A few weeks ago we told you about an online course that uses themes from “The Walking Dead” to teach about science and survival, and with its launch date approaching, we have more info in case you’re interested in checking it out. It is free after all!
AMC, Instructure, and the University of California, Irvine, have announced the joint production of a massive open online course (MOOC) exploring a broad range of scholarly topics through the lens of a hypothetical zombie apocalypse.
The free, eight-week MOOC, titled “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’,” will be offered on Instructure’s MOOC platform, Canvas Network, and will be taught by a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine faculty: Zuzana Bic, public health; Joanne Christopherson, social sciences; Michael Dennin, physics; and Sarah Eichhorn, mathematics. They were handpicked based on experience in teaching MOOCs, history of using pop culture in the classroom, and strong curricular alignment with case studies from the TV series.
Enrollment in the course is currently available to anyone in the world. The first class is scheduled for Monday, October 14, the day after the Season 4 premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” The course will run for eight consecutive Mondays through December 2. Because the series will air at different times around the world, Canvas Network will put in place provisions to help international participants avoid spoilers.
Click here or on the below graphic to enroll today for what promises to be the most fun learning experience you’ve ever had!
TWD Module Descriptions: (Click here for the full syllabus)
Module 1: Foundation of Survival
Abraham Maslow ushered in humanistic psychology when he studied the lives of healthy, accomplished, and creative people. He believed that people are motivated internally and externally by their needs ranked from basic survival needs such as food, love, and respect, to higher order growth needs such as understanding what life is all about. This first module will help us use Maslow’s theory to analyze the behavior of the characters of “The Walking Dead” and to answer questions such as:
• How do we decide what is important in our own lives? How would we decide in a post-apocalyptic world as depicted in “The Walking Dead”?
• What happens when we are threatened with our very lives as many of the characters are in show?
• Do we move up or down levels in response to major events in our lives? Do the characters move up or down levels in the show? Why or why not?
• As we enter into the new season of the show, are the characters faced with new life experiences that lead them more towards the top of the hierarchy to self-actualization? Why or why not?
Module 2: Public Health & Infectious Diseases
In “The Walking Dead” there is a tragic absence of any semblance of public health agencies, expertise, or communications for the surviving members of society. In this second module, we will learn just how vital those services are to a functioning society and we will introduce the major concepts and principles of public health. Questions that will be covered include:
• What is the role of the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control) and other public health agencies in the functioning of society? How have these agencies been present or not present in “The Walking Dead”?
• Do people choose their own health? How do the seven dimensions of health impact one’s own health? Can the characters choose their own health in the show? If so, do they choose to? Why or why not?
• What examples from history can we draw upon to understand the causation and spread of infectious diseases? How do these examples parallel the spread of the zombie infection in the show?
We will also have a guest speaker, Dr. Brandon Brown, of UC-Irvine, who will discuss his recent article Zombies—A Pop Culture Resource for Public Health Awareness.
Module 3: Deconstructing Society
Human beings cannot live in permanent isolation. Our need for connection with others and our mutual dependence necessitates cooperation and structure. But what happens when the world as we know it ends? Then what? This third module will discuss six distinct models of society and how they apply to the various communities within “The Walking Dead,” from the camp in the early seasons to the prison in the most current season. Through this discussion, we will address questions including:
• How do we define society particularly in an emerging world such as “The Walking Dead”?
• What role does government play in emerging societies? How has it affected the characters in the show living in Woodbury? In the prison? Are you more likely to survive if you belong to a group with some sort of government structure?
• Why do leaders emerge in societies? How have they emerged in the show? Do they improve the chances of survival for their followers? What role does trust play in leadership especially as seen in the show?
• What is our responsibility to the collective? Should the characters in the show be responsible for more than just themselves? Why or why not?
Module 4: Social Identity and Survival of the Fittest
The twin notions of social roles and social identity govern our perceptions and interactions in social settings. They influence how we see others and how we see ourselves. We often rely on stereotypes for reasons of efficiency so that we can easily organize our social world. But when we become too judgmental, we risk making inaccurate conclusions about others. Through this fourth module, we will explore how, when we are threatened or stressed as the characters often are in “The Walking Dead,” these automatic responses come to dominate our reactions. Together, we will address the following questions:
• How are roles defined? By ourselves? By others? How are they defined in “The Walking Dead”?
• In what ways do threat and uncertainty impact our definitions of these roles? How are the roles of the characters on the show reflections of the threat and uncertainty they face?
