College Prevention: A View of Present (and Future) Web-Based Approaches

By Walters, Scott T.; Neighbors, Clayton | Alcohol Research, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

College Prevention: A View of Present (and Future) Web-Based Approaches


Walters, Scott T., Neighbors, Clayton, Alcohol Research


College campuses in the United States may be the most electronically "wired" environments on earth. College students use the Internet not only to write term papers and receive correspondence but also to report (and keep track of) friends' personal status, download music, view classroom lectures, and receive emergency messages. In fact, college students spend considerably more time online than the average person. In a recent survey of U.S. college students (Jones et al. 2009), nearly all respondents (94 percent) stated that they spent at least 1 hour on the Internet each day, with the main tasks including social communication, entertainment, and class work. In keeping with this trend, Web-based programs that address alcohol consumption among college students have become widely available in the United States. This sidebar provides an overview of currently available programs as well as of the advantages and disadvantages of this approach and the future outlook of Web-based programs.

Overview

Web-based programs that address alcohol consumption among college students now are widely used on U.S. college campuses. Alcohol 101-plus, AlcoholEdu, Alcohol-Wise, and e-CHECKUP TO GO are among the most popular Web-based alcohol prevention programs in the United States (see the table for a list of Web sites linking to these and other programs.) Alcohol 101-plus, a free program created by the Century Council, has distributed starter kits to over 2,500 U.S. universities. AlcoholEdu is a commercially available program distributed by the for-profit company Outside the Classroom and is self-described as being used on hundreds of campuses and by 36 percent of all first-year students at America's 4-year higher-education institutions. e-CHECKUP TO GO is commercially available from the nonprofit San Diego State University (SDSU) Research Foundation. The program's Web site notes that it is used internationally on over 550 campuses. Other programs, such as web-BASICS, currently are under evaluation and have been limited to distribution at only a few campuses.

At least two companies (i.e., Outside the Classroom and Third Millennium Classrooms) offer different versions of their programs for primary and secondary prevention. For instance, Third Millennium Classrooms markets programs for primary prevention (e.g., all incoming freshmen), secondary prevention (e.g., fraternities and sororities), and disciplinary referrals. Although the most widely available Web-based programs are focused on alcohol, at least two programs deliver marijuana-specific content, including the Marijuana e-CHECKUP TO GO (SDSU Research Foundation) and Marijuana 101 (Third Millennium Classrooms).

Program content, format, and length vary considerably, but most programs include at least some content derived from empirically supported interventions, such as normative drinking feedback or expectancy challenge (Carey et al. 2009; Moreira et al. 2009). Programs also usually provide tools for calculating blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) and information regarding effects at different BAC levels. Finally, programs often include information regarding family history, short-term risks, and tolerance.

Web-based programs are used in different contexts. For example, students may be asked to complete a Web-based program as part of new-student orientation, as a class requirement (e.g., for health and wellness classes), or to fulfill an organizational requirement (e.g., fraternity and sorority alcohol education). Other students may be required to complete a Web-based program as a sanction for violating campus alcohol policy.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are clear advantages and disadvantages to Web-based programs compared with traditional face-to-face programs (Cunningham 2009). For example, Web-based programs are easier to implement and disseminate than in-person approaches. They also may be cost-effective to colleges because they do not require staff training, scheduling, or allocation of interview space and time. …

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