'Walking Dead' 101: How You Can Take a Free College Course on the Hit AMC Drama
It's got heroes, it's got action, it's got drama, life, death, romance, and crazy men who wear eye patches and spend their evenings staring at the zombie heads they've collected in their fish tanks. Well, OK, that's just one guy. But even if all the aforementioned are more than enough reasons to love "The Walking Dead," it turns out there's a whole deeper level of the show that can shed light on many academic topics.
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Opening today for registration to any "Dead" fan around the globe, "Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC's 'The Walking Dead'" is an eight-week MOOC (massive open online course) that will use examples from the TV show to teach participants about such subject matter as public health during a pandemic; race and gender dynamics and survival-of-the-fittest concerns; nutrition and stress management in very stressful situations; the science of hope; and statistical models that predict survival or extinction of a species during a pandemic.
Yes, they're even managing to work some math into "The Walking Dead."
The "WD" course is a joint effort of AMC, UC Irvine, and Instructure, and though not the first of its kind — Instructure offered a MOOC called "Gender Through Comic Books" earlier this year, in which comic books were the textbooks — "Society, Science, Survival" is the first MOOC where hundreds of thousands of students are expected to participate in an official TV network-approved college course.
"I teach undergraduates 18 to 23 years old. I absolutely cannot present any kind of a class of theories that are 200 or 300 years old without pop culture," says UC Irvine professor Joanne Christopherson, who will teach social science issues in the "WD" course. "They look at me like, 'What does this have to do with my life?' I absolutely have to bring in pop culture articles, news, TV, magazines, art. I'm very excited to have something like ['The Walking Dead'], a one-source [property], one that's so rich in material and topics."
A new lesson — called a module — will launch the Monday after new "Walking Dead" Season 4 episodes, which premiere on Oct. 13. The class format consists of lectures in the areas of social science, public health, astronomy, physics, and mathematics, using examples from throughout the first three seasons of the series. Each module will include video clips from the show, class discussions, ancillary readings (which will be provided to students), and even, the organizers hope, interviews with "Walking Dead" cast members.