True Crime: Some Final Thoughts and Videos

I’m sad to say the True Crime Freshman Seminar Paul Bond and I taught this semester has come to an end. We watched the final vidoes last night, and they’re working on posting their final reflections to the course blog so this semester can quickly become a memory. But before it vanishes entirely, I want to get a few final thoughts down about the experience as well as share out the final three videos the students did for the course.

Below are somesome thoughts about the process.

Two-HeadedGiantSharing the teaching responsibilities for this course with Paul Bond was awesome. I think Paul and I have developed a good groove between this course and Hard Boiled.  The bestthing about co-teaching the course was that it forced me to do a few things I might not otherwise. First, we spent more time than I might alone shaping and re-shaping the syllabus by throwing ideas off one another. Second, we spent more time conceptualizing the structure of the class. We made the experience a true seminar that put the students in charge of the readings and discussion each week, which forced them to actively particpate, discus, and create. This was crucial for me because given an option, and if I was solo, I would have talked and talked and talked. Finally, Pual taught me how to teach this stuff by doing it, his weekly blog posts on the readings were awesome, and as trucrimer Shelby pointed out in her final reflection “Enjoy Paul….he has the best Posts of the class.” I couldn’t agree with that more.

Video Production

Image Credit: Paul Bond

Image Credit: Paul Bond

The video production element of this class was intense, and this was a trial run to see the idea of a seminar or content class like this can simultaneously become a video production shop—turns out it can. But it’s a hell of a lot of work, just ask any of the students :) The student groups produced eleven  videos over the course of the semester, and they consistently got better as they went on. I really enjoy trial by fire when it comes to teaching, and the video production process really got them working together as a course community quickly. Rapid prototyping of video premises, scripts, costumes, settings, etc. was the magic of this class. We didn’t give them much time, we pushed them to be creative, and eventually it started to pay off. Not all the videos were great, mind you, but with little or no direction they eventually starting making some really compelling and creative commentaries on the works we read. I also wanted an alternative to the research paper/essay—I figure they’ll see enough of that over their four years—I wanted them to have fun creating and they did. You’ll see some evidence of this  below.

Group Presentations and Wiki

il_fullxfull.156688661The last thing I’ll say is that I couldn’t have been happier with the structure of the group presentations and wiki. Students compalined it was a lot of work and we read too much and made too many videos—but isn’t that the point? They should feel the pain, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no folling around! There were five groups, and each group was tasked with uiding a discussion for two separate weeks and framing the context for dicussion on the course wiki. I was amazed how well they did with this for the most part. We spent the semester pushing the groups to move from simply summarizing the works we discussed to actually enagaging the historical context, themes, how they relate to other works we’ve read, and some broader signifiance cultually. It wasn’t always easy or successful, but by having them run the discussion we had a much cleaer understanding of where they stood in relationship to the texts. What’s more, it was a major boon for discussion, interaction, and a general sense fo community for the class. This course had, by far, the strongest sense of community and shared experience of any course I ever taught—and for me that is the real point of a Freshman Seminar. Mission accomplsihed, Bond!

In short, the truecrimers ruled!

Final Videos

Now, the final thing I want to share are the final videos the students created for the course. Is I mentioned earlier there were 11 videos in all created, and you can see them all here (along with a few clips from movies we watched). The following videos were by three separate groups of students. They were charged with trying to integrate various characters, readings, and situatiosn from the entire semester into a 5-7 minute video—while at the same time examining some of the themes in the class.

The first video is dating gameshow called “Baggage” in which various criminals we read about this semester share their baggage with the lucky contestant. It is a testament to how funny and entertaining these students could make the situations, characters, and themes.

Dinner with the Killers
This video was fascinating to me because it actually had the scholar Steven Pinker, whose Ted Talk we watched at the beggining of the semester, having dinner with various criminals we read abut over the semester. Turns out Charles Manson and Nat Turner get into a brawl over Manson’s theory of Helter Skelter.

Wax Museum
The final video was a bit disjuncted and their could have been a bit clearer narration around the bits, but the ideas was excellent. Created a wax museum of murder scenes that a curator takes you through and explains the details and their signifiance. I would love to rework this for another version of this course—the ideas is so cool—execution a bit rough give the time limitations. That said, there are some awesome moments.

Talkign with Paul alst night after the class, the thing that struck me with this setup is that I would now feel comfortable re-imagining this as an online, open course now with the video production, wiki work, and distributed possibilities for building these beyond the class—it could bea blast. I hope we get to teach this again soon so we can start experimenting with the next stage of this class. Until then.

