This fall, Temple University decided to purchase Think About It, an online, web-based Alcohol, Drug and Other Violence educational program designed to reach all incoming freshmen, as well as transfer students.
Think About It was first created by Dr. Peter Novak, vice provost at the University of San Francisco in 2009. The program was first tested using a group of freshmen at the University of San Francisco and was quickly discovered to be a non-judgmental way to address some of the most pressing issues affecting first-year college students, such as sexual assault, underage drinking and unhealthy relationships.
According to rape prevention nonprofit One In Four, research shows that one-in-four female students will experience a sexual assault during their college experience.
In addition, many students die each year from alcohol-related injuries. Research suggests that this is directly related to the increase in rates of binge drinking among high school students. According to a report published by Reuters in 2012, one-in-five high school seniors report excessive binge drinking, characterized as ingesting 10 or more standard alcoholic drinks in one sitting by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This suggests to professionals working in a higher education setting that newly enrolled freshmen are entering college having already been exposed to high rates of excessive binge drinking long before their first year of college.
In response, Temple decided to implement Think About It this fall. This program not only educates students, but also prepares them for new experiences using an interactive, scenario-based educational program. The theory behind this program is derived from social and behavioral health research surrounding social norming.
The “flashy hypothetical situations” are what we at the Wellness Resource Center, as well as other social and behavioral researchers call, “social norming.” Social norming is based on the idea that students are encouraged to model the behaviors in which they believe the majority of other students engage.
Many students enter college with an exaggerated idea of other students’ behaviors. Social norming helps to correct these misperceptions about high-risk behaviors, allowing students to feel “normal” engaging in lower-risk behaviors. In short, many students may engage in binge drinking based on their perception that all students binge drink, while in reality most students do not. This encourages students who decide to drink alcohol to drink in a responsible way.
We agree with the comments published in The Temple News last week that thinking about these issues isn’t enough. Temple University’s goal is to ensure that all of its students are afforded the opportunity to have a safe and successful academic experience. So when we see that within the first three weeks of the current academic year, 190 alcohol-related arrests or citations have occurred, compared to only 12 during the same timeframe last year, we recognize that Temple is successfully enforcing its alcohol policy.
Under the tutelage of Think About It, it is our hope and expectation that this online course will continue to raise awareness and create a culture of wellness at Temple University.
The Wellness Resource Center would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the freshmen class who completed Think About It. As of Aug. 26, 5,800 students were invited to take the required online course. We are elated to report that 3,844 students, 66.3 percent of the freshmen class, completed the course.
Many students gave the course a four-out-of-five user rating in regards to content and ease of use. We were immediately able to tell who completed the course, as well as how far they were into the course, so that personalized notifications could be sent to students encouraging them to complete the program.
As an incentive, Temple students were given the opportunity to earn Diamond Dollars in the amount of $100 to encourage students to complete the course. In order to move through the course, students would need to complete each scenario, read the content and then answer the questions correctly before being awarded the necessary points needed to earn badges like the “Drug Lord Badge.” If a student was unable to answer the questions correctly, he or she was automatically required to repeat the section until he or she was proficient in the content matter.
More information about our prevention and education programming and efforts can be found on the Wellness Resource Center’s website, by contacting our office or by stopping in for a visit. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue this dialogue.
Diedre Berry-Guy and Kate Schaffer, Program Coordinators, Temple University Wellness Resource Center. This article is in response to Joe Brandt’s article “‘Thinking About It’ isn’t enough,” published Sept. 17.