25 Free Open Courseware Classes on Forensic Science

Forensics is a very interesting branch of science. It is also a necessary part of the criminal justice system. Throughout history, there have been a number of criminologists, scientists and just plain smart cops and detectives who have helped contribute to making forensics a science. And now, if you are interested in learning more about forensic science, it is possible to learn — or brush up on — skills related to forensics. Here are 25 open courseware classes that provide you an opportunity to learn about forensic science for free:

Forensics Fields

US_Army_CID_agents_at_crime_sceneThere are a number of different aspects of forensics, with different fields and opportunities. These courses can give you an idea of general forensics, as well as help you understand the different divisions of forensics.

  1. Forensic Biology and Impression Evidence: This course from Kaplan University provides a helpful look at biology issues involved in forensics, as well as impression evidence. There is also a unit on computer forensics.
  2. Forensic Engineering: The Open University offers a course in engineering and how forensics can help engineers identify structural defects and other quality issues in large structures.
  3. Forensic DNA: An interesting collection of information, training modules and more on forensic DNA from a Boise State University professor.
  4. Forensic Accounting: Resources and information on forensic accounting, along with activity ideas and suggested reading.
  5. A National Protocol fro Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations: This is from American University and provides helpful information on forensic examinations in the cases of sexual assault.
  6. Cryptography and Cryptanalysis: Often, forensics involves cracking codes. This class from MIT can help learn more about cryptography and how to analyze codes and find patterns.

The Human Body

Forensics requires a knowledge of the human body. It is important to have a basic understanding of how the body works, what is normal, and what effects different scenarios might have on the body. This is extremely helpful in terms of understanding what you are seeing at a crime scene. The following open courseware classes on the human body can be quite helpful.

  1. Anatomy and Physiology: This course from Western Governor’s University provides a helpful look at different parts of the human anatomy and how the human physiology works.
  2. Biology (Human Anatomy): This course from the University of California Berkeley is a general look at the human body, how it is set up, and how it functions.
  3. Clinical Psychology: This course is another from the University of California Berkeley, and can help you better understand some of the issues related to how the brain functions in terms of mental state. This can help you evaluate evidence with a psychological point of view.
  4. The Human Body: Harvard offers an excellent course on the human body, its systems and how they work. Includes helpful visuals and even makes use of flashcards.
  5. Modern Biology: Carnegie Mellon University offers a great look at biology and molecular biology and human functioning through its Open Learning Initiative.
  6. Principles of Human Disease: This MIT course can help you learn about how disease works in the body, and help you as you ascertain cause of death and look for clues about how someone was injured.


Understanding crime, and having a background in why crimes are committed can be a big help to a forensic scientist. These open courseware courses can help you learn more about different types of crime, and the motivations behind them.

  1. Crime, Heredity and Insanity in American History: This course from Notre Dame provides an interesting look at crime in a historical context, as well as looking at different ways crimes have been solved throughout the years, and the roles of forensics.
  2. Criminology: Harvard University provides a number of useful links, course materials, lectures and news related to forensic science and criminology.
  3. Cybercime: This is another Harvard open courseware offering. The Cybercrime course focuses on crimes related to the Internet, and shares helpful and insightful case studies.
  4. The meaning of crime: This is an interesting look at the causes and motivations behind crime, as well as providing a number of different definitions of crime, from the Open University.
  5. Youth delinquency: This is an interesting course on young people and crime. This offering from Wikiversity provides a look at different factors that can influence youth delinquency, as well as a look at what can be done to reduce delinquency.
  6. White Collar and Corporate Crime: The University of California Irvine provides an interesting class on the factors behind white collar crime. This is an important aspect of forensics, including forensic accounting, as corporate crime increases.
  7. The problem with crime: Another provocative course from the Open University, this class looks at different themes related to crime, including the problem of identifying exactly what crime is.


Having some knowledge of the law is important in forensic science. Understanding the rules and laws under which you will be expected to operate is vital. Here are some courses that can give you a basic understanding of some of the laws you are upholding and following.

  1. Trials in History: MIT offers an interesting look at different trials through history, considers systems of evidence used in them and addresses other issues.
  2. Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier: An assessment, from MIT, of law and ethics as enforcement moves to the Internet. Especially helpful in terms of computer forensics.
  3. iTunes U: Stanford offers a number of interesting podcasts and courses on different aspects of the law. Learn about privacy law, ethics and specific cases related to different trials and investigations.
  4. Criminal Justice System: This course from Connexions looks at the criminal justice system, how it works, and considers its effectiveness. A useful primer in how things work.
  5. Aims and Limits of the Criminal Law: The University of California Berkeley looks at what the law is meant to accomplish, as well as some of the limits inherent in criminal law.
  6. Privacy rights and the law: You may want to investigate a crime, but it is important to understand privacy rights. This course from the Open University examines privacy rights and their place in our society.
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