Instructure Offers MOOC Based on AMC’s The Walking Dead

Cable network AMC has partnered with Instructure, an education technology company, and the University of California at Irvine to offer a massive open online course (MOOC) based on the popular television series The Walking Dead.

According to Liz Gannes of All Things D, MOOC platform Instructure was authorized by AMC to provide content from the show, give access to cast members for exclusive interviews, and help advise on weekly themes for the upcoming season.

The eight-week course, Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead, will start October 14, the day after the show’s Season Four premiere.

A team of four UC Irvine professors from the departments of public health, social sciences, mathematics and physics will teach the course. Topics will include population dynamics and the spread of disease, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and post-apocalyptic nutrition.

The Walking Dead is a popular television series about a band of diverse survivors in a United States destroyed by a zombie apocalypse. The show drew a record-high 12.4 million viewers for its third-season finale.

Instructure co-founder Brian Whitmer described the class as a new form of “edutainment,” where AMC benefits from more fan engagement and UC Irvine reaches more students. “A lot of what is going on with MOOCs is too specialized, or not pressing boundaries enough,” he said. “So we came up with the idea of a pop-culture MOOC.”

The course will include content, video clips and examples from the show, as well as possible participation from the actors in an effort to cover not just pandemics, but also the science of hope, according to Ki Mae Heussner of Gigaom.

Instructure launched its own MOOC service, Canvas Network, in 2012, but it has to compete with big MOOC players in the market such as Coursera, Udacity and edX. For the most part, Instructure’s efforts in the MOOC space have been overshadowed by those larger companies.

Instructure is eyeing an IPO, and teaming up with a show that draws more than 10 million viewers is a smart way to expose its service to an entirely new audience.

“We hope this online course will drive a deep, sustained connection with the show… and provide a legitimate educational experience,” Theresa Beyer, AMC’s vice president of promotions and activation, said in a statement.

A fascination with post-apocalyptic scenarios, and especially zombie epidemics, drove Texas Instruments (TI) and The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), to create a new program that will allow students to use zombie science to learn about how diseases spread, according to Amanda Woerner of Fox News.

The new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Behind Hollywood Program will soon be offered in classrooms to enable students around the country to learn about how diseases spread and affect the body. The STEM program is primarily aimed towards middle school and high school students, a key demographic in the zombie fanbase.

The STEM program will include installments on everything from forensics to zombies and superheroes. It seeks to inspire student’s interest in math and science careers by tapping into the popularity of and interest in zombie pandemics.

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