Lifestyle & Belief

Coursera, free online education company, banned in Minnesota


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Alex Wong

Minnesota has banned the free online education service Coursera from providing courses to its residents because the universities the company partners with have not obtained permission to operate in the state, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Coursera offers free online classes from top universities, including Stanford, Cal Tech, Princeton and the University of Michigan. The courses, which range from ‘Introduction to Finance’ and ‘Game Theory’ to ‘The Ancient Greeks’ and ‘Songwriting,’ are open to all and do not lead to any degree.

According to Slate, Minnesota law requires degree-granting institutions to obtain permission from its Office of Higher Education and pay a registration fee of up to a few thousand dollars plus $1,200 annually in order to teach in the state.

“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,” Tricia Grimes, a policy analyst for the state’s Office of Higher Education, told the Chronicle.

Following the notification, Coursera added the following to its Terms of Service, according to the Chronicle:

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.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, told the Chronicle that Minnesota’s notification struck the company as strange. “The law’s focus is on degree-granting programs as opposed to free, open courseware,” she said, according to the Chronicle. “It’s not clear why they extended it to us.”

George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told Slate that he was surprised that Coursera responded with the terms-of-service change rather than coordinating with the state to help register its university partners.

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