After years of telling college-aged students to just say no to alcohol, several interactive websites are trying to send a new message – be responsible.
Websites like mystudentbody.com and AlcoholEdu.com are becoming popular tools at colleges nationwide as methods to deter alcohol use and binge drinking on campuses.
“We’re still always trying to find better ways in which to educate students about alcohol use and helping them to make better choices about that,” said Gwyn Hulswit, associate director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which has started requiring some first- and second-time student alcohol offenders to use AlcoholEdu.com
“We’ve been very, very impressed with the AlcoholEdu course and the feedback that we’ve received has been very positive,” she added.
Neither site is currently available to all University students, but Hulswit said visiting AlcoholEdu.com is mandatory for students at several other colleges.
Though more than 100 institutions – including Duke University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – are using the website, students here said they did not know how effective it could be.
“Students know about the effects of alcohol and choose to drink anyway,” LSA junior Joe Bates said. “A website is not going to change their minds.”
A dozen University students have completed the course so far, Hulswit said. Each student is required to pay the $20 fee charged to the University by the website.
Like MyStudentBody.com – which is being used by 26 universities nationwide, including Harvard University, the University of Virginia and the University of Florida – AlcoholEdu.edu is based on personalized feedback, customizable questions, surveys and educational resources.
But AlcoholEdu follows the format of a class textbook, with chapters pertaining to alcohol in society, how alcohol is metabolized, how different dosages affect behavior, learning and memory and why people use alcohol in the first place.
Students take an assessment quiz at the beginning and a final exam at the end of the course to see what they knew and what they learned.
MyStudentBody, on the other hand, focuses on rating students’ risks, beliefs and lifestyles and compares them to other students in order to give users an idea of how they compare to other students, as well as to access the consequences of their behavior.
“We ask them about their living arrangements, the organizations they are involved in, the different consequences involved with their drinking. As they go through these questions, they get feedback as to how they stand with the average student drinker. People who receive this form of feedback tend to moderate their drinking,” said MyStudentBody.com spokesman Emil Chiauzzi, director of multimedia development at Inflexxion, Inc., which created the site.
Personal stories and student-written articles are also available on the site, as well as an “ask the expert” section.
Chiauzzi added that while the website conforms to national definitions of alcohol abuse and binge drinking – five drinks in one sitting for males and four for females – it is not trying to blow the problem out of context.
“College students, compared to other people their age, tend to drink more, and it’s part of the culture,” he said, adding that about 50 percent of students will binge drink within a two-week time frame. “The average person is not getting sloppy drunk every week, but most college students do drink. We are not looking to demonize the problem.”
Both websites take a more hands-off approach to alcohol abuse prevention, which Chiauzzi said has proven to be more effective when working with adults.
“A lot of people are just used to being told what to do and our approach is more to allow people to make an informed decision about their own personal risks,” he said. “If you moralize and try to control behavior, they turn off. They are not interested in being told what to do. They want a sense of feeling that they are able to make their own decisions.”