• What are the positive and negative aspects of stereotyping? How have the characters in the show stereotyped one another? Does this impact their chances for survival?
• As we mature, are we willing and able to inhibit automatic judgments and see individuals as unique? Have any of the characters in the show demonstrated this willingness and ability? In what ways?
Module 5: Modeling a Zombie Outbreak
In “The Walking Dead” the world is faced with a zombie disease epidemic. In this fifth module, we will explore how mathematics can be used to help study the dynamics of disease spread within a population. Using the walker world as an example, we will begin by dividing the population into different groups (Human, Zombie/Walker, and Permanently Dead) and then use the interactions among these groups to formulate and utilize our mathematical model. During this module, we will address the following questions:
• In what ways can mathematical equations be used to predict future populations? How rapidly do you think the zombie disease will spread in the show based on your own mathematical analysis?
• How can mathematical equations be used to study the efficacy of various disease interventions, such as vaccinations, quarantine, cures, etc.? Have they been used in the past to evaluate disease interventions? Can we learn anything from these examples to apply to the rapid spread of the zombie infection in “The Walking Dead”?
• How can mathematical models be used by the characters in the show to evaluate various methods for eliminating the zombie disease altogether?
Module 6: Thriving on a Post-Apocalyptic Diet
Food and nutrition play a minor role on screen in comparison to killing zombies in “The Walking Dead.” Yet, we know that in the case of a true epidemic or major natural disaster, food and water would be essential for survival and would occupy our daily activities. In this sixth module, we will explore healthy nutrition versus malnutrition, specifically in the wake of major disaster, as well as discuss how people’s behaviors may directly reflect the type of nutrition available. We will explore the following questions:
• What are the nutritional risk factors associated with the development of diseases? Are the characters in “The Walking Dead” exposing themselves to other deadly diseases based on the diets they must maintain in a post-apocalyptic environment such as that depicted on the show?
• Does a vegetarian diet, especially as witnessed in the show, provide a true health advantage for the survivors? Or a disadvantage? Why or why not?
• How can nutrition improve our immune system? Our mental health? Does this affect the chances of survival of the characters on the show?
We will also hear from guest speaker Allison Hickey, Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), this week about nutrition and the spread of disease.
Module 7: New Materials and the Science of Damage Control
Throughout “The Walking Dead” survivors are faced with two basic issues of physics: protecting against damage and causing damage. How realistic is the depiction of the causes of damage and protection in television, movies, and video games? Asking this question allows us to explore in this seventh module some of the most fundamental ideas in the description of the physical world: energy, momentum, and forces. Related questions will be discussed including:
• How can we describe materials using a scientific understanding of strength and elasticity? How does this impact the ability for characters to kill zombies and protect themselves in “The Walking Dead”?
• How can we utilize a scientific understanding of the relationship and interactions between objects, from weapons to flight, to increase our chances of survival in the world depicted in the show?
• In a post-apocalyptic world, how is energy generated? How can left-over, foraged, and even newly-generated materials be used to fuel the emerging society in the show?
• What role do the scientific concepts of precision and accuracy play in protecting oneself from damage and inflicting damage on others? How can the characters use this to their advantage on the show?
Module 8: The Science of Hope
In “The Walking Dead” signs of stress, anger, anxiety, sleeplessness and various stressors associated dealing with catastrophic situations occur on a daily basis. In this last module we will learn how stress management and emergency preparedness would be essential for survival. We will investigate such questions as:
• What is stress? What are stressors? What are three stages of GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome)? What are the major signs of stress and how do the characters display these signs of stress on “The Walking Dead”?
• What occurs in the body during and after stress? What types of behavior do we typically display during and after highly stressful situations, especially interpersonal behavior? Is there a correlation between stress and disease? How does stress impact the interpersonal relationships of and chances of survival for the characters in the show?
• How can we best manage stress in disaster situations? What is the long-term effect of always sleeping with one eye open? Do you think certain characters are more likely to survive than others in the show based on their stress management techniques? Why or why not?
• What role does hope and/or positive emotions play in managing stress? How can we use coping and relaxation techniques to manage stress? How do these techniques specifically apply to disaster situations such as that depicted by the show?
During this last module, we will also have a guest speaker, Dr. Lisa Grant-Ludwig, of UC-Irvine, who will discuss preparedness for major disasters, such as earthquakes and other natural catastrophes.
To stay up-to-the-minute on all things walker related, follow @WalkingDead_AMC on Twitter and visit “The Walking Dead” on Facebook. For more be sure to hit up the official “The Walking Dead” page on AMC.com.
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