Course Evaluation

I liked this class because it was very calm and fun especially when doing the video projects. But, I would say that there was a lot of reading for this class which I found unnecessary. I also thought that for the longer books more time should have been given to complete it and same with the filming of the video. This class was a very time consuming although most of the information in the class was interesting. I would say I wished there was a more guidelines on what was expected on projects and leading discussions. I also hoped that we would have gotten more updates on how we were doing throughout the class.

last post part 2

This class was interesting. I learned a lot about serial killers and murders of all shapes and sizes, much more than I expected. Reading about each killer or thief was fun and entertaining but making videos about them was not entertaining. It was interesting to read the blogs and see what my fellow classmates were thinking or how they viewed a certain topic. I liked the idea of the videos, but I think we should have been assigned less because this is a freshman seminar and I did not expect to have more work in this class than I did in Honors Accounting. Teaching the class wasn’t too painful so that could stay. I liked the energy during the classes it was fun even though I didn’t really contribute to that aspect. Overall it was a fun class and I do not regret taking it.

hitch hikers guide to the true crime network!

This class is not for the faint hearted or the weak of stomachs. I’ve looked at crime scene photos, people final words, and even their last meals. I’ve learned where i can find a data base of people who have been put to execution in the US. You have to do your blogs! they can be fun or serious. You can include videos or weird pictures of Barbie. In this class you learn to fall in love with even stranger shows then CSI. Shows like Disappeared, Women who kill, and True Crime with Aphrodite Jones. This class teaches you that people aren’t what they appear. We learned though out the semester to not let our past define who we are. Look at my all time favorite killer Charles Manson. He had a troubled childhood. He was abandoned by his family and given up to the system. Because of that he wanted a family of his own. He was sick of rejection and anybody who rejected him, he killed. Charles let his past define him! There are 3 basic rules to surviving this class.
1) Always be on your game and 5 steps ahead of Groom.
2) Enjoy Paul. He may not talk much but he has the best Posts of the class.
3) Watch your back, you never know which one can turn out to be a killer.
On a side note ALWAYS HAVE A TOWEL (hitch hikers guide to the galaxy reference)

I will miss this class dearly! Have a great year, a merry Christmas, and Happy New years.

marvin (1)

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This class was fun and the material was all interesting for the most part. Although, the workload was a little too much I think one less video would be enough or taking out the part where the students teach.


I have to say, I really enjoyed this class, even though it was a ton of work. The video projects were awesome, to make and I really enjoyed editing them. I like how my progress went with each of the videos. I also like many of the readings, especially Torso and the early readings from the True Crime book. I like how the movies were incorporated as well. They were a nice break from the readings. So overall I think there I really enjoyed the class. I have a few critiques, however. Maybe the next time it is taught, you could cut down on a few readings in the True Crime book, or even just make a course on that book. Maybe you can break it up even more where you could do a modern crime course, where it is only crime from the 20 and 21st centuries. That actually would be really cool. And that’s all I have for critiques! Thank you so much Professor Groom and Professor Paul! I’m so glad I got to take this class!


Overall, I liked this course a lot. I loved the “chill” atmosphere. Our discussions were good. There was a lot of work, and a lot of times I felt like I couldn’t finish it all on time. I also felt like it wasn’t clear which assignments were weighted more heavily than others. It would have been nice to have a clear grading scale and to be notified of our grades at several points during the class. Overall though, I liked the class.


This class was not like most classes I have taken or any type of class that I expected.  There were no tests or quizzes, which I am not complaining.  The grading wasn’t very specific which was annoying at times because it was hard to figure out exactly what was expected in each of the assignments.  80% of the work was blogging, which isn’t too hard, but I don’t like blogging so I struggled with getting into the habit of actually doing it.  However, the TV show projects that we did were very fun, but, again, there wasn’t really any guidelines, so we would think that we did really well, but it wasn’t what the two professors were looking for, or vice versa, it was horrible, but we ended up doing better than expected.  The readings were sometimes long and sometimes short, a lot of times they were interesting stories, but poorly written, I fell asleep reading quite a few times.  The class is definitely interesting and I like that it’s all based on conversation, but there’s definitely an issue with the seating of the class.  I sat in a couch area with about 6 or 7 other people and then there was a main table with about 6 people and then a few people sat away from everyone in their own separate seats.  I felt this took away from the conversation, even though I’m loud and I made myself heard, not everyone who sat in the couches with me did the same and they were rarely heard.  I think the class would have benefitted more if we all sat together.  It was a lot of work with the readings and the blogging and our wikis and the projects, much more than most of my classes.  Looking back on this class, I am glad that I picked it for my freshman seminar, but the few key things that I would try and fix is the grading (I would put more specific guidelines) and the seating (we should all sit together so everyone can be heard).  Oh and the professors are…interesting.  They teach a true crime class so of course they’re weird.  Paul Bond is kind of like a ghost.  He watches us from the computer, rarely talking, so a lot of times I forget he’s there and then out of no where he talks and it scares me sometimes.  Groom on the other hand, there are no words to describe him.  It’s a love-hate kind of thing.  I still don’t know if he actually likes me…he says he does but, it may be that he’s sketchy for teaching a murder class, but I just don’t know if I believe him.