Offbeat college courses offer outside-of-the-box lessons - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Offbeat college courses offer outside-of-the-box lessons

Students work hard in Matthew Payne's zombie class. (Source: WBRC video) Students work hard in Matthew Payne's zombie class. (Source: WBRC video)

When you head to college, there are your standard classes like math and English, but you can also find some more unusual topics. Some professors say there's added value in these courses.

Students at the University of Alabama looking for an offbeat course can sign up for a lesson in zombies.

"It's actually a really great historical course that allows us to look at the way the zombie monster changes through almost 100 years of popular fiction," explained Matthew Payne. He teaches the course and shows his students how the zombie character is used reflect human culture.

"If you look at the films from the 60s, 70s and 80s, they're about racism, consumerism, classism and militarism," Payne added.

You won't find a traditional textbook in his class, but Payne says the materials come from experts in the field.

"Scholars, academics who write about seriously about what the zombie form allows us to entertain."

Most of his students are majoring in communications. As part of the course, the future professional storytellers created a TV show about zombies. Payne admits the class is a bit out there, but insists there's real value. His students learned a new set of critical thinking tools.

"We need to study zombies so that we don't become cultural zombies ourselves."

Students at the University of Alabama Birmingham can take a break from traditional history courses, and opt for Beatlemania instead.

"The Beatles made great music," explained Professor Andre Millard. He points out Beatlemania is not about the band's long list of Number 1 hits.

"It's about that quintessential 60's experience," Millard said.

The course is a look into how the popular band defined a decade.

"The Beatles became everything and represented all those changes, such as feminism, such as the counter culture. It brings it all together. Music in terms of the vinyl record. TV in terms of the Ed Sullivan show. Movies, Hard Day's Night and Yellow Submarine," he said.

It's a way for students to study the Beatles in a way they probably haven't before.

"Why was this so different from the kids that screamed for Frank Sinatra? Or the kids that screamed for Justin Bieber?"

Millard says his students should leave the class with a new take on the 60s and new skills for examining history.

Both Payne and Millard insist their courses are not a good fit for students looking to get an easy A.

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