Student Life | Jan. 12

Pilot SHARE course aims to educate eating club members through avatar games

Eating club members now have the opportunity to complete “Agent of Change,” a pilot online Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education course on power-based personal violence.

The course was designed to build on the knowledge gained through the course “Unless There’s Consent,” a new program required for all members of the Class of 2017 prior to their arrival on campus. While “Unless There’s Consent” was intended to lay an informational foundation for incoming freshmen prior to orientation week, “Agent of Change” is more interactive, providing education on bystander intervention skills, SHARE director Jacqueline Deitch-Stackhouse said.

The hour-long course touches on sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence and degrading language, Jackie Cremos ’14, a SHARE Peer Advisor and member of Quadrangle Club, explained. It consists of a pre-test followed by 10 levels of an avatar-based “game” that takes students through several conversations and scenarios involving eight recurring characters.

Both the pre-test and the identical post-test give students various statements and ask them to indicate how much they agree or disagree. Deitch-Stackhouse noted that these “agree or disagree” questions allow students to see how their peers have answered. She described this feature as a “social-norming component” that encourages students to act on their inner values.

“What’s nice about the social-norming component,” she said, “is that you’re empowering people to act on how they already feel.” She added that this sets “Agent of Change” apart from many other programs, which are designed to get students to change their attitudes instead of reaffirm them.

Those who have already taken the course provided mixed feedback.

Andrew Frazier ’15, president of Cloister Inn, said that the program’s interactive nature ensured that people would actually process the information presented in each scene, rather than just tune it out. However, he added that he thought the course was occasionally slow-moving and that its 60-minute time was rather lengthy.

Cremos said that some of the dialogue was preachy and could sometimes have been more nuanced. However, she added that she thought the program gave a good, non-textbook way of talking to people about personal violence. In most of the situations presented, there were some responses she could imagine saying in real life, she said.

“It was definitely great that the game tried to teach people to talk about these issues, not just educate the average student about issues of power-based personal violence,” Cremos said.

SHARE will wait to see how this pilot program goes before using “Agent of Change” again in the future or deciding whether to aim it at the junior class or the eating club population, Deitch-Stackhouse noted. SHARE developed the program with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Sexual Misconduct Preventions, Policies, Programs committee with funding from the Isabella McCosh Infirmary.

While the deadline to complete the course was originally Dec. 31, 2013, Deitch-Stackhouse explained that the deadline is now being extended to ensure that all those who want to take the training have the opportunity to do so.

“We are trying to put forward programming that is valuable to our student body,” she said, “and we want to be as far-reaching as possible.”

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