Can Alcohol Education at the College Level be Too Subtle?

Monday, 7 July 2008
Martha Coburn Blum , Health Services, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

Learning Objective 1: State how Mandatory On-Line Alcohol Education changes the social norm on college campuses.

Learning Objective 2: State two reasons why the perceived knowledge about alcohol may be different when students enter college and state two benefits to changing that perceived difference.

Objective: To evaluate whether college freshman view on-line mandatory alcohol training as a way of bringing all students to the same level of knowledge regarding alcohol and its effects on the human body and its effects on a student's college life. Method: A survey of a small group of students between their freshman and sophomore years of college in the summer of 2007 suggests that the mandatory computer-based education is helpful because it changes the perception of the level of students' knowledge of alcohol and what the consequences of alcohol use will be for students based on scientific information. It also changes the perception of the number of students who participate in alcohol education. On the other hand, this same survey showed that students at schools where there was not mandatory computer-based alcohol education stated that there was “no alcohol education”, “fliers that nobody reads', “programs for people who get in trouble with their drinking”.

A secondary benefit to the mandatory on-line education is that it is a tool for data collection to present accurate data about the incoming freshman's alcohol attitudes and behavior and to benchmark that data over time. During young adulthood, parents may have little influence but may have a slight protective role. Over their lifetime, however, parents' drinking has been shown to have an effect on their children's drinking. Young adults model parents' drinking behavior, attitudes, and patterns of use.

Conclusion: This is a good time of life to intervene with a mandatory, confidential, on-line education regarding alcohol to change the perception of the norm regarding what peers knowledge is regarding alcohol. Further study is indicated.