Evaluation of a Computer Administered Alcohol Education Program for College Students

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Abstract

The computer administered alcohol education program, Alcohol 101, is a popular tool for colleges attempting to foster more responsible drinking in college students. The effectiveness of this program in changing attitudes was assessed by measuring the attitudes of students who completed the program as one of the consequences of disciplinary action for alcohol abuse on campus. Students completed a questionnaire before and immediately after spending an hour with the simulation program. A subsample of 16 participants completed the same questionnaire one week later. Immediately after completing the simulation, responses to the attitude questionnaire were no different than before completing the program. Furthermore, those who complete the questionnaire one week later express less realistic attitudes than at the time of exposure to Alcohol 101.

INTRODUCTION

The abuse of alcohol by college students is a long-standing problem that seems quite resistant to change. Wechsler and his colleagues (Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, Seibring, Nelson, & Lee, 2002; Wechsler, Lee, Nelson, & Kuo, 2002) summarized the results of four Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Studies, dating from 1993 through 2001. They reported that the level of binge drinking has remained relatively stable across the four surveys. They also reported that students do not feel that their behavior has been affected by educational efforts at their institutions. The good news is that, over the years, there has been a decrease in the proportion of underage students who drink. Alcohol-control policies at the local and state level do seem to be somewhat effective as a deterrent in this regard.

Alcohol abuse, however, does constitute a serious problem on campuses. Of the 14,115 students completing a survey for Knight, Wechsler, Kuo, Seigring, Weitzman and Schuckit (2002), 31.6% reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of alcohol abuse according to DSM-IV classification standards and an additional 6.3% met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse leads to problems such as risky sexual behavior, (Cooper, 2002), alcohol-related sexual assault (Abbey, 2002), an increase in aggressive behavior and a greater risk of being the victim of violence (Giancola, 2002).

Several studies have suggested that students who expect positive outcomes from drinking are most likely to abuse alcohol. For example, Neighbors, Walker, and Larimer (2003) reported that college students linked the expectation of positive consequences from the consumption of alcohol to higher consumption of alcohol. One such positive outcome some students expect from drinking is the ability to cope with problems (Park, & Levenson, 2002). While a sample of male students identified alcohol and drug use as major problems for their health, their feelings about alcohol tended to be ambivalent. While they recognized potential dangers, they also saw alcohol as having positive benefits, such as a way to cope with problems and a way to increase social confidence (Davies, et al., 2000). Reise and Riley (2002b) found that expectations about positive effects of alcohol, a history of drinking in high school, and membership in Greek organizations, as well as campus rules on alcohol use, and knowledge of skills for safe alcohol use all contributed to predicting how much alcohol students consumed on a weekly basis. In a study investigating how positive and negative expectancies about drinking affect consumption of alcohol, Lee, Greely, and Oei (1999) found that both kinds of expectancies were significantly related to drinking behavior. Those with positive expectancies seemed to drink more per session, while those with negative expectancies drank less per session. This suggests that programs affecting students' expectancies about alcohol (alcohol expectancies) might have some success in dealing with this serious problem.

In a review of the empirical literature, Walters and Bennett (2000) concluded that the type of program that is likely to have the greatest impact on student drinking is one that gives skills training, personalized feedback, and attitudinal-based interventions. …