Forensic Science training and education is reliant on the application of knowledge to casework scenarios and the development of key practical skills that provide a platform for career development in the field. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a number of challenges to effectively deliver practical content online and remotely, whilst still meeting intended learning outcomes, accreditation requirements, and attaining a high level of student engagement and experience. The MSc Forensic Science programme featured in this study is a one-year degree programme with a strong emphasis on the practical elements of forensic science, and a diverse international student cohort. Therefore, the restrictions associated with the pandemic made it very difficult not only to plan the delivery of material but also to adapt the content itself for effective online and remote learning. By focusing on the intended learning outcomes, a number of innovative teaching practices were developed to successfully transition from face-to-face teaching to online and remote delivery. A range of online and practical resources were developed, including a laboratory home kit, demonstration videos, online practical technique simulations (produced by Learning Science), data analysis tasks, and interactive workshops and activities, all designed to consolidate student learning and build confidence, in preparation for such a time that on campus practical teaching could resume. The initial feedback received from these activities from both staff and students was extremely positive and the transition from classroom to online teaching was a success, as reflected in student attainment and later student feedback. Students reported that they had a better understanding of what was expected of them, including knowledge of protocols and techniques, and felt much more confident moving into the next stage of their learning development. Even though the practical laboratory sessions were the most significantly affected by the restrictions associated with the pandemic, and resulted in reduced interaction for the students, this was counteracted by virtual sessions and workshops, which gave students the opportunity to engage with each other and communicate their thoughts and opinions, ultimately building key presentation and group working skills. This case study will detail the pivot to remote learning, as well as critically evaluating the feedback from students and discussing the changes that are likely to be retained as longer-term teaching practices, versus those that were a necessary temporary addition or adjustment in response to the pandemic.
Davidson, K., Haddrill, P., Casali, F., Murphy, B., Gibson, L., Robinson, M., Clunie, A., Christie, J., Curran, L. & Carlysle-Davies, F. 2022, 'Lockdown labs: pivoting to remote learning in forensic science higher education', Science and Justice. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scijus.2022.05.001