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Free Online Courses

The freely accessible courses can be used by anyone anywhere at any time for any purpose. With millions of users in over 100 countries,
this curriculum is the largest e-learning project in the world.

Erwin J. Haeberle
An "Open Access" Curriculum in Sexual Health

So far, these courses have been endorsed by
The American Board of Sexology (ABS), the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists (AACS), the American feminist "New View Campaign", the European Federation of Sexology (EFS), the British journal "Sexual and Relationship Therapy", the Czech Sexological Society, the Bulgarian National Center of Public Health Protection, the Wujiang Family Planning Association, Wujiang, China, the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, and the World Association of Chinese Sexologists (WACS).

Some of the  courses are also available in other languages. Just click on the respective flags:

Espanol

Deutsch

Magyarul

Czech

Chinese Simplified

Chinese Traditional

          Introduction: Purpose and Use of this Curriculum
       1.
Basic Human Sexual Anatomy and Physiology
       2.
Human Reproduction
       3.
Physical Problems in Females and Males
       4.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Their Prevention
       5.
Sexual Dysfunctions and Their Treatment
       6.
Human Sexual Behavior

Copyright (c.) 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Erwin J. Haeberle
 

Introduction: Purpose and Use of this Curriculum

I believe that open access to scientific information is the way of the future in our field. Following repeated recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), I am therefore offering a basic curriculum in sexual health. It is a global project consisting of six independent, but complementary courses that cover the most important practical issues.
These e-learning courses have several advantages:
 

1. They are and will remain freely accessible.

2. They are designed without any technical gimmicks and do not require the installation of special features like JavaScript or Flash. Thus, they can be accessed even on very old and very simple personal computers.

3. The courses do not require any preparation either on the part of the teacher or that of the student. Indeed, they are written in such a way that anyone capable of reading at college level can teach and study them without having any prior knowledge of the subject matter.

4. The courses are easy to use in the classroom. The teacher can simply project the course on a large screen. The whole content can then be taught step by step by simple mouse click.

5. They are also easy to use at home. The students can, by mouse click, proceed step by step at their own pace to the point where they feel ready to take their exams.

Taken together, the courses provide a body of basic knowledge about human sexuality. Students who have acquired this knowledge can appropriately be awarded a certificate or diploma. If amended and expanded by a degree-granting institution, the curriculum can also lead to a B.A. or even an M.A.
Please, note, however: I do not provide answers to the examination questions and cannot offer recognition for passing any of the courses. This is the privilege of institutions with human sexuality programs. At this time, several dozen such programs are being offered around the world. For details, click here. These adademic programs can simply use the courses as they are now, or they can add their own material. They can also use them at the undergraduate or graduate level and award a certificate, diploma, or degree for their successful completion.

"Sexual Health" as an Academic Major or Minor

"Sexual Health" can be studied as a major subject in its own right or as a minor, depending on the the academic institution. Indeed, the WHO has recommended that "human sexuality should be encouraged to develop as an autonomous discipline in the education and training of health professionals" (For details, click here.) As a minor, it can be added to various established curricula in education, psychology, criminal law, law enforcement, sociology, social work, nursing, and public health, to name just a few. In some form, and in some special areas, it can also be a useful addition to the study of medicine.

Continuing Education

Obviously, the courses are also suitable for various forms of continuing education, especially for the additional qualification of marriage and family counselors, clinical psychologists, social workers, health workers, teachers, ministers of various religious denominations etc. The training can take place on a campus or at a training center, or it can be conducted electronically on a national or even international level. Some agencies and organizations have found it useful to put the courses - and even my entire web site - on CDs or DVDs and to distribute these among teachers and students who do not have internet access. This has been especially successful in developing countries.

