Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
By Michelle Armstead
Michigan State’s new online summer course, “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes and Human Behavior,” will use the idea of a zombie apocalypse to help students learn about the “nature, scope and impact of catastrophic events on individuals, families, societies, civilizations and the Earth itself” as stated by the course description.
Jessica LoPresti, a teacher in Woodbridge, Va., called the use of current fads, like the zombie apocalypse idea, to attract student attention “smart.”
“[It] breaks up the rigorous feel of the mandatory course load [and] gives students a class to look forward to attending,” LoPresti stated.
Blake Nicolai, a teacher with a degree in political science, mother of five, and experienced in sociology in Woodbridge, Va., stated that the use of student interests as the context for teaching a lesson is wise if there are clear, defined, logical and worthwhile objectives and lessons which involve rigor, analysis, writing, discussion, and assessed outcomes.
“In early childhood education it is often cited that playtime is learning and that’s so true,” Nicolai stated. “Playtime can easily be learning. That is an example of that same concept at a collegiate level.”
Christine Greenhow, an education psychology and education technology expert at MSU, said that the new National Education Technology Plan calls for better bridging between students’ in-school and out-of-school technology and social media use and for teachers’ seamless integration of the technologies and different types of social media that students already embrace.
“We need to critically examine how current teaching problems may be improved with the integration of popular technologies and social media that are driving improvements in other fields,” Greenhow added.
LoPresti also stated that the use of current fads to attract student attention is a great sales technique for Michigan State University giving the example of the commercial success of the television series “The Walking Dead” and books like “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.”
“The film ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) has remained a cult classic and has surely been one of the main influences over society’s fascination with life after death, at least cinematically,” LoPresti stated. “So, if you figure that these formats are financially successful, then why can’t a university, [a business], also capitalize on the zombie market?”
The two-credit course will cost in-state freshman and sophomores $813.50 and juniors and seniors $889; for out-of-state, freshmen and sophomores $2,076 and juniors and seniors $2,142. The course is also available to non-MSU students through the Lifelong Education program that allows students to take an MSU course without entering into a degree-granting program. Michigan residents will pay $1,138 and non-residents $1,459.
However, there is concern surrounding the validity of course like the new online course provided by Michigan State University.
An informal poll done at MSU reported the 71 percent of the 48 students who responded did not believe the new course was a good investment for students in general.
“Well, even though it does sound cool, no one, including myself, would be willing to pay for a class like [this] because a lot of people think it’s unnecessary,” stated Tennille Franks, a student of Oakland Community College in Royal Oak, Mich., not polled.
However, many students were not aware of the intentions of the course.
The title of the course was important to how students perceived the class as “unnecessary” and not a serious course.
The name could possibly be misleading to students and parents, stated LoPresti.
“Whatever comes before the colon is meant to engage the audience and get their attention,” she explained. “What follows is used to clarify the thesis, in this case the focus of the course.”
LoPresti also stated that she hopes that students and parents can look passed the word “zombie” and read the course description.
Nicolai stated there are also other reasons why students could perceive the class as unnecessary.
“The economy might get them to say many classes aren’t worth it, they don’t like zombies, their academic experiences have not exposed them to diverse learning tools, [or] their personality might be one where they can’t envision learning while playing,” she stated.
The course will have to market itself in a way to address the concerns about it being a serious class, Nicolai added.