Northwestern University Offers Sex Ed 101 MOOC on Coursera


Starting today, Northwestern University is offering a sex education class available through Coursera and taught by Teresa Woodruff, with Sex 101 teaching about contraception, STDs and human biology. The professor believes middle and high school sex education is insufficient and that appropriate sexual health knowledge is crucial for first-year college students.

The online course teaches about Reproductive Anatomy & Hormones, Menstrual Cycle, Oocyte Maturation and Sperm Activation, Sexual Biology, Fertilization, and Contraception, and finally Reproductive Health and Disorders through videos less than five minutes long. The class aims to educate students and as such prevent accidents, diseases and unintended pregnancies.

“Having sex is not the same thing as knowing how it all works,” Woodruff said. “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.”

The “Introduction to Reproduction” course is available to anyone through Coursera. Users can register as premium members and earn a certificate upon completion of the course. Woodruff said the class will be beneficial for freshmen as it will answer many questions and debunk myths on reproductive health. She explains about the course’s importance:

“This is everything first-year students need to know about sex and reproduction, and didn’t know to ask.”

She added how the program is a complete body of knowledge on Sex Ed:

“Reproduction is one of those things where we don’t assemble the definitions, the fundamental science and the health outcomes in one place that is easily accessible to the public.”

The course will offer knowledge on sexual violence and consent, discuss prostate cancer signs and explain how alcohol causes erectile dysfunction and why menstrual cycle fluctuations are possible for women after they arrive on campus.

Recent surveys reveal that one in five women experience unwanted sexual contact throughout their college lives. A Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed how easy it is to misinterpret body language and behavior, showing that four in 10 students believe nodding in agreement establishes consent. Another four in the same poll said it does not.

Through the online class, male and female students will learn their own and the opposites sex’s reproductive biology and also learn about oncofertility.

The program is available with English subtitles and requires about 1 to 3 hours per week. Previously, Northwestern University cancelled a Human Sexuality course due to a controversial live demonstration.

With the Coursera initiative, Northwestern focused on developing a course that addresses reproduction and sex ed “in a comfortable and interactive format that will lead to a better understanding of holistic health, long-term.”