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Student Digital Experience


My primary populations of interest are individuals in recovery from substance use disorder and individuals who identify with a disability; both specifically related to college students. For this blog post I will focus on the digital experiences of recovery from substance use disorder.

Academic research specifically on the digital experiences of ‘college students in recovery’ or related to ‘substance use in college’ is lacking. The few research articles in existence focus on things such as web-based interventions of substance use (see Andraka-Christou, Alex & Lyneé Madeira, 2019). A notable finding of this study is that students preferred short videos with narration that were realistic and relatable, used jargon similar to theirs, and informed them of the impact a substance use disorder (SUD) had on their academic career. Broadening my search to include the digital experiences of individual in recovery, I found research that explored the use of technology in addiction management such as web-based self-help interventions, mediated therapy, and internet operated therapeutic systems (Bandawar, Narasimha, & Chand, 2018). A notable finding from this study described how the Mental Health Gap action programme (mhGAP) of the WHO successfully used “social media such as personal blogs or twitter or participation in support groups via chat, audio, or webcam communication channels” for supporting recovery by “bridg[ing] the gap between a tertiary academic medical centre and a community health centre or general health practitioner.”

Challenges and Opportunities

Naslund et al. (2016) explored how individuals with serious mental illness, including substance use disorder, used smart phones and found that technology use was comparable to the general population, though smartphone ownership was lower. Additionally, Bandawar et al. (2018) identified smartphones as frontrunners in digital interventions for recovery but noted the “potential hindrances such as digital trust and transparency, cost and accessibility, interoperability and handling big data to produce best practices, that need to be addressed.” It appears connecting individuals diagnosed with a SUD to digital resources is the most challenging.

Curran and Ribble (2017) define digital citizenship as “a comprehensive look at how individuals actively solve problems and participate in online platforms, communities, and networks” (p. 36). The P-20 Digital Citizenship Curriculum emphasizes “respect, education, and protection throughout the educational career of a student, in order to address the needs of being a digital citizen who is socially responsible, participatory in nature, and justice oriented” (p. 36). Within the element of respect is digital access; the “ability to interact with others in a users’ world through a variety of digital and networking tools” (p. 37).

False assumptions

Based on the above academic research, I argue that accessibility, use, and trust are false assumptions that surround this populations use of technology. I also argue that digital competency is lacking for many people attempting to facilitate recovery resources. For example, FSU is developing a Collegiate Recovery Program (DeRigne, Burki, & Stoddard-Dare, 2016) and has experienced difficulty in identifying students to become members. The website is not easy to find, there is no Facebook group, no other social media platforms, and has not proactively attempted to support the recovery community in other ways during the campus shut down. In prior conversations with the Recovery Task Force, these are due to “political red tape” and university control of advertising platforms, but it also has to do with out-group dispositions (trust and transparency) which deter association.


Anyone in recovery, especially students, can sign up for the Associate for Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) emailing list. Since the global pandemic, COVID19, has closed many campuses, members of this organization have quickly responded by opening their campus recovery meetings to anyone registered with the ARHE. Weekly zoom links to webinars, meetings, and roundtables are included in the email. Some resources are listed below:

Effective Practices

When integrating any type of technology in an educational setting with this user, it is important to discuss anonymity and protection. As identified in prior sections, trust and transparency are important to this demographic, especially as it relates to academic standing. It is also important to educate on healthy use and life integration.


Andraka-Christou, B., Alex, B., & Lyneé Madeira, J. (2019). College Student Preferences for Substance Use Disorder Educational Videos: A Qualitative Study. Substance Use & Misuse, 54(8), 1400–1407. to an external site.

Bandawar, M., Narasimha, V. L., & Chand, P. (2018). Use of digital technology in addiction disorders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), S534. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

CHAW: Collegiate Recovery Community. Florida State University. Retrieved from to an external site.

Curran, M., F.X. & Ribble, M. (2017). P-20 Model of Digital Citizenship. In J. Ahlquist & L. Endersby (Eds.), Going Digital in Student Leadership (New Directions for Student Services, No. 153, pp. 35-46). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

DeRigne, L. A., Burki, A., & Stoddard-Dare, P. (2016). Academic Disruption and Substance Use Disorders: University-Based Treatment Facilities. Health & Social Work, 41(3), 201–204. (Links to an external site.)

Naslund, J. A., Aschbrenner, K. A., & Bartels, S. J. (2016). How people with serious mental illness use smartphones, mobile apps, and social media. Psychiatric rehabilitation journal, 39(4), 364.

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