Twenty years ago, David Kleinbaum wrote what many considered the
definitive text on the basics of epidemiology. Now he might have
duplicated the feat for the cyber age.
Kleinbaum, professor of epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public
Health, has created ActivEpi, an electronic textbook,
available on CD-ROM, that provides epidemiology students with an
accessible and interactive resource to learn about the fundamentals
of the field. Developed in cooperation with Data Description, a
educational multimedia development firm in Ithaca, N.Y., ActivEpi
is the first electronic textbook devoted to epidemiology.
ActivEpi boasts a range of features that propel the learning experience
light-years beyond a normal textbook. All the information contained
in a textbook is there, to be sure, but there also are animated
presentations explaining epidemiological concepts and case studies;
interactive exercises and short quizzes so students can measure
their own progress; instant point-and-click access to appendices,
source references, a glossary and an index; links to additional
website information; and built-in, additional software that allows
students to analyze data sets in the same manner as professional
Its got everything youd want to havebeginning,
intermediate and advanced, Kleinbaum said. Thats
why it can be used for such a wide variety of audiences, even high
For example, one of the early chapters covers the term measure
of effect. If the viewer clicks on a certain icon, a short
animated film, complete with narration, pops up and uses the history
of research linking smoking and lung cancer to illustrate the epidemiologic
concept. Each chapter is full of such material, using real-world
examples to help teach concepts.
Several Rollins professors plan to incorporate ActivEpiwhich
retails for $70 ($20 for the companion text) and runs on both Macintosh
and Windows platformsinto their classes this fall, Kleinbaum
said, and Assistant Professor Kevin Sullivan will use it as the
main text in his introductory EPI 505 course.
It adds to the learning environment, Sullivan said.
Some students are able to just sit down with a book, while
others need a little more, and thats where the CD-ROM comes
in. It also will allow me to spend less time on the basics and more
time on the complicated things.
Complicated is just what the creation of ActivEpi has been, according
to Kleinbaum, who called the effort a labor of love.
My wife says shes an ActivEpi widow,
Kleinbaum joked. I worked long days and nights and sacrificed
a lot to get this done.
Kleinbaum worked on ActivEpi over the past several years, during
which time Emory has been revising its intellectual property policy
story). As a piece of new media, ActivEpi
fell into what was previously a gray area regarding copyright ownership,
and Kleinbaum said he spent a significant amount of his own money
on legal fees as he and the University went back and forth.
In the end, however, Emory relinquished all ownership rights. Kleinbaums
not sure what kind of market there is for an electronic text on
epidemiology, but one thing is certain: ActivEpi is peerless.
Its very different, Kleinbaum said. Its
got all this potential.