‘Walking Dead,’ comic books inspire MOOCs

When the fourth season of AMC’s zombie drama “The Walking Dead” premieres this October, people won’t just be gathering around the water cooler to talk about the comic book-inspired show — they’ll also be gathering around their computer screens for a massive open online course (MOOC) based on the series.

AMC is teaming up with UC Irvine to launch a MOOC about “The Walking Dead.” It is one of several comic book-inspired MOOCs now available.

The University of California (UC) at Irvine is collaborating with AMC to produce a free online course called “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead,’” and it will be offered on Instructure’s MOOC platform, Canvas Network.

It is one of several MOOCs this year that have drawn inspiration from comic books.

Melissa Loble, associate dean of distance learning at the UC Irvine, said MOOCs developed around well-known pieces of pop culture can serve as a way to build awareness for the online courses, which despite their hype, have yet to actually make their way onto a majority of people’s radars.

A study released in June found that only 23 percent of people are aware that MOOCs exist.

“Students can either connect to ‘The Walking Dead’ or use it a way to contextualize something they’re familiar with,” Loble said. “It can draw people to a course who may not normally be interested in a MOOC, or draw people to this type of academic culture who wouldn’t normally have been attracted to it.”

The course will explore issues concerning public health, social sciences, physics, and mathematics through the lens of the hit TV show, which follows a small-town Sherriff’s deputy named Rick Grimes as he leads a group of survivors attempting to stay alive in a world ravaged by a zombie epidemic.

The drama was developed by filmmaker Frank Darabont (director of The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption), but is based on an ongoing comic book series created by Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore.

See Page 2 for details on more MOOCs with comic book origins.

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