Distance Education

Colleges, universities, or organizations wanting to use my courses for a distance study program will have to add an interactive element of their own. Naturally, this will require an initial investment on their part. It is an investment, however, that can bring enormous returns. It will certainly prove helpful to students living in countries that lack the necessary academic resources. Once the courses become interactive online, far-away students can apply, register, pay tuition and fees, contact faculty and fellow students, turn in assignments, take examinations, etc. By the same token, any such program that serves many foreign students is bound to profit financially. The courses may be especially useful for the world-wide sexological training of health care professionals and sex educators. This is also one of the reasons why I am offering the courses in several languages. At this time, my web site has over 7000 intensive readers every day (i.e. "visitors" reading longer than 30 minutes). If only 0.1 % of these are possible applicants for a distance education program, one is already talking about 7 candidates daily. Indeed, by attracting large numbers of potential students from all over the world, my free curriculum can produce a considerable income for academic institutions and professional organizations.

The Present Curriculum

The present curriculum is an original work, not a compilation of texts taken from other authors. It is therefore "all of one piece" and internally consistent. In fact, I have not only written the entire text, but have also - together with my designer - created most of the illustrations. In addition, I have used pictures from my own textbook and from my personal historical collection. Some illustrations have been supplied by government agencies; some have been taken from other public sources or have long been in the public domain. A few have been provided by colleagues.
The course structure is quite simple and will quickly reveal itself to every user after the first few mouse clicks. Overall, while concentrating on the basics, the curriculum tries to make its students aware not only of the biological, but also of the psycho-social aspects of human sexuality. The courses therefore paint a larger picture than most textbooks do. Even when anatomical, physiological, or medical issues are under discussion, I try to provide some social, historical, cultural, or ethnological background. Moreover, I have attempted to show that scientific and social progress does not just "happen", but is the collective work of specific individuals who deserve to be remembered. Whenever possible, I have introduced them with portraits and brief biographical notes. Having taught sexology at various American and European universities for over 30 years, I know (or knew) most of the modern pioneers personally, and many became good friends. Some are no longer among the living.

I have also taken great care to describe and explain everything in simple, but precise and objective language and to avoid prejudicial, illogical, misleading, and otherwise inappropriate scientific and professional terms. In this respect, my courses differ from most traditional texts. However, the content as such is not much different and reflects the current consensus in the field. In this sense, the entire curriculum is definitely a "mainstream" project, presenting the facts as they are seen by the vast majority of sexologists today. When covering controversial subjects, I have tried to keep a position of neutrality, presenting both sides of the issue. In short, I have not indulged my own preferences or ridden any personal hobbyhorse. Instead, I have simply tried to provide the information the students are likely to need.
As a matter of principle, I have not referenced well-known facts, familiar quotations and other standard texts that are easily found and verified in the internet with the help of search engines. A pedantic overabundance of footnotes would have needlessly cluttered the screen. Fortunately, my large web site contains a great deal of additional reading material. Thus, many links inside the courses lead directly to books and papers in my online library. This a great advantage in countries and regions that lack adequate academic resources. If students follow all the links and read all items on the lists of additional reading, they will receive a more comprehensive education than they might have expected.

Welcoming Additional Translations

Except for a number of books and papers in my online library, my entire web site is essentially the work of one person myself. Thus, from the beginning, my curriculum in sexual health has also been my private, personal project. I have always paid for it out of my own pocket, although, over the years, some donations have been received and duly acknowledged. The translations have been the work of idealistic colleagues in various countries who share my vision of "open access" to scientific information. I never had the money to pay them. Some have given academic credit to their graduate students for translating larger or smaller sections of the courses. However, as will be noted, some of the translations are lagging far behind. Therefore, this appeal: Anyone who is qualified and interested in offering additional free translations is cordially invited to get in touch with me. I would also welcome donations that would allow me to pay for new translations into other languages or at least for their technical conversion to our format and design. Translations into languages that do not use Latin letters (Russian, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Farsi etc.) cannot be displayed on this web site without first being converted on the respective foreign computers. Such work will have to be paid for, but I simply do not have the necessary funds.

Expanding the Curriculum

Although the present curriculum provides a solid understanding of the basics, it can and should be expanded for a fuller appreciation of human sexuality in all of its facets. For example, it would be very useful to add at least the following courses:

       - Gender: The Psychosocial Roles of Females and Males
       - Sexual Orientation
       - Marriage and the Family
       - Sexual Conformity and Sexual Deviance

I regret that, at this time, I am unable to offer courses on these important topics. In the meantime, I can only refer interested readers to the relevant chapters in my textbook. Another very informative course would be one on the History of Sexology. Again, for the time being, I must refer readers to the respective sections of my web site. I do hope that, at some time in the future, I will find the necessary support for writing these courses as well.

