Sex education classes are usually thought of in the realm of uncomfortable lessons in high school health classes, but one university is offering an online course for first-year students, which the school says is the first of its kind in higher education.
Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., will launch its “Introduction to Reproduction” online class on September 28.
“Most students entering college don’t have a good understanding of their own reproductive or sexual health,” Teresa Woodruff, vice chair for research in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who created the class, said in a news release. “Having sex is not the same thing as knowing how it all works. And most students have issues beyond sex, like changing menstrual cycle lengths and questions about exercise and testosterone levels. They need to know because it impacts their health. This class fills a huge gap.”
College marks a time when sexual education is intimately important in students’ lives, Woodruff said. For example, alcohol can have a profound effect on erectile dysfunction, which can be perplexing to a young man if he is not aware of the cause. A woman’s menstrual cycle is likely to change from a regular 28 days when they were at home to 14 to 40 days when they move to college. This change affects fertility, as well as when they have pain associated with their cycle—all crucial information, Woodruff noted.
One in four college students has an sexually transmitted disease (STD) and lack of knowledge contributes to this rate, as well as unexpected pregnancies.
Northwestern’s virtual class will consist of a series of short videos educating students on topics such as sexual violence, signs of prostate cancer, and the rise and fall of hormones.
In the U.S., 22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education.