For all you fans of online education—specifically Coursera—be happy you don’t live in Minnesota. The state’s Office of Higher Education told the company they’re unwelcome in the prairie land, because they never received permission to be there, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Looks like if you want to log in to Coursera, you need to leave the state.
Yet, the problem isn’t with Coursera per se, it’s with the universities partnering with the platform, such as Berklee, Brown, Duke and Stanford. Minnesota law prohibits degree-granting institutions from offering instruction without getting proper permission and paying a registration fee, according to Slate.
Shame on the schools offering a free education to Minnesota residents. How dare they!
A policy analyst for Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education told The Chronicle they were trying to provide “consumer protection” for students. If the consumers don’t need to pay anything, though, what does Minnesota need to save them from? All they want is a little knowledge for free. More annoying: Coursera doesn’t even offer degrees.
When asked whether other online education platforms, like our locally beloved edX, would be affected, the analyst couldn’t say. As The Chronicle points out, “It’s unclear how the law could be enforced when the content is freely available on the Web.” Coursera has made clear in their Terms of Service, though:
If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.
Tyler and I wish to be perfectly clear: unlike Coursera, we will not shut down MRU to the residents of Minnesota. We are prepared to defend our rights under the First Amendment to teach the good people of Minnesota all about the Solow Model, water policy in Africa, and the economics of garlic–even if we have to do so from a Minnesota jail!
Think of the poor Minnesotans who could miss out on a Berklee, Brown or MIT education. They’re now confined to learn online through Facebook, tweets and the puzzles on Bored.com. Well, until at least until the state can make some money off those free courses.
[UPDATE: The Office of Higher Education has now given their stamp of approval to Coursera, according to the Washington Post. Learn freely, Minnesotans. Learn freely.]