Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsThere is more interest now in forensic science now than at any previous time in its history. There are more students studying "forensic" courses around the world than ever before, and there is a seemingly endless list of TV dramas that are evidence of huge popular interest in the subject. In real life, forensic science can attract enormous media attention in high-profile cases. More importantly, forensic science now provides "leads" in police investigations and evidence for prosecutions that was previously unattainable. Dramatic scientific breakthroughs, in the past 20 years or so, particularly the discovery of DNA profiling and the development of DNA and fingerprint databases, have revolutionised forensic science.
Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsEvidence can be obtained from microscopic traces of body fluids, drugs, and explosives of sufficient quality for it to be pivotal in an investigation or trial. In many countries there has been a parallel revolution in how the police investigate crime. It is probably more effective, faster, and more reliable to investigate the crimes that affect us most such as burglary and car theft using DNA and fingerprints than by traditional police methods. In major crime, such as homicide, forensic scientists have moved from being backroom boffins to the forefront of international investigations. Forensic science is now firmly embedded in the criminal justice agenda since it can answer investigative questions in many instances better than any other means available.
Skip to 1 minute and 46 secondsDespite this, understanding of forensic science is generally poor. In relation to the general public there are two main reasons for this. Firstly reliable information about forensic science is hard to come by - it is kept confidential to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands and to protect witnesses. This often remains so even after the case is complete. Secondly, most of the information that is available is provided by the news and entertainment media who in many cases have no better access to information than the general public. TV shows, such as CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), use hi-tech imagery for dramatic effect at the expense of understanding of an increasingly important part of the criminal justice process.
Skip to 2 minutes and 34 secondsCSI is a great show - just don't confuse it with reality!
Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsEven professionals have difficulty directly accessing forensic science laboratories. Today’s DNA anti contamination procedures will in many instances prevent even police and prosecutors from entering certain parts of the laboratory. And whilst we can't take you into a real laboratory, we will provide you with real insight into the world of forensic science - how it works, who is involved, why it needs to be done the way it is, and how cases are solved.
Skip to 3 minutes and 12 secondsOur aim in this MOOC is to open this world to you and provide you with an understanding of the basic principles of forensic science, how these practises link to a criminal inquiry, how crime scenes are managed, how evidence is recovered, and what the key stages, processes and personnel involved are. So whilst this will not make you an expert you will receive direct and realistic information of what actually goes on in laboratories and at crime scenes. We hope this journey will provide insights and stir your imagination and enthusiasm for the subject.
Welcome to your course
A welcome to ‘Introduction to Forensic Science’ from Professor Jim Fraser of the University of Strathclyde (2004-2015).
It is impossible to cover the whole of forensic science, even at an introductory level, in six weeks. Rather than attempting that, we have adopted a case-based approach which sets out the fundamental principles applying to any investigation where forensic science is involved.
What you will see is a structured flow beginning in week one at the place where forensic science begins, namely the scene of the incident. The incident itself is the glue that binds the course as we move to explore four core but quite different examples of forensic science in weeks 2 to 5, ending in week 6 with a review of how forensic science contributed to the investigation and closure of the case.
At the end of some weeks (week one is one of these) you’ll have the opportunity to ask the course experts any questions you have relating to the course and indeed the ‘Murder by the Loch’ case! Our first ‘Ask Penny’ will address some of the themes covered in week one of the course. This will include what you think about forensic science and the crime scene investigation process.
Each week is introduced by a short presentation from Professor Jim Fraser.
Unlike some other FutureLearn courses, we open the course a week at a time – part of the learning process is about reflecting on the direction our thinking is going and we don’t want to spoil our examination of the case study by giving too much away too soon!
Some of content presented in this course may be distressing to individuals, particularly younger learners. Notwithstanding, the material is representative of that encountered by forensic scientists and we have presented it in an objective and professional manner.
This may be the first course that you have undertaken on FutureLearn, or perhaps it is the first course you have taken online. Don’t worry: the course is designed to be easy to navigate.
You can learn whenever and wherever you like, on any desktop, mobile or tablet device. You will be learning by watching videos with international experts as well as reading teaching material, attempting quizzes or tests, and taking part in discussions.
Finding your way around
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The first icon takes you to your To Do list for the course. As the course opens week-by-week you will be able to see all the steps for that week, however, if you don’t manage to complete all the steps in a week, you are always able to go back to previous weeks and catch up.
You are free to learn at your own pace, which means you can go in and out of the course in your own time, but we encourage you to join in discussions around the current week’s activities. If you still haven’t completed the course at the end of the final week, don’t worry! The course materials will remain open to you on the site for a month after the course has ended.
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Comments and discussions
Learning from conversations is an important part of the FutureLearn approach. You will learn from discussions with other people taking part in the course, by reading their comments and responding with your own thoughts, which you can do on nearly all steps. On some steps, there will be a more structured discussion. Although they will not be able to respond to every question, you may see comments and replies from the Lead Educator and Course Host throughout the course.
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You might like to read these tips and tools for social learning, to you help you get the most from FutureLearn’s features.
Mark as Complete
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