Mooc over….the final  statistics were amazing. 21,000 people throughout the globe participated.  The total number of full time students at Dundee University, Scotland, this academic year  is 17,500.  For six weeks, ( the length of the course)  the mooc more than doubled the university’s student population.  What a triumph for Dundee University.  Mooc questions and comments were totalled up, the final numbers being enviously fantastic.  The ‘Educators’ who are members of the departmental academic staff, including the professors, were very active in encouraging us in our tasks and answering queries. The live interaction was terrific.  Every week, at the end of the unit, there were mooc video seminars when our forensic queries were answered in more detail.  The facial reconstruction feature was brilliant; we students  got to do it.


The departmental staff have extraordinary busy and demanding working lives and they gave up a huge chunk of it from May this year, to develop the course and then to interact with their short term course intake. Rumour has it that the course, the forensic sciences in Identifying The Dead, will run again in 2016.



What is a mooc? It is a free of charge massive open online course. Participants can, if they choose, buy a certificate of attendance, at nominal cost, but not till they have completed a certain percentage of a course. If you want to, and you live where it might be possible, you can book for, and pay to take an examination.  While these courses do not count towards a higher qualification, they are accepted for continuous personal development, if what you learn is relevant to your profession. One of our local pharmacists is currently doing a relevant mooc, which, just happens to be with Dundee University too.  He is very impressed with the quality of his course.

I am dabbling with another mooc, which in contrast to the first one, is nowhere near as dynamic. But then, can criminology be as lively as the forensic study of identifying the dead?  I have not yet seen much Educator activity, though with week two starting,  you never know what might happen. The numbers of participants are not anywhere near comparable as the Dundee University mooc.  They are substantially lower.  As I have a few distractions coming up, I may have to bow out of this course about half way and maybe pick  up where I leave off, another time.   One helpful feature is, the courses are always there to continue on with, in silence, or, you can wait till a course is interactively offered again.





A Little Corner of Student Life.

Not so long ago, I was a hard working student, living the pressures and the stresses and strains of time limits, word limits, sweating out my thoughts to make, what I hoped, would be quality presentations that would get me decent grades.

The nearest academic library to me is 200 miles away and takes as long to get to as it did to arrive in Edinburgh. Apart from studying and creating assignments, there was the necessity to travel a 600 miles round trip to get to the University of Edinburgh campus when I had to get to lectures and to the university libraries to obtain the materials I needed. It was a total energy-draining performance.

Light relief was sometimes to be found in the Edinburgh Law Library; it is a brilliant place for anthropological observation. This is where I discovered the existence of Ya’s (pronounced Yah’s) male and female, I watched them gravitate towards one another, the men/boys with smart ‘tailored’ hair styles, wearing trendy casual gear and soft shoes; the women/girls with carefully applied make up, in fashionable bright tops, trousers or short-ish skirts and soft gathered primary coloured, leather footwear. They invariably stood in the middle of the walkway, parading like peacocks, ya-ing in a communication code of their own. Some got caught up in the book shelf aisles appearing to seek knowledge in the printed form. It was a good opportunity to show off physical form and shape. They were first year students, I decided.

Some young people at other tables who were meant to be researching a group topic, looked like sixth formers who’d been delivered to the library from the same school establishment and placed out of context. There was not much resulting from group effort there. Like their Ya counterparts, they were obvioulsy newbies.

The numbers of mature students were notable, mostly younger than me, nevertheless they were obviously mature. There were also the very studious overseas students. I expected these two groups to be equipped with the latest technology to help them in their abstractions of information. The main pieces of modern equipment they used were a biro pen or a pencil and an A4 notepad. Their studious intent was palpable. They mostly sat by themselves or in pairs, across from one another. They were very quiet.

In another corner were the experienced young students. You could tell they’d been around a while. there was no need to posture, their only posturing, if that’s what it was, was to get on with their studies. They had assignment creation style; many books strewn across desk surfaces and their own laptops in front of them at which these students tapped out their analyses of all relevant passages they obtained from fusty tomes, many of which were on short-term loan, likely to have been timed in hours rather than days. In this way, money was saved on the cost of photocopying.

At various break times, elevenses and lunch, the laptops would be closed and packed up under the arm. Cables and books would be left as a visual sign that the work space was taken. These were hardworking students, who took short breaks, attended lectures in-between times, then returned to their labours with the same intensity and professionalism I had seen earlier. With these role models, it was highly likely that those who couldn’t hack it – a minority – would be filtered out, and those that could, would stay the course, in turn becoming the hard working role models for the future generation of new students.


Andrew ~Tolmie reported recently in The Scotsman that there appears to be a genetic breakthrough in research into dyslexia.

Edinburgh University scientists report, following a twenty year study, that they have unravelled the gene sequence that determines a person’s ability to work with letters and numbers. The findings suggest that those children likely to be severely affected, can be identified before birth. The article indicates that any child identified before birth who is born with severe dyslexia, could be registered for assistance. This of course, will enable children to grow into more fulfilled adults if they are identified early and so get assistance with their dyslexia much sooner than has been the case for many up till now.

(Co- Author of the Edinburgh University report, Dr Timothy Bates)