Software
News
9/3/2013
10:30 AM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

MOOC Features Lessons From 'The Walking Dead'

AMC, UC Irvine and Canvas Network to offer massive open online course on lessons of the zombie apocalypse for public health, science and mathematics.

"Fans of the show know that 'The Walking Dead' is about more than zombies; it's about survival, leadership and adapting to situations that are perilous and uncertain," said Theresa Beyer, vice president of promotions and activation at AMC, in a statement for the press release.

Once you accept the fantastic premise, the details of the show stand up to scientific scrutiny fairly well, according to Eichhorn. "I know our social scientist has been fairly impressed by how they're applying the themes of social science." When the physics instructor questioned the realism of how the characters' weapons worked in one particular episode, Eichhorn added, subsequent research turned up evidence that the show was more realistic on that point than he had supposed.

Not all the professors watched the show before they became involved in the project, but in preparation for the course, Eichhorn said, "We've all been binge-watching it and have become big fans."

UC Irvine has tried a variety of experiments with MOOCs over the past nine months and sees this course as an opportunity to do it on a large scale, with a course built around pop culture, Loble explained. Courses riffing on pop culture themes have been popular on campus in the past, but the online course made it practical to bring a bigger team of instructors together. "It's more interdisciplinary than an on-campus class would be," she pointed out.

The Canvas Network, which is the MOOC hosting spin-off of Instructure's Canvas learning management system, has approached free online courses with the same spirit of experimentation, according to Brian Whitmer, a co-founder of the company. "The jury is still out on what the end result is going to be [of the MOOC phenomenon]," he said. "We thought with the existing players in the MOOC space there wasn't enough experimentation."

Pop culture has been a winner for Canvas Network -- a Ball State University course titled "Gender through Comic Books" was one of its most popular to date.

In the zombie course, Whitmer said, he will be interested to see the impact on student engagement from having the course built around a scenario which -- while not exactly real world -- is content that people can relate to and that they can understand. Having the course schedule overlap with the release of a new season of episodes should make it more exciting for both the instructors and the students. This dovetails with research showing that teacher emotion and excitement about a subject improves learning outcomes, Whitmer pointed out.

UC Irvine has produced a series of MOOCs distributed through Coursera, one of which achieved notoriety when the instructor quit in the midst of the course. However, UC Irvine is starting another series of Coursera courses in addition to its venture with Canvas Network. You can see a video replay of a panel discussion UC Irvine hosted in May on how to make MOOC, which also included participants from Google, Stanford University and the University of Michigan.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
David F. Carr
50%
50%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2013 | 1:17:47 PM
re: MOOC Features Lessons From 'The Walking Dead'
I should have asked if they will teach how to poke a tire iron through a zombie's head -- seems to be a popular maneuver. What's your lesson learned from watching this show?
Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A UBM Tech Radio episode on the changing economics of Flash storage used in data tiering -- sponsored by Dell.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.