Live in Minnesota? No Coursera For You!

From the “You Can’t Make This Crap Up” category:

Laura Gibbs (via Steve Krauss) shared a tidbit about the Coursera Terms of Service, as shown below:

Notice for Minnesota Users

Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. 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.  ;)

Coursera Students - learn legally

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s hilarious. Minnesota OHE went out of their way to contact Coursera to tell them to keep their cotton-pickin’ hands of those Minnesota residents, or so I’m guessing. This, without a doubt, stems from the ongoing melodrama surrounding state authorization for online education – see WCET summary.

Interesting that the Minnesota OHE apparently reached out to Coursera to inform them of the state statute. Also interesting that Coursera seems to have no interest in paying the fee that the MOHE would require to make this “legal.”  Gotta wonder if they have done the same with Udacity, EdX, and the Siemens/Downes/etc Connectivism MOOCs such as the EdFuture MOOC ready to get started on October 8. I’m guessing they haven’t.

Here’s the beginning of the statute:

136A.61 POLICY.

The legislature has found and hereby declares that the availability of legitimate courses and programs leading to academic degrees offered by responsible private not-for-profit and for-profit institutions of postsecondary education and the existence of legitimate private colleges and universities are in the best interests of the people of this state. The legislature has found and declares that the state can provide assistance and protection for  persons choosing private institutions and programs, by establishing policies and procedures to assure the authenticity and legitimacy of private postsecondary education institutions and programs. The legislature has also found and declares that this same policy applies to any private and public postsecondary educational institution located in another state or country which offers or makes available to a Minnesota resident any course, program or educational activity which does not require the leaving of the state for its completion.

This looks like a business opportunity. I live in Wisconsin, but only five minutes away from the Minnesota border. People living in Duluth cannot take these courses unless a majority of the work they do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota. My plan would be to open up a coffee shop in Superior with cheap coffee and free wifi so that all Coursera students can gather together to do their homework. Of course, cheating will be strictly prohibited!!

4 Responses

  1. And one more thing – Minnesota residents should STOP using the Meetup function on the Coursera site. Why advertise a time and location where the authorities can come catch you all at once? http://www.meetup.com/Coursera/Minneapolis-MN/

  2. […] Will Minnesota go after Khan Academy? Hacker spaces and Instructables? Enterprising Barry Dahl suggests opening coffee shops over the border where students might freely learn. I suppose this beats the alternative of going to some […]

  3. So here’s my question, Barry, and I don’t really expect you to know either, since the law has very little to do with common sense. Does Coursera currently count as an “educational institution”? I’ve been reading the definitions section in statute, and I’m just not convinced. OHE’s web site is really focused on degree-granting schools, too, and their list of registered institutions all grant degrees. I don’t understand why they would have sent that letter. Crazy.

  4. Hi Sam. Since the OHE backed off (and it seems that maybe Coursera slightly over-reacted to the letter they received), it appears that all of this is going away. Pretty sure that the flurry of attention they received was not exactly what they were looking for. And no, Coursera is not an educational institution, but the courses do come from real universities, and I guess that was the original source of the issue. Maybe.

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