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A cyclist passes as students travel between classes on the UTC campus.

FAST FACT


In the 2009-10 academic year, 36 percent of first-year students at the nation's four-year institutions completed the Alcohol Edu course.

Source: www.outsidetheclassroom.com

Yeah, it seems kind of silly. The actors are a bit cheesy. And some scenarios seem far-fetched.

But UTC students say they're still walking away more informed after a new mandatory course about alcohol use and abuse.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga implemented Alcohol Edu this summer, requiring all incoming freshmen to take the two-part online class. The class asks about individual students' behaviors while providing legal and scientific information on alcohol consumption.

So far, about 90 percent of this year's freshman class of about 2,200 has completed part one of Alcohol Edu, said Tricia Henderson, UTC's coordinator of alcohol, drug and mental health education. Students were supposed to complete one part before the first day of classes and will have to finish another session mid-semester, she said.

Together, the two pieces take two to three hours to complete.

The mandatory class is funded from student health fees, she said. UTC will pay Outside the Classroom, the company that administers the course, $94,000 over four years.

Officials say the class wasn't brought to Chattanooga in response to any particular alcohol problem, but rather as a preventive measure. Henderson said officials implemented the class for prevention and to help inform students about all the consequences of drinking.

"It allows us to reach more students than just I could as an individual staff person," she said.

Several students said the class was unimpressive, yet still helpful.

Freshman Kaci Ailey, of Spring City, Tenn., said the online videos seemed somewhat childish and unrealistic, such as a scene depicting an intoxicated woman drinking in a dorm room. The narrator says the girl, who is running into others and falling down, was taking shots all night.

"Nobody acts like that," Ailey said. "I really didn't feel like I was going to college after I watched them."

But she said the class material was still "really something people needed to know."

Freshman Haley Stewart, of Chattanooga, said the course was repetitive. But she said some things online were helpful, such as information on how to take care of others who have had too much to drink.

"This is the time when you're really faced with that stuff," she said.

UTC officials were impressed by the popularity and reported success of Alcohol Edu at other schools, Henderson said. Outside the Classroom reports the course is used by about 500 colleges and universities across the nation.

A federally funded study released in August showed that Alcohol Edu had positive, if short-term, effects on college freshmen who took the course at 30 universities studied.

Henderson said UTC doesn't have a huge problem with binge drinking and that most students make good choices about alcohol. But she said all students could learn from the course.

"It doesn't always take binge drinking to impact their college success," she said. "If they're drinking on weekends and missing class on Monday mornings, there's an impact there."

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