First-Years Share AlcoholEd-UGH

Jaime Coyne

At most colleges and universities, it is practically a rite of passage to be coerced into taking an alcohol education course during the summer prior to freshman year. At Colgate, as at many other schools, this is done in the form of AlcoholEdu. Luckily, this program is slightly less painful than having to scroll through pages of information and then take an exam. The course is interactive, with “videos” that essentially consist of PowerPoint presentations that the voice of your “guide” presides over.

While at first this seemed reasonably bearable, I soon found my mind wandering and my eyes watering in the effort to stay open. I have the impression that I am not alone in feeling this way. In fact, I found a group in the Colgate network on Facebook entitled, ‘I Drink to Get Through AlcoholEdu’. It was always a relief to reach the end of one of these videos.

However, the end of a video only meant once again filling out the survey of how helpful the section was, verbatim from each survey before it, and scrolling down to the dreaded text box which asked so earnestly, what was the most important lesson from this section? I often found at this point that I could not remember what the last section had even pertained to, so I think all my answers fell somewhere along the lines of, “Alcohol is dangerous,” when I even bothered to answer at all.

Probably the most interesting parts of the program were the few times you were asked to calculate how certain amounts and types of drinks affect different people over different periods of time using the BAC Curve, because that was the only truly interactive part of the program. I’m not sure I remember what combinations I tried, never mind what the results were; how helpful making those calculations was remains doubtful in my mind.

As boring as AlcoholEdu was, I think we all see its purpose. The program is an attempt to make college students more informed about the effects and dangers of alcohol, and it is used in the hopes of influencing the choices they make in regards to alcohol. But, in consideration of these goals, I think the program fails most miserably not in interesting students in its content, but in actually assuring their understanding.

By now, we all know that to pass AlcoholEdu, you have to score proficiently on the subsequent exam. This test, however, fails to assess a student’s knowledge about alcohol. Many of the questions ask for exact percentages from statistics mentioned only once in the program, and the memorization of these answers will hardly help further our education. Several other questions ask about the parts of the brain affected by alcohol in specific ways, a topic my AP Biology class barely even delved into. Furthermore, when I failed the exam the first time, I copied over the explanations of the correct answers to the questions I got wrong and changed my answers accordingly. Yet, still, I proceeded to get some of the exact same questions wrong.

If the program were to emphasize more of a general knowledge of the risks and effects of alcohol, and concentrate less on arbitrary facts, I believe students would get more out of it, and probably receive a score that better reflected their comprehension of the subject. I can’t help but see AlcoholEdu as a noble attempt at a failing cause.