Former Police Officer Offers Real-Life Forensic Insights at Bow Valley College
Learn to analyze a staged crime scene with Bow Valley's Introduction to Forensic Science course.
In February 2020, Bow Valley College instructor Scott Mark launched a new course he designed for Justice Studies students called Introduction to Forensic Science.
Teaching practical skills using a virtual environment
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he had to quickly pivot to presenting the information in a remotely accessible way. After watching many YouTube videos on web development, he built his own website featuring a virtual crime scene that he created using 360-degree images of a scene he staged.
While adapting the practical skills component of the course to an online platform was challenging, Scott says it tied in perfectly to this master's degree research at the time. "I was getting close to the end of my master's degree when we went to online learning, so I made it into my capstone project to see if I could teach practical skills using a virtual environment," he says. "It worked really, really well. Even though the scene was virtual, students were able to get a sense as if they were actually doing it."
Goal of the Intro to Forensic Science course
Scott is back in the classroom teaching the elective course, which will culminate in students demonstrating their competency not through a final written exam, but by analyzing a staged crime scene.
"The goal of the course is to help the students appreciate what forensics is. There is such a mythology about forensics ever since the CSI TV shows came out," he says. "The majority of a forensic specialist's work is to apply the science we all learned in elementary, junior high, and high school in new ways. This aids in the detection, development, or analysis of evidence."
The creation of the course
Scott speaks from extensive experience. When he first began teaching at the College in 2017, he was lead forensic instructor for the Calgary Police Service forensics unit. "I asked if there were any forensic courses in the program, and there were courses that touched on forensics, but there was no specific forensic course," he recalls. "And so, I put forth the idea of maybe one day we want to add that to the curriculum, because it's a huge piece of policing."
Now two years in, the course is receiving positive feedback. "Students love the hands-on aspects to it," he says.
Scott encourages anyone considering a career as a police officer to take the course, noting that forensic evidence is a part of any career in justice studies.
"Forensics is something that anyone in the criminal justice system needs to be trained in, as much as they're trained in the law," he says. "It is a base of knowledge that is essential to understand a very key aspect of law enforcement investigations."
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