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Author: Jun-Ming Lu, Yeh-Liang Hsu (2014-01-14); recommendation: Yeh-Liang Hsu (2014-01-14).
Note: This paper was presented in The 9th World Conference of the International Society for Gerontechnology (ISG 2014), Taipei, Taiwan, 2014/06. Gerontechnology 2014; 13(2):109-110

The role of the university for transdisciplinary human resource development for the Gerontechnology industry: A case study in Taiwan

Purpose  In Taiwan, there are 83 departments or institutes that contribute to the development of Gerontechnology in 48 universities1. Besides, during 2010-2013, the National Science Council of Taiwan has funded 143 projects with grants worth 160.8 million NTD for 131 professors in 91 universities2. Apparently, Gerontechnology is of growing concern in the higher education in Taiwan. Therefore, it is important that a university fulfills its role as an educational institution for human resource development for the Gerontechnology industry. However, the human resource needed for the Gerontechnology industry is transdisciplinary in nature. It is difficult to define the curriculum from the view point of a single department. Thus, a case study in Yuan Ze University (YZU) is presented in this paper to explore how human resource development for Gerontechnology industry can be linked to the transdisciplinary course program and related activities.  Method  In YZU, instead of establishing a new department or institute of Gerontechnology, a transdisciplinary course program was created to cover a wide range of courses offered by 10 professors in different colleges including engineering, management, humanities and social sciences, and general studies. The purpose is to help students develop the awareness of the problems and needs in the aging society, as well as exploring how their professional knowledge and skills can be applied. The fundamental courses include the introduction to Gerontechnology and Gerontology, as well as the industry seminar supported by industry mentors. By taking the advanced courses, students will learn professional knowledge and skills in elderly welfare, ergonomics, marketing, and service management. In addition to the courses across disciplines, other related experiential learning activities are also arranged. For example, integrated with the Senior Education Program in the university, intergenerational learning is conducted by inviting older adults and students to join the courses of each owns. Besides, the “eldpathy” program helps the students develop empathy toward older adults through simulations of their daily activities. Moreover, the nation-wide “Gerontechnology Product/Service Creative Design Contest” is held every year to encourage students from various backgrounds to raise their new ideas about Gerontechnology. The judges of this contest are composed of people from Gerontechnology industry and older adults themselves.  Results & Discussion  Started from 2011, more than 40 students coming from 10 departments/institutes of 5 colleges have participated in the Gerontechnology program of YZU. Through transdisciplinary learning and collaboration, most students feel interested in and satisfied with the program. Besides, 10 industry mentors have been invited to the industry seminar, and many of them provided opportunities of internship for the students to obtain better understanding about the requirements of the industry. As for the students who have participated in the intergenerational learning or eldpathy program, they all feel more confident in knowing what the older adults may really need. To them, designing for Gerontechnology becomes solid beyond imagination. Further, more than 60 teams from over 20 universities have participated in the first and second Design Contest in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Many students without the backgrounds of design were also able to perform well in the Design Contest, as long as they have a clear picture of the older adults’ or the caregivers’ demands for technologies. In 2014, the third competition is going to be connected with the ISG Master Class to help the students develop broader vision from an international perspective. Overall, by integrating the resources in a university, the transdisciplinary course program and related activities may contribute to human resource development for the Gerontechnology industry in a more efficient manner. Furthermore, with the support from the industry mentors, students will get better prepared to help companies break into the Gerontechnology industry.

References

1.     Ministry of Education, List of universities in Taiwan (in Chinese), available at: http://ulist.moe.gov.tw/Download/FileDownload

2.     National Science Council, Query system for granted projects (in Chinese), available at: https://nscnt12.nsc.gov.tw/was2/award/AsAwardMultiQuery.aspx

Keywords: Gerontechnology industry, education, transdisciplinary, empathy