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Gained in Translation: Moving Higher Ed Sexuality Education Methods Online

Eli R. Green, Amelia M. Hamarman, and Ryan W. McKee, “Online Sexuality Education Pedagogy: Translating Five In-Person Teaching Methods to Online Learning Environments,” Sex Education (August 2014)

Building on their previous work addressing basic effective practices for online sexuality education in colleges and universities,[1] the authors provide examples of teaching methods that can be translated from the traditional classroom environment to distance-learning platforms.  

Key Findings:

  • While available evidence is still limited, data do exist to show that attitude change in learners in college-level sexuality education is achievable through appropriately-applied online teaching methods.
  • Brainstorming, forced choice, demonstration, film/video, and role play each can be translated for use in an online learning environment.
  • Instructors should expect to take a trial-and-error approach to refine their traditional classroom-based sexuality education practices in an asynchronous online course context.


The authors have described possibilities for university-level sexuality education teaching methods within a context of overall change in professional teaching practices, as a growing number of institutions of higher education offer online courses across all subjects.

“Attempts to directly translate the more complex and structured in-person learning activities into online courses are less likely to be successful than those that are implemented with carefully considered modifications.”[2] This caveat from the authors is based on their direct experience with designing and delivering online courses after years of experience teaching and training in traditional in-person settings. Successful sexuality education typically depends on the ability of instructors to adapt existing lessons and materials to best meet the unique needs of each community of learners. This is true for all ages and grade levels.

High-quality sexuality education provides opportunities for learning in the affective domain (feelings, values, beliefs) in addition to the cognitive (facts) and psycho-motor (skills, behavior) domains. Some sexuality education professionals are skeptical that online education can address the affective component of learning, and dismiss its potential. The authors demonstrate that several pedagogical methods long invoked to stimulate affective learning can indeed be adapted to the online environment. For example, the classic “brainstorm” in a real-time classroom involves all learners’ first calling-out (or posting) ideas before moving on to analyze the pros and cons of those ideas. When used for on-line learning, the brainstorming process should be modified by the instructor so that all ideas are expressed within a defined time frame (or in a defined visual space) before learners can move on to analysis and group discussion (to be conducted in its own unique, defined time frame or visual space).

While this article focuses on teaching strategies for higher education, sexuality educators in other settings will find useful guidance here as they consider the potential for online sexuality education in K-12 school-, community-, and faith-based settings. Trainers of professionals will also find this information valuable for the refinement of their training practices when contemplating online approaches to their craft.  

[1] McKee RW, Green ER, Hamarman AM (2012). Foundational best practices for online sexuality education. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 7:4, 378-403, accessed August 19, 2014 at

[2] Green ER, Hamarman AM, McKee RW (2014). Online sexuality education pedagogy: Translating five in-person teaching methods to online learning environments. Sex Education, accessed August 19, 2014 at