New online education program aimed at curbing dangerous drinking

University Park, Pa. – This summer, new Penn State students attending the University's second six-week summer session will be first to complete Penn State's new online education program, PSU SAFE (Student Alcohol Feedback and Education). It's one of many initiatives Penn State has created to teach students the facts about dangerous drinking.

PSU SAFE replaces an online alcohol education program Penn State implemented in 2008, but is more cost-efficient and more tailored to Penn State students and takes about half the time to finish.

"We wanted to create an online program that would have greater relevance to our students," said Damon Sims, Penn State's vice president for Student Affairs. "So far, students have found it to be straightforward and have offered positive feedback. I'm optimistic about the potential outcomes from this effort."

PSU SAFE is completed in two sessions. The first, which must be completed by the first day of classes, has four components: a video overview hosted by Penn State students Brittany Boyer and Dan Florencio; the educational content, which includes an alcohol use assessment; an explanation of Penn State community expectations; and a research-based prevention component using personalized student feedback. Students must complete the second part of the program, which includes a second alcohol use assessment, within 30 days after the start of classes. Both alcohol use assessments and the personalized feedback that students receive are completely private information. Penn State will look only at aggregated data from the assessments for the purposes of evaluating PSU SAFE's effectiveness.

"This program is very much Penn State-specific," Linda LaSalle, associate director for educational services at University Health Services, said. "Students who have completed the program during its testing phase have responded very positively to this aspect. Not only are the narrators two undergraduate students, the program features photos of Penn State, there are student quotes from the Take the Lead campaign interspersed throughout the program, the data is from our student drinking survey and, most important, the community expectations section is about Pennsylvania laws, Penn State policies and the Student Code of Conduct."

Students new to Penn State taking part in summer sessions, and their parents, will receive letters about the program on Thursday, June 2, followed by email instructions on Friday, June 10, when they also can begin Part 1 of the program. The email will be sent to each student's University-issued email address, which is necessary to log into the program. Summer 2011 students are required to complete Part 1 of the program by Wednesday, June 29. New fall students University-wide will begin the same process on Wednesday, July 20, and will follow a similar timeline. Fall students are required to complete Part 1 of the program by Monday, Aug. 22, the first day of fall 2011 classes.

No incoming students over the age of 21 will be asked to complete the program.

University Health Services is working with John Hustad, an assistant professor in Penn State's College of Medicine, to conduct an evaluation of the program. Hustad is an expert in evaluating alcohol education programs for college students.
 

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Last Updated June 17, 2011