UA Professor Moves Textbooks into the Information Age with Interactive DVD

  • August 20th, 2002

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Technology’s most recent advancements are making their way into the classroom. University of Alabama students involved in television and film classes will be some of the first to reap the benefits.

Dr. Jeremy Butler, professor of telecommunication and film, is leading the way for this new technology with a textbook and accompanying DVD.

The project has seen its share of evolution through the years. First, Butler authored a web site called that helped him illustrate many of the principles his class learns. “There’s just a limit to what you can show with still photography in a textbook,” Butler said. “But with the web site we could show everything in color and then add video clips.”

One of the problems with a web-based teaching tool in a university environment is classroom accessibility. Right out the window went the possibility of using a VHS tape. And though most classrooms don’t have a way to display information from a web site on a screen larger than a computer — which would seem to make using the information in the classroom prohibitive — a DVD still seemed like the answer he’d been looking for.

Butler went to the Faculty Resource Center on the UA campus and spent some time with Instructional Developer Rick Dowling, who had the technology available on campus to start work on the project. “We have been able to author DVD’s since last fall, and we’ve used this project as a learning experience,” he said. “We’ve not only learned how to do this, but we’re learning how everything best works together.”

Butler and Dowling spent about three weeks of full time work on importing and arranging the clips and deciding on the menu options. One aspect of using a DVD format that particularly intrigued Butler was the idea of using full-size, full image video clips.

“Then we started getting into copyright issues that we didn’t have with freeze-frame stills or smaller renditions that we used in the textbook and the web site,” Butler said. “The Center for Public Television and Radio gave us permission to use many of their clips to demonstrate film and television techniques critical to this class.”

They have received permission to use commercials from the 1950s and 1960s from the Prelinger Archive. Also included on the DVD will be samples of student work and an editing exercise that will allow students to experience the power of editing on their own computers.

Butler says the textbook and DVD can be used in several ways not limited to students on personal computers and teachers holding seminars and using a large screen format.

An additional application could be distance education. Butler said one of the difficulties the telecommunication and film department has had in encouraging distance education is the inability to show examples outside of the classroom setting. “But if we could bundle the examples with a textbook, then we may have something to build upon for the future,” he said.


Dr. Jeremy Butler, 205/348-6350


Elizabeth M. Smith, UA Media Relations, 205/348-3782,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.