Rated 3 out of 5 by Lidlone Not a course I could recommend
I had the strong impression throughout the course that the instructor believed that she was addressing a roomful of teenagers rather than adults who were taking the course in order to learn more about something they already knew tangentially from life experience. I did not relish the "talking down" experience. By frequent reference, she clearly believed that most of her audience has spent many hours watching crime shows such as "CSI", and she tries to engage her listeners by talking more in the vernacular - "the perp", "the bad guy" - I was waiting for her to start dropping her terminal "G"s.
Others have referred to her constant exclamation: "There I go again, making smart criminals" and the annoying sound effects - something like a cheep or beep or computer tone every time a graphic was posted on the screen, which had me looking around for a beeping smoke detector or something of that kind until I realized in each lecture that it was coming from the DVD.
I waded through the entire course, because despite her "dumbing down" and general overly casual style, she did cover a variety of modern trends relating to evidence. When I finished it, I even gave it to my son (a litigating attorney) and his wife (a criminal justice major, then parole officer) because I thought they might be interested in a broad survey of the current state of knowledge. So it definitely has interesting information and redeeming value, but I couldn't get past the instructor's delivery.
January 7, 2015
Rated 4 out of 5 by AvidViewer Great presentation, distracting sound effects
This course is fascinating, and Prof. Murray enriches it with case stories, personal stories, and personal nuances. I have no interest in crime as a topic or as a source of dramatic entertainment, but I am greatly interested in all facets of science and technology, and Prof. Murray satisfied my expectations with an excellent introductory survey of forensic science. I also think that she establishes outstanding rapport with the audience through the personable way in which she communicates.
I wish to comment in detail on the visual effects and the sound effects added by the video editor, as have other reviewers. There should be a rating option for this feature, and if there were, my rating would be one star because of the distracting nature of these effects. This is the reason that my overall rating for the course is four instead of five.
I've been viewing Teaching Company courses since 2003, when they first came out on DVD, and I own more than 150 courses. At that time, Tom Rollins, who founded the company, ran it. But about five years ago, Tom turned the management of the company over to business people, and I infer that they hired a hotshot video editor to add razzle-dazzle to the content. As of then, the editor has been adding visual effects and sound effects that are distracting. The audience for scholarly material spends good money to obtain clearly presented, fascinating ideas, and for this kind of content, razzle-dazzle is annoying. Adding razzle-dazzle is like a huckster trying to impress an intellectual audience with glitz and hype.
In this forensics course, the following is a partial list of sound effects, and these are associated with text or images being presented or removed: jingling, clicking, thumping, and a variety of air movement sounds, some of which are like a whistle blowing, some of which are like a cymbal ringing, and some of which are like wind whooshing. The air movement sounds are the least distracting, while the others are quite annoying.
It is even worse in Craig Heller's course on sleep because some of his lectures have dense intellectual material about neural biology that requires intense concentration. Imagine concentrating as hard as you can to understand what Heller's saying and then you hear phone-ringing in the background! Yes, phone-ringing! That's one of the sound effects that the video editor added to Heller's course. In one particular instance, Heller’s content required so much concentration that I had to replay the part multiple times until my cognitive system numbed to the phone-ringing, allowing me to ignore it so that I could think about what Heller was saying. The choice of phone-ringing shows that the video editor is toying with the audience by choosing sound effects that happen to catch his fancy.
The video editor also added extraneous visual effects, including high-tech fairy dust blasting out of an unseen jet engine, complete with whooshing sounds. Not just that, but the jet-blast of fairy dust whooshes across the screen IN FRONT OF the professor, no less!
To use an analogy, we’ve paid good money to see a famous singer perform on stage. However, a hotshot guitarist in the band decides that the singer’s performance is so dull that the guitarist needs to go onstage to dazzle the audience with his skill, while dancing around the singer.
In fact, if the visual effects and the sound effects were actually helpful for understanding the course content, they should be the same for every course so that the cognitive system of a viewer would be able to get their roles automated and would then be able to rapidly, automatically process the effects according to their cognitive role. But we can infer that this video editor would be bored if he had to follow a strategy that makes cognitive sense. The variety of effects are, no doubt, interesting for him to insert, thereby reducing his boredom. And inserting the effects allows him to pretend that he’s adding value to the courses. But the effects do not add value; they are not for the cognitive benefit of the audience; they are for the emotive benefit of the video editor; and they detract from the course because they are distracting.
