Should Sex and Drug Education Be Taught Online?

By Valerie Tejeda 04/11/13

New studies find more "sensitive" subjects may be more effectively taught online.

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In the past, there has been mixed evidence as to the effectiveness of online education. But a number of studies now suggest that virtual tools may actually more effective than classrooms when it comes to more "sensitive" topics of sex, health, drugs, and alcohol. Computer-based education can "take the pressure off" of teachers, as well as making students more comfortable asking questions. “A lot of teachers are just not comfortable teaching these subjects,” says Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who coauthored one of the studies, "[but] we’re seeing significant and large effects on attitudes, knowledge, and also behaviors" from online courses on "non-traditional" subjects.  Many independent studies continue to confirm the effectiveness of alcohol awareness courses online in the US, and some colleges even require these courses as a part of freshman orientation. However, one of the downsides of online education is the cost, and many schools lack the funding to support the hardware and software needed. Also, online courses are found to be more effective when they are supervised by teachers in the classroom, than when students are left to their own devices. Regardless, experts say the overall results are positive, and many hope to see online courses expand to cover a wider variety of subjects. “We see such a need for these ‘everything else’ areas outside the core curriculum,” says Davidson, “New mandates are coming down at the state level, and schools are having trouble getting their arms around them. This is a model that we're following with the development of all our courses: develop, test, redevelop.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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