Wired.com posted an article about an amazing opportunity for those of us who love zombies, The Walking Dead, or apocalyptic themes. You can read all about it below in the full article as copied from Wired. Seriously, a free course about lessons that we all can learn from AMC’s hit zombie series? I’ve already signed up. The question is: when will you?
A lot of words come to mind when you think about AMC’s zombie show The Walking Dead: thrilling, gruesome, horrific. “Educational” isn’t typically one of them, but that may change next month thanks to a massive open online course (MOOC) created by AMC, educational tech company Instructure, and the University of California, Irvine that uses the horror series to explore principles of science, physics, math, and health sciences.
Sign-up begins today for the free course, titled Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead, which will take place for eight weeks starting on October 14 and will run parallel to the upcoming fourth season of the show. The MOOC will be taught by a multidisciplinary team of faculty, whose topics will include: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it applies to the post-apocalypse; the spread of infectious disease and population modeling; managing stress in disaster situations; and social identity, roles, and stereotyping “as shown through leaders like Rick and the Governor.”
“The chance to reach out to an audience who we may not have been able to touch, or to speak to [before]is very exciting,” UC Irvine’s dean of distance learning, Melissa Loble, told WIRED. “I would love to see somebody get inspired by one of these topics. If we can inspire people who don’t like math, and suddenly like math, or physics or social and health sciences, then that’d be a win for us.”
Each Monday, the class will touch on events from the previous night’s episode, although no one involved in the course got any spoilers from AMC happens about the new season. “We did send them our [planned]weekly list of modules and said, Hey, is this going to align?” said Loble. “They gave us some feedback, so we do know we’re dealing with topics that align in some way with what’s going to be seen that week. Now, in what way they’ll align, we don’t know, but we do know that they’ll align.”
“It almost doesn’t matter what happens in the show, as long as there are zombies and they get shot in the head and get killed,” joked Michael Dennin, a professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine who helped create the course. “I really enjoy merging with the physics narrative arc with the pop culture I’m laying over it. It’s amazing how well a fictional physics example works to talk about real physics.”
Physics, for example, is applicable to shooting zombies in the head — or rather, explaining just how (and why) that works. “One of the things that’s particularly interesting — and a bit gory — is all the dynamics of the head shots. There’s just a ton of issues in there — conservation of momentum, what’s really going to go on — and when I researched it, it’s really fun for me,” said Dennin.
The weekly classes will include lectures, discussions with experts in each discipline, interviews with cast members from the show, and, of course, tests. Each week, the MOOC will focus on one of four disciplines (physics, social sciences, math, and health sciences) while a second is used in a supportive, secondary role. Such an approach, Loble says this approach will offer a broader experience for students. “Hopefully, there’s something in each week for everyone,” she explained.
Brian Whitmer, the co-founder of Instructure, said that he’s very interested in seeing the response to the course and whether coordinating around a “hyper-relevant, in-the-now topic” will affect how engaged people are with the material. “Let’s look at the idea of an interdisciplinary course, and see what the outcomes look like in terms of retention,” he said.
“Teaching is all about connecting with students, and who they are,” agreed Dennin. “I’ve been teaching for my whole life and I always refer to books, movies, TV shows, whatever. I’m trying to connect with the students and what’s going on in their lives … One of the things we do as universities is research. We can look at this as research into education.”