It lightens the backpack and leaves more money in the wallet. It offers different voices and interactive exercises instead of inanimate words and pictures on a page or a single professor's voice in lecture. The new DVD textbook for general chemistry one developed by Ketan Trivedi, an instructor in the department of chemistry at Virginia Tech, gives students a brand-new alternative for learning that is cheaper, lighter, and more diverse than an ordinary textbook.

With more than 200 instructional hours on a DVD, students can accomplish the first semester of general chemistry in ways that better suit their own learning methods. "It will not be easy," Trivedi said. "It challenges them and brings them to the level we want them to be."

But the challenge is not in overcoming boredom. The DVD provides a wealth of demonstrations for concepts such as atoms, chemical reactions, gases, chemical bonding and the periodic table, which talks to the students to help them learn not only the names of the elements, but the patterns for forming the 1,647 compounds and the way names and formulas come together. Different voices distinguish metals, non-metals and metalloids. "The table is imaginary," Trivedi said. "We wanted to bring things into reality."

The first periodic table took Trivedi three and a half months to develop, almost causing him to abandon the project. But his desire to make learning a better experience for students combined with the help of many students and other professors in the chemistry department pushed him onward. He hopes to have the second semester of general chemistry on DVD in another year.

Animations, videos, 3-D models, interactive problems, thorough explanations, and tools such as an increasingly complex calculator as the student progresses and a scratch pad that holds students' work as they practice reinforce the learning of the chemical concepts, chemical equations, mathematical equations and derivations necessary to master general chemistry. Since attention spans are about three to three and a half minutes, Trivedi said, the interactive quality of the DVD keeps students involved.

Trivedi, through his company Trivedi Technology Innovations International, or T2I2, in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, took three years to develop the DVD and studied some 27 textbooks for inspiration. The DVD is not required for students, but is recommended. Since it costs less than $70, with the textbook's cost at $125, many students are opting for the disk they can pop into their computer instead of the book they lug around. "We're not trying to make money, just recover our costs," Trivedi said. The DVD has been used for distance-learning courses this summer and in classes taught by some Virginia Tech chemistry professors.

Trivedi believes the DVD is a distinct advantage for students whose learning styles may differ. Because it offers them so many reinforcements of each lesson, "One cannot miss it," he said.