As if all of the foregoing weren’t bad enough, the video editor added insult to injury. Tom Rollins had chosen the music intro for each lecture to be the end of movement 1 of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2. This constitutes a few closing measures of a delightful, uplifting masterwork that became a feature of the Teaching Company brand, putting the viewer or listener into a pleasant disposition to experience yet another informative lecture. Well, the hotshot video editor threw Bach in the trash in order to substitute uninteresting, uninspiring, forgettable sound effects.
The video editor is clearly clueless when it comes to understanding how best to convey scholarly content to an audience and how to enhance the Teaching Company brand.
In conclusion, a video editor for scholarly courses should not be chosen for skill in adding razzle-dazzle. Rather, they should be chosen for skill in enhancing a viewer’s ability to understand and remember intellectual content, some of which may require intense concentration. In particular, the editor should take great care never to grab the attention of the viewer’s perceptual system with extraneous visual effects or extraneous sound effects because such effects will distract the viewer, making it harder for them to focus on the intellectual content, understand it, and enter it into their memory system. This problem will be even worse in older people because their perceptual systems process information more slowly, and a good portion of the Teaching Company audience consists of retirees. If the Teaching Company managers have any doubts about these conclusions, they should consult Peter Vishton, a perceptual expert with an outstanding course on perception.
Speaking personally, the sound effects do not assist me in any way as I concentrate on what the professor is saying. As I concentrate, I seek to understand the content as deeply and as thoroughly as possible in order to minimize the number of times that I need backtrack and replay a portion of the lecture. I pay good money to learn from professors who are chosen for their superb communication ability. These professors don’t need jingles, clicks, thumps, phone-ringing, and wind noises in order to make their lectures interesting. These noises are nothing more than perceptual distractions that my cognitive system must try to ignore so that I can focus on what the professor is saying.
January 4, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by GWST Excellent Overview of Process
Whatever your reasons, whether a novelist or just a curious mind, this course provides a detailed view of the forensic process with plenty of examples and case studies; nothing graphic. Dr. Murray knows her topic and presents it with enthusiasm. I recommend this to all interested students.
December 12, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Tiger Colorful overview of forensic sciences
DVD review. ©2012. Guidebook 286 pages.
This course was even better than I expected. It was easy to sit through and watch lecture after lecture every day. They’re just fascinating and absorbing. Most likely you’ve seen an endless lineup of various CSI and other detective shows, so you’re probably already a bit informed, but likely misinformed to a certain degree. I think this course has wide appeal, especially to those who might be interested in this kind of career. But it’s also for people like me who just want to know about something that’s become hidden from everyday view. I think modern life has sanitized the life cycle, leaving many of us to live through these kinds of life experiences vicariously. Although a lot if this is just not dinner table fare, these tales and techniques certainly make for gripping stuff. But if the darker side of life doesn't appeal to you, perhaps you should steer clear. That's perfectly understandable.
The forensics field is much larger than I had thought and serves as a very thorough introduction to the field. Professor Murray often cites from cases within her personal work history and family life, so it was also very personal and moving. She does a very good job of illustrating the daily work of forensic scientists, and you really get more than a glimpse of what the job entails, both the coll and the macrabe. It also makes you wonder how they go home at night, as it seems impossible not to take your work home with you. She uses quite a few dry jokes and puns throughout, and that makes an otherwise morbid and heavy topic more bearable. No doubt, she’d be a colorful neighbor or dinner party guest.
A few lectures were more intriguing than others, but overall, I was satisfied. For most lectures, you get about 20-25 minutes of background science and 5-10 minutes of a infamous crime to illustrate the topic. Near the end of the course you get a number of longer case studies that often draw on several previous lectures. A few, like the Charles Urschel kidnapping, were really interesting. I’d say that there are about 25 or so lectures devoted to hard science that come to mind when we think of forensics, and there are 3-4 that cover soft sciences that seem to fall into the discipline of criminology, like courtroom formalities and interviewing/interrogating, etc. These were less interesting, but they do add to the knowledge base of forensics.
The DVDs were enjoyable. There were a fairly large number of pictures and generic graphics that made the course much more memorable for me. However, I suspect audio listeners wouldn’t feel like they’re missing that much. Either would do, but I’m glad to have gotten the DVDs. The Guidebook is thick and comprehensive. The bibliography is extensive, but I won’t be following up on any of them. They mostly seem like classroom textbooks.
In closing, it was fun and informative.
October 28, 2014