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Uni Lausanne to launch online Criminology Curriculum

Drawing inspiration from American universities like Harvard and MIT which have put hundreds of their courses online, the University of Lausanne has launched an online curriculum in Criminology, complete with modules in police forensics and criminal jurisprudence. Internet surfers squandering their afternoons on Facebook can instead study how traces of saliva, sperm or blood leave a detectable DNA fingerprint.

The School of Criminal Sciences in Lausanne, which celebrated its 100th birthday last month, is dispensing an online course, in English, entitled ‘Statistics and Evaluation of Forensic Evidence.’

Christophe Champod, professor at the Institute for Police Science says that the certificate studies lead to a diploma and the program largely destined for practitioners in the domain who are seeking to update their skill sets.

The E-learning platform lends itself to a paced approach and permits a radical lowering of teaching costs, as well as creating a network of specialists, geographically dispersed, who interact together on difficult questions.

The CAS is an 18 month program and will be 4 hours of coursework per week. Participants can attend the online courses at the moment most convenient for them (“even Sunday if they want,” adds Mr. Champod), however they are expected to follow the curriculum in the prescribed order. Once per month there is an online meeting with the course instructor to verify that they have reached the objectives. There are various exercises and participatory online discussions, as well as group critiques.

The CAS program is mainly oriented toward practitioners working in forensic laboratories, though lawyers and judges are potential candidates as well. The course designers note that often jurists uncritically accept declarations made at trial by scientists which can be misinformed. The certification, say its creators, should permit the students to reach an advanced understanding of forensic techniques.

The coursework is built around practical case studies on three levels. The first looks at potential sources of forensic traces. For example, in the case of jewel heist, an analysis of traces of broken glass on the ground (perhaps not from the store window?) The final stage treats the questioning of the relevance of traces recovered on the scene. Did, for example, DNA traces found on the scene come from the perpetrator.

Course participants have one year to complete the three levels. Then, in then the remaining 6 months, the group divides in two, with one group focusing on DNA and the other on other types of trace indices such as fingerprints, footprints, tire prints, broken glass, or body odors. Those who successfully complete the certificate program will receive a diploma, as well as well as complimentary, autographed, DVD edition of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The first course will kick off in February 2010, and will henceforth recur on an annual basis. At the end of the program, the University of Lausanne will award the certificate of advanced studies (CAS) worth 15 credits ECTS. The final deadline for enrollment in the course is January 2010. The course costs CHF 12,000. A reduction of 35% may be awarded to participants with no prior convictions.
(Reference : www.unil.ch/formcont/page66616.html)

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