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Online education: A tool among many to promote campus health
The first-year student at UW-Madison has a lot ahead of them: their first “Jump Around” at Camp Randall, their first Babcock ice cream cone at the Memorial Union Terrace, and their first nap on Bascom Hill.
But also ahead of them are potential challenges, and difficult decisions they may have never made before. These situations have potential to significantly alter the positive aspects of the college experience. Preparation for these moments is important.
Prevention staff at University Health Services (UHS) understand the challenges that face first-year students, and use online programming, in addition to other educational tools, to teach students how to respond to difficult situations, including high-risk drinking, sexual assault and dating violence, and mental health crises.
AlcoholEdu is one such example of this programming. The two-part online training program is designed to teach incoming and new transfer students how to make educated and healthy choices about alcohol use. Jenny Rabas, an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Prevention Coordinator at UHS, says of AlcoholEdu, “We want to give all students tools to make better decisions.”
With similar goals to improve campus health and safety, the Tonight program equips first-year students with knowledge about sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. “Online education is a great platform because we reach all new students right away,” says Molly Zemke, a UHS Violence Prevention Specialist. “Even before getting to campus, students have expectations of what behavior is appropriate.” A similar online program was developed this year for graduate students.
At-Risk, an online education program developed by Kognito, educates students about their role in suicide prevention. The interactive modules allow participants to practice how to recognize a student in distress, respond appropriately, and refer them to the correct resources. While At-Risk is not required like Tonight and AlcoholEdu, all students are encouraged to participate in the half-hour program. “Online tools are an easy way to get students to think about this issue,” says Megan Crass, a UHS Suicide Prevention Assistant. “It allows them to work at their own pace, and it is easily accessible.”
Online prevention programming makes large-scale, accessible, and consistent education a reality on the UW-Madison campus, but it’s not the only way students learn to take on these issues. “Online education gives all students a baseline knowledge and skills,” says Rabas. “We build upon that during their time here.” One such example is Badgers Step Up!, an in-person, student-led bystander intervention and alcohol education program designed to reduce high-risk drinking.
Zemke concurs. “In person interaction can build on knowledge and go a little deeper.” In fact, UW-Madison added an in-person violence prevention workshop requirement to encourage students to discuss and apply what they learned in the Tonight program. “Adding interaction and conversation to online education allows students to expand on their individual knowledge.”
UHS invests in online programming because of the potential students have to improve campus health, safety, and culture. “We really value what peers can do to support students in healthy way,” says Crass. Online prevention programming is one tool of many designed to prepare students for some of college’s more difficult moments, so they can enjoy the simple ones.
Written by Gina Nerone, a UHS Web and Communications Assistant