At this point, however, after years of financing my online curriculum myself, I can no longer pay for additions. Anyone who has tried to start and run a project like this discovers sooner or later that it requires a great deal of money. This is money I simply do not have. Very reluctantly, I have therefore come to the conclusion that I cannot put any more courses online unless and until the necessary funds materialize. Unfortunately, so far, my numerous attempts to obtain such funds have not been successful.

Outlook

I believe that, in the long run, it will not be possible to keep scientific information restricted to paying customers. Eventually, all of it will become freely available in the internet and other electronic media. There will be only two obvious exceptions: 1. Research that is classified by governments and 2. research that is undertaken by private companies and kept secret for business reasons. Governments will always try to protect its secrets from foreign spies, just as businesses will try to prevent industrial espionage.
However, scientific research publicly supported, conducted and discussed in universities does not fall into either of these categories. Such research has always been published in print, but the new electronic media are expanding its reach and increasing the speed of its distribution. They are also changing the economic ground rules, because they can make all public research freely accessible to anyone who is interested. Still, so far, few academic institutions seem to have grasped the implications of the electronic revolution. Most of them continue to restrict their information to their own pre-paying students. Yet increasingly these same students can find comparable or even identical information free of charge in the internet, very often in updated form. A similar observation can be made with regard to the publishers of scientific journals. Some of them sense that the economic ground is shifting beneath their feet. Therefore, they insist on owning the copyright to all articles they publish and try to restrict access to subscribers or pre-paying online readers. Quite clearly, this is not in the interest of their authors who receive neither honoraria nor royalties and who would welcome more readers. Indeed, the unpaid authors will eventually come to see this arrangement as an unnecessary obstacle to the free exchange of ideas. Since many of the journals are the official organs of scientific organizations and are largely financed through membership fees, the members will one day realize that they can "cut out the middleman" and reach a much larger readership by publishing freely accessible issues directly online.

I am convinced that, in the end, the remaining resistance to "open access" will prove useless. Indeed, thanks to powerful sponsors, some of the world's best universities (Harvard, MIT) already provide valuable information at no cost to the reader. Similarly, more and more free online journals offer serious, peer-reviewed scientific articles. Given the growing world-wide demand for higher education and its increasing cost, the general trend seems clear: Libraries will not have the money for the purchase of every new book and journal subscription. Neither will electronic journals be able to charge reader's fees. After all, once a text is available in the internet, it is easily copied by "authorized" readers and distributed to "unauthorized" friends and colleagues, and these, in turn, can do the same. Trying to prevent this kind of multiplication will prove to be a futile exercise. This means that, in the future, scientific articles will either be free and online, or they will find no readers and will end up being ignored. For this reason alone, important scientists and scholars will insist on letting their own texts appear in the internet free of charge. By the same token, professors will no longer be able to give standard lectures in overcrowded classrooms when their colleagues in other cities or countries make the same content freely available in the internet (again, Harvard and the MIT are harbingers of things to come). In view of the growing online competition, I also do not see a great future for the traditional textbook. In short: It may take some time, but eventually universities and academic authors will have no choice but to offer free access to all of their research and to look for alternative ways of financing its publication.

These are only some of the changes that the globalization of teaching and learning is likely to bring, but this is not the place to go into greater detail. Here, I just want to say that my entire web site is an attempt to anticipate the inevitable and to hasten its arrival. I also want to demonstrate to those interested in teaching sexual health that there is no need to re-invent the wheel. The above-mentioned WHO Reports contain very clear blueprints for action. They spell out who should learn what from whom and provide detailed outlines for the necessary courses. I have simply been following their lead.
It is now up to those active in this field to take advantage of my offer. Colleges, universities, professional associations, national and international agencies as well as non-governmental organizations they all are invited to make full use of my courses. All I ask in return is some feedback and acknowledgment. If warranted, I would also welcome some expressly stated recognition or official endorsement. This might be helpful in obtaining support for the continuation and expansion of the present project.

March 2007

Erwin J. Haeberle
haeberlee@web.de