Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Digital art gallery offers improved capabilities

In the late 1990s, DU’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) developed the Visual Art Gallery Application (VAGA), a tool for using digital images in the classroom. It’s replaced outdated slides and projectors and has changed the way learning happens at DU.

Earlier this year, the center released the second-generation application, VAGA II. Currently, 130 instructors and 1,029 students are using the Web-based repository of images and video in their courses. 

Associate Professor Rod Buxton uses the application for his film criticism course, illustrating camera angles and framing, lighting effects and cinematographic techniques. Before VAGA, he made interactive CDs for his students — one at a time. Sometimes the CDs would get scratched, and every term, he’d have to do it all again for the next batch of students.

With the video clip editor, instructors can quickly set start and stop points to create short video clips from full-length feature films. They can import video from Internet sites like, add images of historic photographs or paintings, include voice narration and even upload images from their personal collections.

Students can view the clips and images from anywhere they have an Internet connection. Metadata tags allow instructors to provide details about each image, such as title, date and photographer.

English Professor Margaret Whitt juxtaposes historical and present-day photographs in galleries that complement her civil-rights course, Long Walk Toward Justice. Whitt says the intuitive method for instructors to find and add clips — a 30-second process — makes VAGA a valuable teaching tool.

Joseph Labrecque, a CTL educational multimedia developer, says VAGA’s advanced technology is something few universities offer. He says everything in the design — from the way images display to the video editing tool — was driven by instructors’ requests.

The program was created in ActionScript using the Flash platform, which allows for video streaming and full screen displays. Setting image resolution high enough for screen viewing but too low to make quality prints enhances copyright protection. 

Galleries are only accessible while classes are active and logins are fully integrated with Banner to help prevent misuse of copyrighted materials.

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