Ryan Chartrand

Health and Counseling Services and the vice president of Student Affairs office joined forces to do a trial run of an alcohol outreach program for this past fall’s incoming freshmen.

Before moving into the residence halls, 700 randomly selected freshmen were requested to complete an online informational program that tested their knowledge of alcohol. Three different tests were used to determine which would work most efficiently for the program. The tests varied in length and slightly in content.

“A number of campuses across the country require freshmen to take a course like this,” said Martin Bragg, director of Health and Counseling Services.

In 2005, the University of California, Berkeley, started requiring all of its new students, not just freshmen, to take an online course called AlcoholEdu for College.

The AlcoholEdu program, one of programs Cal Poly students tried, takes students about two hours to complete the first section and about 10 minutes to complete the second section, according to the UC Berkeley instruction Web site.

Part one of the test includes a pre-survey, a pre-test of the student’s level of alcohol knowledge, an educational course, an exam and a post-survey. Students must score higher than 70 percent on the exam. Part two of the program includes updated information, a video and a final survey.

Mathematics freshman Matt Browning, who lives in the Sierra Madre residence halls, took the shortest of the three tests. Browning said he thought the program was a good idea, but he was skeptical of its effectiveness.

“I’m not sure if it would change much,” he said.

Bragg said they had not yet received all the data to determine which test worked best, but they had found information about what parts of the tutorial programs were most helpful to students and which form of the test was best received.

“There was a substantial difference in completion rate,” he said. “I think the biggest complaint students had was how long it was.”

The test most completed was, of course, the shortest of the three, Bragg said. “Now we have some idea about what the students like.”

Bragg said the program was most informative for students in three areas: affects of alcohol on the body, particularly on the brain; alcohol metabolism and the difference in metabolism between men and women; and how to help a person who is intoxicated.

Of the freshmen who completed the test, another random sample was taken and students were put into “focus groups” to talk about their reaction to the program and what information they found valuable. The focus groups, facilitated by students, have met over the past few weeks.

Bragg said he was unsure about the future of the program and that they were still considering coming up with their own program that would be more specific to Cal Poly.

“We have to look at the rest of that data and see if it’s worthwhile,” he said. “Whether it will be a purchased product or one of our own, that remains to be seen.”

“I think it’s a good idea, but I didn’t learn very much,” said Liz Maurer, a wine and viticulture freshman. Maurer also took the shortest test and was informed about the program by e-mail.

Cornel Morton, vice president of Student Affairs, said the students responded differently to each test and confirmed they were thinking of creating a specific Cal Poly program.

“That option is still on the table,” he said.

Morton said educating “students on responsible use of alcohol and responsible behavior” is his first priority.

“I would like to see it be offered to every student,” he said.

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