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Article

Instructure Partners with UC Irvine to Create "Walking Dead" Online Course

Press Release

September 5, 2013

Salt Lake City — AMC, Instructure and the University of California, Irvine have announced the joint production of a massive open online course (MOOC) exploring a broad range of scholarly topics through the lens of a hypothetical zombie apocalypse.

The free, eight-week MOOC, titled “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s 'The Walking Dead,’” will be offered on Instructure’s MOOC platform, Canvas Network, and will be taught by a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine faculty: Zuzana Bic, public health; Joanne Christopherson, social sciences; Michael Dennin physics; and Sarah Eichhorn, mathematics. They were handpicked based on experience in teaching MOOCs, history of using pop culture in the classroom, and strong curricular alignment with case studies from the TV series.

“Fans of the show know ‘The Walking Dead’ is about more than zombies; it’s about survival, leadership and adapting to situations that are perilous and uncertain,” said Theresa Beyer, vice president of promotions and activation at AMC. “AMC is excited to be the first entertainment group to make the foray into the online education arena through this unique partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and Instructure.”

Enrollment in the course is currently available to anyone in the world via http://www.canvas.net/TWD. The first class is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, the day after the Season 4 premiere of “The Walking Dead.”

The course will run for eight consecutive Mondays through Dec. 2. Because the series will air at different times around the world, Canvas Network will put in place provisions to help international participants avoid spoilers.

The course represents the first time a technology firm, entertainment company and major university have collaborated in this way.

“As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to make scholarly ideas come alive for my students,” said Bic, who regularly employs pop culture analogies in her teaching on public health issues. “’The Walking Dead’ provides many poignant case studies related to the scholarly areas covered in the course, and it helps that it¹s one of TV’s most popular shows. There will be something for everyone in this course, which will explore concepts as varied as post-disaster nutrition, the foundations of human survival and stereotypes in a Darwinian environment.”

“The Walking Dead” is the most-watched TV series in basic cable history and was the No. 1 show last season among adults 18 to 49, across all broadcast and cable networks.

In addition to including content from the TV series, the online course will allow professors to digitally insert guest lecturers to add depth and variety to the curriculum.

A recent study by Instructure and the enterprise survey company Qualtrics revealed that students are most likely to complete MOOCs if they have a uniquely engaging academic experience.

“The education industry continues to experiment with MOOCs and is yielding insights into how to economically educate on a global scale,” said Instructure CEO Josh Coates. “’The Walking Dead’ MOOC by UC Irvine will explore new ways to teach serious multidisciplinary academic curriculum in a popular social context that is engaging.”

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