Here at Giant Freakin’ Robot, we tend to get our information about AMC’s The Walking Dead like everybody else, through interviews and reports released by the show’s cast and crew. But now it’s possible to learn about the show in a completely different context: a college course. AMC is working with the massive open online course (MOOC) platform Instructure to bring “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead” to students everywhere, or at least everywhere with an Internet connection. As if using pop culture to gain an education isn’t enough, the course is completely free of charge for anyone interested in taking it. Of course, this open invitation is balanced by students not actually receiving any certificate of completion for the class, but you can make your own, and bloody it up in the process.
“A lot of what is going on with MOOCs is too specialized, or not pressing boundaries enough,” says Instructure co-founder Brian Whitmer. “So we came up with the idea of a pop-culture MOOC.” Okay, so admittedly, this is less a formal education tactic and more of a promotional tool for AMC, who hopes to capitalize on the popularity of MOOCs. Even a small percentage of the 12.4 million people who watched the third season’s finale would qualify as a success. But that doesn’t mean the courses are being taught by any regular Joe off of the zombie-ridden street.
The class will be taught by four professors from UC Irvine, each coming from departments of public health, social sciences, mathematics, and physics. They’ll be teaching Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social constructs, and identity roles, the spread of infectious diseases, post-apocalyptic nutrition, and stress management. All subjects that are interesting on their own, they’ll be supplemented with lectures, exclusive interviews with The Walking Dead‘s cast and crew, and scenes from the show, among other things.
“I’ve never taught a class on math related to zombies before,” said UC Irvine math lecturer Sarah Eichhorn, “but this is the same mathematical content I’d teach to undergraduates at UCI, and a way to reach new students.” I’m a person who generally has problems with learning things when they’re given to me abstractly, but if you plug in Rick Grimes and a couple of zombies, my level of understanding hits the roof.
The course is set to begin on Monday, October 14, the day after the show’s fourth season begins, and will run through December 20. If this could only come teamed up with a course about Batman, then I might have to retreat back to school soon. For good, rather than evil.
Are you gearing up for Season 4 of The Walking Dead? This preview will get you there.