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Topic: Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot
Posted: Oct 29, 2012 3:31 PM
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From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Thursday, October 18, 2012.
Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot, Citing a Decades-Old Law

By Katherine Mangan

Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but
if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off
or head for the border.

The state's Office of Higher Education has informed the popular
provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, that Coursera is
unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate
there. It's unclear how the law could be enforced when the content is
freely available on the Web, but Coursera updated its Terms of
Service to include the following caution:

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.

Tricia Grimes, a policy analyst for the state's Office of Higher
Education, said letters had been sent to all postsecondary
institutions known to be offering courses in Minnesota. She said she
did not know specifically whether letters had been sent to other MOOC
providers like edX and Udacity, and officials there did not
immediately respond to questions from The Chronicle.

But Ms. Grimes said the law the letters refer to isn't new. "This has
been a longtime requirement in Minnesota (at least 20 years) and
applies to online and brick-and-mortar postsecondary institutions
that offer instruction to Minnesota residents as part of our overall
responsibility to provide consumer protection for students," she
wrote in an e-mail.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, said she was surprised to
receive the letter from Minnesota in July. "The law's focus is on
degree-granting programs as opposed to free, open courseware," she
said in an interview on Wednesday. "It's not clear why they extended
it to us."

Ms. Koller, who is on leave from her position as a professor of
computer science at Stanford, said she wasn't aware of any other
states with similar restrictions. "We're providing tremendous,
high-quality education for free to students around the country," she
said. Most of the enrolled students, many of whom are in high school
or brushing up on professional credentials, wouldn't be signing up
for traditional degree courses, so Coursera shouldn't pose any threat
to them, she added.

Referring to Coursera's caution that Minnesotans who do enroll study
outside the state, Robert Talbert, an associate professor of
mathematics at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan, had a

Writing in his blog on The Chronicle's Web site, he said he sees "a
strong potential for a cottage industry: Set up a chain of coffee
shops with free Internet access and on-site tutors just across
Minnesota's borders for Minnesotans to cross over and take their

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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