Fake blood gushing from a professor's mouth doesn't generally inspire thoughts of higher education.
But Lakeland College Associate Professor of History Rick Dodgson believes there's a time and place for innovative learning through good old-fashioned – even goofy – fun.
Dodgson and five other Lakeland professors, charged with the annual evaluation of Lakeland's general studies program and the liberal arts competence of graduating students, put an irreverent twist on one phase of this exercise with their recent "Zombie Assessment."
Approximately 30 seniors who volunteered to be part of the assessment, not knowing what to expect, were brought into a classroom, where they were shown a video depicting zombies invading Lakeland's campus.
Following the short video, the students, who were asked to represent various countries, broke off into groups to determine which nations were in most need of a limited supply of "anti-zombie vaccine." Armed with demographics about their countries, the seniors studied natural disaster pamphlets produced by the Center for Disease Control. Then they debated each other.
The exercise, which was observed by the faculty who designed it, measured the students' ability to process information, think critically, build a case and verbally communicate it.
"We took the topic seriously," said senior writing major Michelle Fromm, whose country was China. "We got into a few little tiffs about the nature of zombies, whether they could swim and things like that, but it was really fun. I thought it was definitely unique. Zombies are popular in pop culture, so I think a lot of people latched on to that theme. It was cool, hip."
Produced by Lakeland's History Club, the video features Dodgson as a TV anchorman reporting live. When his character, "Rick Diculous," is overwhelmed by the fast-growing zombie population, fake blood spills cartoonishly from his mouth. The students reacted with smiles of amusement.
"At Lakeland, we take education seriously, but we also recognize the need to appeal to our students' outside interests to engage them in their learning," said Dodgson. "We had great fun with this event and all of the students seemed to get a real kick out of it. We had some very creative solutions to the zombie problem we presented to them."
Along with Dodgson, faculty members who oversaw the evaluation were Associate Professor of Writing Nate Lowe, Fessler Professor of Creative Writing & Poet in Residence Karl Elder, Assistant Professor of General Studies & Director of Academic Advising Pam Engebretson, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Richard Lemke and Instructor of Communication John McKenzie.