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Online courses aim to educate UMD students about alcohol, sexual assault and more

New freshmen and transfer students must complete each module before the school year starts, while all students must complete sexual assault prevention training.

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A sample page from EverFi's AlcoholEdu online course, which new freshmen and transfer students are required to complete before the fall semester begins. (Image courtesy EverFi Inc.)

With the start of the fall semester fast approaching, a fair number of students at the University of Minnesota Duluth will be living on their own for the very first time.

And away from home, they’ll be making their own decisions.

With a goal of educating students about alcohol use, sexual assault prevention and financial literacy, UMD requires that students complete a group of online courses before the fall semester begins.

For at least the past five years, UMD has mandated three courses, which run from about 45 minutes to several hours. Two of them — AlcoholEdu , about alcohol and substance use, and Transit , about financial education — are required for new freshmen and new transfer students.

Students were required to complete the courses for the new school year by Aug. 19.

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Meanwhile, Minnesota state law says all students must complete training on sexual assault prevention no later than 10 days into their first semester.

UMD goes a step farther, requiring all students, regardless of year, to complete such training . Employees also undergo similar training.

Washington, D.C.-based EverFi Inc. provides the courses. The company provides a range of online training for college students, as well as high school courses and workplace training.

While many incoming freshmen might have experiences with alcohol or drugs before arriving on campus, the education is designed to help students make good choices now, said Lisa Erwin, UMD’s vice chancellor for student life.

“I think the decision point is really around being on their own, and how they're going to make choices,” she said.

According to UMD’s website, AlcoholEdu training is tailored to and personalized for each student regardless of his or her level of familiarity with alcohol or drugs.

“Whether or not your student drinks alcohol, AlcoholEdu (will) empower your student to make well-informed decisions about alcohol and help them better cope with the drinking behavior of peers,” the website says.

The course uses evidence-based methods toward prevention, according EverFi’s description.

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Students take a pre-test before completing the course module, and then six weeks later, they take a follow-up test, Erwin said.

“So, we're able to look at the learning that happened and whether (students) think the course is going to be helpful to them,” she said. “And it's been overwhelmingly positive.”

The sexual assault prevention training course examines areas from relationships and values to gender identities and stereotypes to consent and coercion. The course also helps students learn how and have the confidence to intervene when they see something that doesn’t look right to them, Erwin said.

“It's really that ‘bystander intervention training,’ which is one of the most positive and powerful methodologies for preventing sexual misconduct,” she said.

“So, you and I are at a party, and I see that maybe you've had a lot to drink. I see that you may be in somewhat of a vulnerable position with another human being. I'm going to lean in and say, ‘Hey, can I give you a ride home?’ It’s teaching that.”

Finally, the Transit module helps educate students about financial decisions both in school and after graduation.

The course has a particular focus on student loan debt and decisions about borrowing.

“Financial concerns and student loan debt are jeopardizing college completion, the quality of learning outcomes, and alumni satisfaction for today’s students,” EverFi’s website says, noting that 79 percent of college students worry about their debt and its negative impact on success.

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“This is, oftentimes, the first opportunity a student has to manage their own finances,” Erwin said. “So, (this is) about managing their money while in college and how to do that effectively.”

Adelie (Her name rhymes with "Natalie") is a former News Tribune reporter who continues to write the Northlandia column on a freelance basis. She's also an artist, photographer and fine-art model. She's a girl of the North with a love for Scandinavia, the Northern Lights, quirky films and anything mid-century.
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