It’s been 20 years since AlcoholEdu for College first launched. As Brandon Busteed, currently President, University Partners and Global Head, Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan and founder of Outside the Classroom, which created AlcoholEdu and was acquired by Vector Solutions (formerly Everfi's Campus Prevention Network) in 2011, recounts in Forbes, 10 million college students have taken the training - making it the largest online course on the internet.
"How on earth did a course on alcohol abuse prevention become the largest course on the World Wide Web, you might ask? The answer is a very timely lesson about how to ensure online education is engaging and effective in the age of Covid-19."
When this course first launched, it was only adopted by a handful of campuses as a sanctions program for alcohol policy violators. It wasn’t until Villanova University first launched it as a population-level program that the online prevention industry really began. In 20 years, AlcoholEdu for College has evolved as a strategic pillar for campus alcohol and other drug misuse prevention efforts, reaching roughly one million incoming college students every single year.
High-risk drinking among college students has declined significantly over the past 15 years, while the rate of non-drinkers and abstainers has increased. However, the problems caused by those who do choose to drink in a high-risk way remain a perennial challenge for schools.
Today’s prevention efforts, therefore, must seek to prioritize support for positive behaviors, while also providing critical guidance for how those who choose to drink can mitigate their risk. Historically, the opposite has been true. But today’s students are different. More than in the past, they are basing their drinking decisions on their personal concern for safety and desire to avoid any behavior that has the potential to derail their goals. The latest version of AlcoholEdu is informed by these unique characteristics and values, remaining consistent with a philosophical approach that has been key to the course’s longevity and efficacy.
Also essential to the course’s longevity is the data. The unique size of Vector's dataset for AlcoholEdu powers continued innovation for our individual campuses as well as the field as a whole. Putting powerful data like usage trends, industry benchmarks, or never-before identified insights into the hands of administrators is foundational to long term success. The choice to deploy less widely-utilized, unproven courses can impact a campus’ ability to effectively and efficiently meet legislative requirements, inform strategic plans, and position the prevention of AOD-related problems as central to key institutional priorities. In today’s higher education landscape, it is worth considering a decision’s potential for risk versus reward, especially for our students.
As we head into the ‘20-’21 academic year, we know there will be significant public health challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions that are planning for their students’ return to campus will be enacting new protocols. Those who remain online will be looking for ways to improve the student experience in a virtual environment. Where will alcohol misuse prevention efforts fit in all of this? Nobody has the answers yet, but we do know that there will still be a need for population-level courses like AlcoholEdu to support healthy decision-making as an essential part of ongoing virus containment efforts, regardless of where students are physically located.
For 20 years, more than 1,500 institutions have relied on Vector's flagship course to effectively educate and empower their students, and guide their prevention efforts. This is the result, as Busteed writes, of “being clear in its purpose, true to an important mission and built to last through rigorous and constant refinement.” It is reassurance in a time of uncertainty.