Learning Technology

The MOOCing Dead

1 October 16th, 2013 at 12:10

Canvas.net MOOCThis week (Oct 14th) saw the launch of a new MOOC on yet another MOOC platform, Canvas.net...however this one is a little different. Offered by UCIrvine, this new MOOC is called “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead.” In short hand, it’s a zombie based MOOC. Now for those of you unfamiliar with The Walking Dead, it is an American TV series set around a post apocalyptic  Atlanta, where zombies now roam freely and threaten a handful of survivors. Very gruesome and definitely not family viewing.

This particular MOOC uses a combination of academic debates, interviews with cast members (quite a coup) and clips from the TV show (although not available in the UK) to explore a number themes around survival, including: the breakdown of society; pandemics; public health; and natural disasters.  So far the course is a traditional (if such a word can be used) xMOOC format, with video, bit of reading, group discussion and final MCQ format.

The link to TV series The Walking Dead is an interesting development for MOOCs, both as advertising for the TV show and attracting fans of the TV series to the academic output of UCIrvine. What does this mean for MOOCs and does it work in increasing numbers/attracting students? Too soon to say for UCIrvine, and no figures on enrolments as yet. But, the latest series of The Walking Dead (the fourth, and advertised prominently on the MOOC landing page) launched in the US the night before the MOOC launch (Oct 13th). The fourth series premiere attracted the show’s largest ever viewing figures, with 16.1 million tuning in. Up from the third season premiere of 10.9 million viewers and the season’s finale which attracted 12.4 million! Quite an increase. Admittedly this may not all be down to the MOOC, but the course does promise to include online discussions around current series events, and the online survey at the start of the course feels to be of more use to AMC than the course instructors.

Good thing or not, this course may highlight where some MOOCs are going…so where is that MOOC on the physics of time travel to coincide with Dr Who’s 50th!


  1. Even more incredibly, the second episode in the current series of the Walking Dead jumped to 20.2 million viewers, making it the most watched non-sports broadcast in cable history.

    Posted by A Beggan

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