More than 1,000 miles away, professor Ronald Beckett posts videos about mummy science on Blackboard from his home in Phoenix, Ariz. On campus, students study the videos and materials for the online UC credit course Scientific Study of Mummies.
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“The goal of the class is to provide learners with a greater appreciation for cultures and the practice of mummification around the world,” Beckett said. “It is very important that mummies are seen as past relatives, people who walked the earth just like we do now, rather than a curiosity.”
The class fulfills a science requirement for some students.
“The course is also dedicated to seeing science and the scientific method as something that can be applied to all aspects of our lives,” Beckett said.
It is also offers students an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of mummies.
“We study the lives and time of past peoples, the diseases they had, the trauma they may have experienced, the care they received if they were unable to care for themselves,” Beckett said.
Professor Beckett founded the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac with the help of Professor Gerald Conlogue in 1998. This research then became material for the class. Beckett’s work with mummified remains has been featured on the Discovery and Learning channels.
Shannon Winslow, a sophomore physical therapy major, took the course in the summer of 2013. Winslow said she enjoyed the unusual class structure the course offered since it was taught through online videos.
“When I started taking the class I thought it would be a lot of Ancient Egypt,” Winslow said. “But we covered Incan mummies, we covered mummies that are in America and we covered a little bit of Egypt.”
Winslow went online every day to view Beckett’s videos of the course material.
“You would just sit back and relax and take it in,” she said. “It was a lot of pictures of images, not so much having to memorize things.”
Winslow said there were no tests or quizzes for the class.
“Even the science behind it was really cool and how it can help science today,” she said. “I think the fact that it just broadened my horizons on that made me look a little bit deeper into how it could affect my major or my career was really really interesting.”
Beckett gives weekly assignments, such as short papers, where students compare the cultures of the mummies.
“One very important aspect of this course is that the learners engage in the discussion boards,” Beckett said.
Beckett said students told him each lecture was like watching the National Geographic.
“The online format and the content are perfect for each other in that the learner can view the lectures at anytime,” Beckett said.