Attention class! On Oct. 14, the day after the season four premiere of The Walking Dead, The University of California at Irvine in partnership with AMC and canvas.net began its MOOC, “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead”. Taught by professors from the departments of public health, social sciences, physics, and mathematics, the eight-week course covers quite a bit of post-apocalyptic ground. Although students actually taking the course don’t receive a grade, we decided to flip roles and take a critical look at each section of the course and grade it accordingly.
Weekly Readings: B+
The course includes required and additional readings that explain the main topic of the week. The first week’s material covered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which breaks down human needs into a pyramid and in theory explains how we satisfy our needs and reach our full potential. Each reading was easy to understand, but a bit on the lengthy side. That being said, unlike real college, the readings for this class are free and that’s something every student’s wallet can appreciate.
Guest Instructors (cast members): A-
Physics Professor Michael Dennin interviewed Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Sasha, while lecturer in social sciences Joanne Christopherson, Ph.D, spoke with Emily Kinney who portrays Beth Greene on the show. Questions ranged from, “What’s it like being a woman on the show?” to “Zombies vs. humans, who’s scarier?” With all the inside info these interviews gave us, the course earned an A- for this category.
Visual Materials (photos): C-
Since there were only three extra photos shown online – and one was just a still shot pulled from Kinney’s interview that we had already seen – the class earned a less than stellar grade on this portion.
Visual Materials (video): A+
Here the course excelled as it pulled clips from the past three seasons to illustrate the themes of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs perfectly. From a clip about Carol’s abusive husband to one where the group lost the farm and was left searching for food, each was a poignant and touching scene that brought students back to specific turning points in the series.
First Quiz: D
There is a ten-question quiz at the end of each class. We’re glad the grades don’t count because even though we read the book and went to class, we still only got a 65 percent on the test.
Overall, the course earned a B+ in undead instruction. Maybe it’s the free readings or the fact that we’re learning about people coming back from the grave, but so far this online class beats real college without a doubt.
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