Online alcohol course informs students

Oct. 1, 2002 5:54 p.m.

Expanding its efforts to educate students about alcohol abuse, the University is providing freshmen and sophomores with access to an online, interactive and confidential alcohol education course called AlcoholEdu.

Janet Dickerson, vice president for campus life, was instrumental in bringing this opportunity to Princeton students in an effort to answer the question: "How do we provide salient and significant cognitive information about alcohol to students who for the most part have been hearing warnings about the dangers of alcohol since adolescence?"

From her experience talking to student groups and medical professionals at Duke University, where Dickerson was vice president of student affairs from 1991 until coming to Princeton in 2000, she discovered that students are more interested in learning how alcohol affects the functioning of the brain than hearing a litany of warnings. Dickerson anticipates that the content of AlcoholEdu -- replete with video streams, case studies, questionnaires and interactive exercises -- will engage and inform Princeton students. AlcoholEdu, created by the Boston-based company Outside the Classroom, currently is being used by dozens of universities across the country.

"We want to find ways to help students learn about issues in a context where they are not pressured," said Dickerson.

"A key expectation is to make students more aware of the dangers of high-risk drinking, to increase knowledge about alcohol-related issues and to empower students to make healthy choices about alcohol," said Gina Baral, coordinator of Health Promotion Services at University Health Services .

A survey conducted last spring by University Health Services indicates that high-risk drinking affects the physical, academic and social well-being of students. One finding is that heavy drinkers are more than twice as likely as light drinkers to have a GPA below a B.

On Sept. 9, Dr. Daniel Silverman, the new chief medical officer and executive director of University Health Services, sent an e-mail to the classes of 2006 and 2005 inviting them to take AlcoholEdu and describing how to log on. The deadline for students to complete the course, which is voluntary, is Nov. 3. Students who finish it earn a movie ticket to the Princeton Garden Theatre, and residential college advisers each have access to $100 to help promote the course.

The full story is available in the Weekly Bulletin.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601