Good News!: The Online Lessons Continue to Help College Students Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy

An unplanned pregnancy can make it more difficult for students to stay in and complete college: 61% of women who have children after enrolling in community college do not finish their education, which is 65% higher than for women who did not have children after enrolling.

At the same time, we have found that not many colleges provide students with information to help their students postpone having children (or additional children) until after they have reached their educational goals. While it’s easy to assume that college students already know everything they need to about how to prevent unplanned pregnancy (I mean, these are adults, right?), it turns out that many young people harbor myths, misinformation, and magical thinking about sex, contraception, and pregnancy that puts them at risk for unplanned pregnancy.

Therefore, The National Campaign published three online lessons, Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy and Completing College. College faculty and staff can use the online lessons in a variety of settings on their campuses. Because the lessons can be completed as a homework assignment, instructors don’t need to become experts in sex and birth control or devote valuable class time to the topic. Also, I should mention that the online lessons are FREE!

The lessons are designed to help students understand the impact an unplanned pregnancy can have on their educational goals, their social lives, their significant relationships, and their finances. Students who participate in the online lessons learn about various birth control methods; select the most appropriate methods for their values, lifestyles, and relationships; and create a plan to decrease their chances of unplanned pregnancy. Most of the information about birth control comes from The National Campaign’s Bedsider website. The lessons take various parts of the site—like the Method Explorer, Where to Get It, and the Guy’s Guide—and put them in an educational frame. Similar to the positive feedback we get about Bedsider, students reported that they enjoyed taking the online lessons and found the information useful. One student said, “I thought this was a big reminder of the things that can possibly come crashing my way and I most definitely need to be smarter about my decisions on sex with my partner.”

I’m so pleased to report that we have now released our second edition of the evaluation of the lessons, and the results are just as positive as they were in the previous report. The evaluation was conducted in four semesters with nearly 3,000 students at four colleges—Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Georgia Perimeter College, Miami Dade College (FL), and Palo Alto College (TX)—and has shown that the lessons continue to be effective at improving students’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intent when it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancy.

After only about 90 minutes of independent, online learning, both male and female students were significantly more likely to believe that a pregnancy would make it more difficult to complete their educational goals, be knowledgeable about birth control, report using a method of birth control in the previous month, and feel comfortable talking to their doctor about birth control. Furthermore, on the post-lessons survey, eight in 10 students agreed or strongly agreed they are more aware of ways to prevent pregnancy as a result of the lessons, and six in 10 students agreed or strongly agreed that the lessons helped them make a decision about birth control. As for gains in knowledge, before taking the online lessons students responded correctly, on average, to 61% of questions; after the lessons, they responded correctly to 85% of questions. For all the great results, you can download the report here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Pregnant Pause post by guest blogger Jessyca Perez, assistant professor of psychology and evaluation project director at Miami Dade College, about her experience using the online lessons.

Finally, if you’re interested in using the online lessons, I would be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out to me at cconnolly@thenc.org or 202.478.8519.

Authored by: Chelsey Connolly

Chelsey Connolly is the Senior Manager of College Initiatives at The National Campaign. She is responsible for fostering relationships with college faculty and administrators and working with them to help students achieve their educational goals by preventing unplanned pregnancy. She also supports the development of materials, such as the online lessons, Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy and Completing College. In December 2012 she co-authored a report published by the American Association of Community Colleges, titled Make It Personal: How Pregnancy Planning and Prevention Help Students Complete College, about its project with the Campaign to incorporate the topic of preventing unplanned pregnancy into academic courses.

Since joining the Campaign in 2007, Chelsey has worked in several departments including State and Local Action, the Latino Initiative, and Public Policy. She also managed a federal grant to give teens information about how to have healthy relationships, through which she helped create the award-winning online games, My Paper Boyfriend and My Paper Girlfriend on StayTeen.org.

Chelsey earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing at Georgia Southern University. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog.

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