University staff and students investigate “double murder mystery” in virtual crime scene day
Staff and students from a range of courses recently teamed up make this year’sWrexham Glyndwr University Crime Scene Day a success, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Plas Coch campus usually sees a ‘crime’ played out and then investigated on site. But this year, the event moved online and focussed on a double murder at a wedding on Ynys Owain, a fictional island off the coast of North Wales.
Lecturer Andrew Crawford supervised BSc (Hons) Professional Policing students alongside DCI Alun Oldfield, who has led many major investigations for North Wales Police.
Andrew said that the university was determined to keep the Crime Scene Day going despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, because it forms an integral part of three degree assessments.
“The Crime Scene Day offers students a valuable insight into how investigations are conducted, and holding the event online enabled us to provide that experience to students – albeit in a different setting,” explained Andrew.
“It’s a cross-faculty event with everyone on the different courses working as one, and it shows how you can all work together to enhance the student experience.”
Andrew praised the university’s BS (Hons) Performing Arts course for their authentic portrayals of potential suspects.
He said: “I was really impressed by the standard of acting by the students. Every single one of them gave a fantastic performance and it really added to the atmosphere on the day.”
Policing and Criminology students logged on to Microsoft Teams where they could view suspects giving their accounts of events and submit questions to be asked in interview.
Dr Caroline Gorden and Dr Sarah Dubberley, academics from WGU’s Criminology and Criminal Justice programme posed questions and debates around motive, opportunity and other criminological theories throughout.
Forensic science students investigated a 3-D virtual crime scene, where they could walk around and interact with the environment.
There was also an online headquarters, where students could view the evidence and interact with each other as if they were working in an office.
The WGU Criminology Society held a ‘reveal the offender’ meeting on-line that evening where the identity of the killer was revealed and the students who correctly guessed the culprit won a prize donated by the Student’s Union.
Amy Rattenbury, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science at Wrexham Glyndwr University, said: “We’re trying to reflect that professional working environment, where all the information is stored in specific locations like it would be in a crime scene unit or a forensic lab, but in a virtual space.”
Amy outlined how students benefit from taking part in the Crime Scene Day.
“I think the biggest thing is seeing the journey of a case and the fact that it’s very reflective of what they would be expected to do in the industry,” she said.
“They can write the best essays in the world, they can give the best presentations, but they’re not necessarily the things that a forensic scientist or a crime scene investigator are expected to do once they get out into the real world.
“Reviewing documentation from old crime scenes, requesting analysis, putting together reports, answering questions in a courtroom setting – they’re the skills the students need to be successful in their careers, on top of their forensic knowledge; so I think it’s a real opportunity for them to do a meaningful and authentic assessment.”
Forensic science students will continue to use the virtual platform as part of their studies ahead of their assessments in May.
The university aims to package the interactive features and videos for use in colleges and secondary schools.
Students from the university’s B.A. (Hons) Theatre, TV and Performance course portrayed the suspects.
Elen Mai Nefydd Programme Leader for Theatre, Television and Performance, said: “For our students, their work and performances as corporate role-play actors, where they build up a situation following a brief from the policing lecturers, is crucial to the success of the day.
“This year the concept had to transfer to an online platform – this enabled our students, through the Active Learning Framework, to prepare, rehearse and perform on a digital platform and to keep the standard which has been set in previous years.
“It was a successful day and a fantastic experience for our actors in training.”
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