Lights, camera … action! Teaching true crime online

By Michèle Nardelli


UniSA Video

A preview of a film starring local Australian actors produced as part of UniSA Online’s Criminal Justice degree.

In novels, on free to air, on demand TV and in podcasts, true crime attracts audiences like bees to a honeypot. And now, thanks to an innovative new film, true crime is making its debut in online learning.

UniSA’s online education arm, UniSA Online, has launched Westside Justice, an in-house feature film starring a cast of local Australian actors that has been produced by academics from the University’s online Criminal Justice degree and the Audio Visual team in UniSA's Teaching Innovation Unit. The film has been designed to give students an insight into just what it takes to investigate and assemble the physical evidence required to get a conviction.

Online Course Facilitator and former police officer with 20 years’ experience (and 12 years in criminal justice education), Bec Medhurst, was determined to give online students an exciting but realistic insight into what’s involved when investigating a crime.

“I wanted to develop something that would harness the ‘Hollywood’ excitement about criminal investigations that meshed with realistic and accurate learning," Medhurst says.

"I wanted to keep our online students as engaged in their learning as they would be if they were watching a TV drama.

“It is a feature film, but we have made it so that it can be watched as 22 episodes over the weeks of their course in Policing Investigation and Intelligence. Several scenes have also been used in other courses within the degree.

“The story follows a team of crime investigators who uncover physical and digital evidence to solve a mysterious robbery in a fictitious town called Aurora and with each episode there are different investigation and intelligence tasks involved in the investigation which match up with aspects of the course.”

Medhurst says the changing nature of policing and the closer alignment of immigration, border protection, law enforcement and domestic security through the new Home Affairs portfolio has expanded the required skills and knowledge base for careers in the sector.

“People working in this sector need a broad understanding of the different roles and responsibilities of all of these agencies, and how they all work together,” she says.

“Our online degree provides students with a 360-degree view of the criminal justice sector including everything from law enforcement to the courts and corrections. And it includes learning on the latest trends in cybercrime, counter-terrorism, police investigations and intelligence and applied criminology.

“It makes sense that in teaching the latest challenges for people working in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, we use all the best tools to make that learning thorough, relevant and memorable.

“We believe Westside Justice will be a real asset to learning for our online students around Australia.”

Senior Technical Officer: Audio Visual/Multimedia Charlotte Rose, from the Teaching Innovation Unit, played a lead role in the film's production.

More information about UniSA Online’s Criminal Justice degree is available online.