Online Course Reduces Alcohol-Related Problems in College Freshmen

An online course that demonstrates the consequences of excessive drinking appears to significantly reduce the most common types of alcohol-related problems among freshman, including binge drinking and sexual assault. The program, called AlcoholEdu for College, has students imagine themselves in real-life situations, such as being with a friend who drinks too much and goes wild, and asks them what they would do.

The Boston Globe reports a study of 30 campuses, half of which implemented the program, found AlcoholEdu also reduced the risk of students getting into trouble with authorities. The program benefits tended to last a semester, the researchers report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The study found AlcoholEdu did not decrease aggression, episodes of driving under the influence or academic problems. It was most effective on campuses that required it for all new students.

The appeal of AlcoholEdu is its simplicity, the article notes. Other programs that have been shown to be successful in reducing college drinking often require major resources. AlcoholEdu takes three hours to complete. Some students take the course before arriving on campus. It includes surveys about drinking habits, streaming video, quizzes and facts about drinking. Some schools had already instituted the program before the study was completed.

Close to 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking, and that number has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Almost 2,000 college students in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related injuries. An estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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    August 30, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    How can one find out which schools are requiring this? Are any schools in MN using this, e.g. U of MN, St. Cloud State U, etc.?

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    August 15, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Wow…this is really surprising to see so much hate. Shouldn’t we be excited?
    AlcoholEdu is taken by hundreds of thousands of new college students every year and is designed to help them transition into college life. This study – which I have read – is an “intent to treat” analysis (most rigorous type of investigation out there!) and was performed independently by the federal government and PIRE. The results show reductions in binge drinking amongst college freshmen – Maybe we should take a moment to think about the difficulty in being able to make a dent at this time of a young person’s life? Has anything else been PROVEN at this level to be able to do this? Dare? Basics? Social Norms? Anything? NO!
    This is really exciting news for the field.

    Is AlcoholEdu a silver bullet? Of course not – and I have never heard anyone from OTC state that it is. The only thing I have heard are words like cornerstone or foundation. In fact hasn’t OTC gone to great lengths to help colleges and universities with their overall prevention efforts through the alcohol coalition they created?

    The real truth is alcohol abuse on american college campuses is real and it is an enormous public health issue – it is also one of the leading causes of why students leave colleges. The work OTC is doing is important and I congratulate Outside The Classroom on reaching this level of validity with AlcoholEdu. In the prevention field we are lucky to have it available.

    Let’s keep the eye on the ball people. AlcoholEdu works at reducing binge drinking. Binge drinking is a huge and very difficult issue. So a few out of hundreds of thousands of kids post negative things on their facebook or twitter accounts about taking an online course on alcohol in the summer before they go to college? Are those the people we should really be basing decisions on? What’s that .0000few% of the sample? Can’t wait to see what else they post after they get to campus.

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    August 15, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    If you actually take the time to read the study’s published results, you’ll see that this program doesn’t really do much at all. Even the effects that it does have are marginal since they only last for one semester, which means students will still increase their drinking and alcohol use. There are other online education programs, like MyStudentBody, that take a much better approach by discussing more topics (i.e. drugs, stress, nutrition, etc.) and allow for boosters throughout students’ college experience. Selling AlcoholEdu as a “silver bullet” to college drinking is just plain silly, but that’s exactly what they do.

    And on top of all that, students dislike the program very much. All it takes is a few seconds searching on Twitter or Facebook to see how much students aren’t receptive to it.

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    Mike Gimbel

    August 15, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I have worked with college age students for over 25 years and I don’t beleive for one minute that a on line class helps reduce alcohol use. Most of the students I work with laugh at the course and play drinking games, as to see how drunk they can get and finish the course. We need to reach these students before they get to college as well as the parents. We need to look at freshman policies on underage drinking and provide more “hands on” education and counseling. The internet is very helpful for someone who is interested in the information, but college students only want to “party”. Lets get real !

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