AlcoholEdu teaches students facts about dangerous drinking behaviors

University Park, Pa. — This summer's first-year Penn State students were the University's first incoming class to complete an online education program called AlcoholEdu for College. Students were required to finish the first half of the two-part learning module before the semester began.

"We got a letter and an e-mail telling us about the program," said Julie Frisch, a freshman nursing major from Cheltenham. "It took me about two hours to complete. Basically, you had to write what your goals are and how you planned to manage stress and how you would avoid drinking too much. The general information on there I knew about, but there were a lot of statistics I didn't know."

Frisch said there was a pre-test at the beginning of the program and a test at the end, and her scores improved dramatically after completing the first modeule. Just recently, she received another e-mail informing her that she could take the second part of the program. Frisch said the second half was shorter and more of a review — now that she had started school, it questioned how she was handling the pressures of college and if she was sticking to the goals she made during the summer. 

AlcoholEdu is one example of the ways in which Penn State continuously looks to diminish the misuse of alcohol among its students. The University received a $245,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the implementation of AlcoholEdu, as part of a three-year initiative. The preventative program was created by Boston-based company Outside the Classroom, whose mission is to address "epidemic-level health issues." It teaches basic facts about alcohol and motivates behavior change. More than 500 U.S. colleges and universities — including Big Ten schools Indiana University-Bloomington and the University of Iowa — have implemented AlcoholEdu for College.

Linda LaSalle, associate director for educational services for Penn State's University Health Services, said the course is revised each year to include the most up-to-date research and incorporate feedback from students and professionals. She said there is strong research data, conducted with about 20,000 students throughout the country, which shows a promising reduction in the "college effect," a spike in heavy drinking occurring during a college student's first six weeks on campus. The data also showed that students who participated in AlcoholEdu reported fewer negative consequences, fewer instances of alcohol use and fewer instances of risky behavior when drinking.

LaSalle said the AlcoholEdu course completion rate for Fall 2008 students at University Park is 94 percent. More Penn State students than just first year students have completed the program, since a number of national fraternities also require their members to complete the program. Penn State students in local chapters of those organizations have also completed AlcoholEdu.

Junior marketing major Erik Lawler, from Illinois, is president of the Penn State chapter of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He completed AlcoholEdu in 2006 when he was pledging the fraternity as a freshman, and every member of the fraternity has completed it. Lawler admitted that at first they weren't too excited about completing such a lengthy program.

"I definitely learned some things that I never knew about alcohol abuse," he said. "What stood out most in my mind is just about how much your body can take in a certain amount of time. A lot of people binge drink, so it showed that with this kind of drinking, compared with your body weight, how close you can be to death."

Lawler said he thought AlcoholEdu was worth the time it took to complete because it makes students more aware of the dangers of alcohol and may help them make smarter choices.

"It doesn't tell people to stop drinking but makes them more aware of the consequences," he said. "It will definitely be in the back of their minds not to overindulge."
 

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Last Updated March 19, 2009