FX, Instructure, and UC Irvine Launch Online Course Inspired by The Strain


For the past few years zombies have been all the rage with several college courses tailored around the pending undead apocalypse and how we can protect ourselves from it, but now a different beastie is back in favor, and word of another partnership among a TV network, edtech company Instructure, and the University of California, Irvine, has come.

Heading our way on June 22nd is a massive open online course (MOOC) taught by university professors that was inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s popular TV series “The Strain.”  Ahead of the July 12th Season 2 premiere of the show, the course will be available for free to anyone in the world interested in learning real-world, collegiate-level lessons from vampire parasites and fictitious cyber attacks.

The course follows a 2013 partnership among UCI, Instructure, and AMC to create a “Walking Dead” course. Enrollment is free and available now to anyone via Instructure’s online platform, Canvas Network.

From the Press Release:
FX, Instructure, and the University of California, Irvine, announce the joint production of a massive open online course (MOOC) exploring a broad range of scholarly topics through the lens of the biological parasite and cyber virus themes presented in the FX original series “The Strain” from Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse. The course will be offered for free leading into this summer’s Season 2 premiere of “The Strain.”

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“Beyond putting a unique twist on the vampire legend, ‘The Strain’ creates an opportunity for serious academic discussions about some of today’s most important public topics,” said Kenya Hardaway, vice president of integrated promotions at FX Networks. “As society becomes more globally and technologically interconnected, the impact of biological parasites and computer hacks will only become more pronounced. This course will leverage the popularity of ‘The Strain’ to help fans and the general public alike better understand these complex issues.”

The four-week course, titled “Fight or Die: The Science Behind FX’s ‘The Strain,'” will be offered on Instructure’s MOOC platform, Canvas Network, and will be taught by a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine faculty: Pavan Kadandale, molecular biology and biochemistry; Hadar Ziv, information and computer science; and Sarah Eichhorn, physical sciences. These faculty members will lead course modules designed to provide a practical and theoretical understanding of parasites, cyber attacks and disease dynamics, all of which have become mainstream topics due to recent news events ranging from the measles outbreak in Disneyland to large-scale cyber attacks impacting customers of major brands like Sony.

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Enrollment in the course is currently available for free to anyone in the world via canvas.net/strainmooc. The first course module will begin June 22nd (three weeks before the July 12th Season 2 premiere) with subsequent courses opening each Monday for the next four weeks.

“We believe MOOCs have the power to help the education industry gain insight into how people learn,”” said Melissa Loble, vice president of Partners and Programs at Instructure. “This course with FX and UC Irvine is exciting as it gives a broad audience, including fans of the series, a great opportunity to engage in the key themes and narratives of the show within an enriching academic setting. Participants will even be asked to develop projects that include the creation of original content so they can apply the concepts they investigate in the course and share this application socially.”

UC Irvine has a history of involvement in enabling open education and developing innovative pedagogy. UCI’s OpenCourseWare site provides free educational content in over 100 subject areas to over 2 million users per year with over 15 million minutes of classroom lectures viewed on its YouTube channel. This new partnership with FX and Canvas Network follows similar initiatives from UC Irvine and Instructure to expand the MOOC experiment by combining pop culture and serious academic concepts in an effort to increase student engagement.

“This course will provide both teachers and students a unique opportunity to examine academic principles in a non-traditional setting,” said Eichhorn. “It’s not every day we get to structure a course against the backdrop of a rapidly spreading disease epidemic and devastating cyber attack. Using clips from ‘The Strain,’ our course will let students take a closer look at the science behind the popular TV series, all while discussing real-world examples of parasites changing host behavior, hackers taking down communication networks, and diseases rampaging through populations.”

The course will leverage key themes, anecdotes, and multimedia from “The Strain,” which ranked as the most-watched new cable drama of 2014.

Since its launch in 2013, Canvas Network has offered more than 400 open, online courses designed and delivered by more than 175 educational institutions and organizations throughout the world. Canvas Network is developed and supported by Instructure, providing a place and platform where teachers, students and institutions worldwide can connect and chart their own course for personal growth, professional development, and academic inquiry.

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