STEM MOOC model gets a next-gen “Strain” treatment

By Ron Bethke, eCampus News Assistant Editor, @eCN_RonB
June 15th, 2015

An innovative new course based on the scientific concepts presented in the FX series The Strain hopes to change the way people look at MOOCs.

Strain-MOOC-STEMA new MOOC will teach real-world science concepts based on a unique source – FX’s hit television series, The Strain – in a move that aims to leverage fan-supported pop culture to draw interest in online learning and STEM education in higher ed.

Instructure, the parent company of Canvas, is teaming up with video learning company Zaption to offer an easier outlet for teachers to create richer content for their students and post it to Canvas. Through the partnership, learners will experience Zaption’s interactive video lessons in ten Canvas Network courses, including the free “Fight Or Die: The Science Behind FX’s The Strain.

For those who don’t watch the program, The Strain depicts a city in chaos as a mysterious epidemic rapidly spreads alongside a devastating cyber-virus attack. As such, the course will explore three unique fields in real-world science: virus and parasite biology, cyber security, and epidemiological modeling.

“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 designers joined with three experts in their respective fields from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) to gather contest for these units. Because the course comes from an attempt to experiment with new content and attract new learners, Instructure expects many participants in this new MOOC will have never taken an online course before and will instead be participating due to their interest in the show.

“We expect many participants in ‘The Strain’ MOOC will have never taken an online course before,” said Melissa Loble, vice president of Partners and Programs at Instructure. “But because of this partnership with Zaption, they will be able to interact with highly engaging video-based content that will enrich the learning experience.”

(Next page: Digital badging and new interactive features)

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