Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Kreis, I, Leonardi, GS, Zielhuis, G, Heijke, L & Stace, RJ, Zinc Violet, case studies in the use of advanced teaching tools in widely different settings, in Paget, DZ, Sakelarides, C & Keskimäki, I (eds), European Journal of Public Health, 18(S1), 2008, 63. Proceedings of the 16th EUPHA conference. [Powerpoint presentation]


The development of advanced teaching tools using simulation is costly and often of limited value to the institution developing it. The investment can only be regained if the teaching tool can be used in other places and/or a wide range of applications. Thus the objective is to assess the usefulness of an advanced teaching tool in a range of settings and cultures. Zinc Violet is a simulation of a problem using real data and data analysis software, characters, reports, literature, role-play and financial or time limitations. The students are placed in a problem that they have to solve where their choices have consequences and the simulations aims to engage them. The programme has a long history of development in two countries and is based on real investigations. All uses of the teaching tool have been formally evaluated in the context of use. Zinc Violet has been used to teach applied epidemiology in three different Masters degrees at three different universities in two different countries. It has also been used in a professional development course in another country. Applications used are applied epidemiology, environmental epidemiology, risk assessment and risk communication. Participants have come from Australia, China, France, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Taiwan, UK and other countries. Professional backgrounds have included physicians, nurses, environmental scientists, toxicologists and dieticians. The evaluations have been that the simulations facilitated very good engagement. All research applications were highly successful succeeding in engaging people from all disciplines and cultures. The risk communication application showed only the first half of the simulation to be useful but for that part they were engaged. Continuous technical updating is essential as bugs were found to be irritating. Substantial investments in highly developed teaching tools can pay off in a wide variety of settings. The tool does need to be very rich and engaging and the lecturer needs to ensure different applications are used with clear direction to ensure students do not get drawn into parts that are less relevant. A mix of media such as computer and role-play with close to live characters encourages engagement.