, and selected video courses by masters to explore a new model of quality assured learning way that combines self-directed online "learning at home" and "face-to-face" offline "community learning". In 2015, the university will go to the community, the aged nursing institutions, universities of all types and all levels for the older adults, and television and radio stations to promote the seamless integration of online and offline learning models on a large scale, pushing forward the goal that "learning is available for everyone anytime and anywhere".
4. Exploring the construction of the Healthy and Artistic Pension Service Experiential National Demonstration Centre. The National Demonstration Centre leverages its 8 functional modules, including education experiential centre for older adults, pension service experiential demonstration centre, health care experiential centre, and artistic education experiential centre, to build a sound ecological system defined by the motto "one is never too old to learn, never too old to enjoy happiness, never too old to be taken care of, and never too old to make his own contribution". Once completed, the National Demonstration Centre will combine education with pension services to implement online and offline interaction. With the integration of “health and artistic pension experiential demonstration and education for the older adults, cultivation and training of pension service practitioners, R&D and operation management of education for the older adults”, the National Demonstration Centre will become a national standardized experiential demonstration centre that can be copied and promoted for its advanced facilities, sound equipment, pleasant environment, strong human culture atmosphere, innovative operation, first-class management, and sustainable development.
By Yu Minsheng, the OUC