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New online summer course teaches zombie survival

February 27, 2012

This summer, zombies are coming to terrorize MSU.

As a component of Glenn Stutzky’s new online course beginning this summer, “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophe & Human Behavior,” students will be divided into survivor groups where they have to solve problems and perform activities related to a hypothetical zombie invasion.

“The course is about catastrophes and human behavior, meaning how do people behave in times of catastrophic events,” said Stutzky, a clinical instructor in the MSU School of Social Work.

The two-credit class will be available in the first session of summer classes and explore how societies and civilizations deal with catastrophe by looking at past events, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters similar to Hurricane Katrina, as well as potential future crisis scenarios, Stutzky said.

For the first week of the course, students will have daily activities to complete with their survivor groups, which are hypothetically placed in different locations across the world and given limited information about the zombie attack, Stutzky said. Afterward, students will have various weekly tasks throughout the course related to the invasion, as well as quizzes and other assignments dealing with catastrophe.

“We’re blending in this kind of simulation to try to give a certain sense to people of some of the dilemmas and some of the challenges that people face during a catastrophe,” he said.

Although Stutzky said reactions to his course have been generally positive, human biology junior Tyler Nissen was turned off by the theme.

“I love the idea of human catastrophe,” Nissen said. “I think the zombie theme is just a little too fake — a little too fiction.”

Nissen said he wouldn’t pay tuition for a class that sounds more like a horror movie than something academically worthwhile.

“It sounds like kind of a joke to me, to be honest, and I would definitely question the economical legitimacy of it,” he said.

Stutzky’s course is part of the School of Social Work’s summer online electives program, which aims to provide students with appealing courses whether they are interested in social work or not, said Paul Freddolino, professor and associate director for research and distance education in the School of Social Work. Other electives in the program focus on topics such as school violence, substance abuse and poverty.

Freddolino said the unique theme is a tool for increasing attention and interest in the course. A brief movie was created and posted on YouTube as well to help spread the word about the class.

“We really hope people read past the word ‘zombie’ and see it’s about catastrophe and human behavior — it is a serious course,” said Freddolino, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have used similar themes for preparedness training.

Stutzky said he expects students will leave the class with a solid understanding of the academic content although it is presented in a fresh experience compared to traditional coursework.

“I hope they have fun along the way, that they remember when they took the class that not only did they learn something, but they had fun in the process as well,” he said.

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