Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Government The Internet Your Rights Online

Free Online Education Unwelcome In Minnesota 240

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-you-familiar-with-the-internet dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education: "[Minnesota'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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Free Online Education Unwelcome In Minnesota

Comments Filter:
  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:26AM (#41704653)

    I suspect there is a lot more to this story than anyone in the universities or legislature would ever admit publicly.

    But I suspect the real impetus here is that the state legislators don't want anyone coming into their state without having to lobby (aka bribe) them first. Every state university has to come to them once a year with hat-in-hand, and they sure don't want anyone bypassing this system by coming in from out of state without paying their largesse. The patron expects his coin before you do business here, citizen.

    • Or (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:39AM (#41704815)

      But I suspect the real impetus here is that the state legislators don't want anyone coming into their state without having to lobby (aka bribe) them first. Every state university has to come to them once a year with hat-in-hand, and they sure don't want anyone bypassing this system by coming in from out of state without paying their largesse. The patron expects his coin before you do business here, citizen.

      Or they're sick and tired of fake online universities charging their citizens or occupying peoples' time for degrees that aren't worth shit. Total nanny state action but your accusations of bribery are completely without merit or citation. Do you know what accreditation is? Why aren't you accusing accredited universities of paying a local authority?

      • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sqlrob (173498) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:40AM (#41704845)

        So you're saying the degree that CourseRA offers isn't worth the electrons it's written with?

        Oh, wait, they don't offer one.

      • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:42AM (#41704857)

        Except Coursera doesn't give out degrees. It's a topic-oriented class room where you can pick and choose what you want to learn. I don't believe they even give out certificates of completion, just a smack on the ass with a wink if you pass.

        • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jythie (914043) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:56AM (#41705073)
          I suspect if they actually sat down with the state things would be fine, but for the moment they throw around the word 'university' and that has accreditation implications. It is a bit like going to someone who claims to be a doctor who will do exams, but then points out that they can not actually write referrals or prescribe meds because they are not a doctor, thus they shouldn't need a license to practice. It could probably be sorted out with the state pretty easily but, by default, if it walks like a goose but talks like a duck, anti-fraud regulation will probably treat it like a duck unless it shows it isn't one.
          • by i.r.id10t (595143)

            Not accreditation - it is Fed law about crossing state lines.

            For example, the college I work for is accredited by SACS (in face, we have them visiting next week). But we still have to get permission to let a student who is out of state take one of our online classes... maybe.

            • How can you tell they're out of state vs lying about address?

              • by Ixitar (153040)

                Generally by their IP address. IP addresses are tied to locations, so you can generate reports from the access logs to a website telling where the traffic is coming from. A website can also use that database to deny access from various locations.

                • Re:Or (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by NatasRevol (731260) on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:21AM (#41707053) Journal

                  IP addresses are tied to locations

                  I know you probably think this, but it's not actually true.

                  If you have a Comcast cable modem at home, it's possible that you get an IP address that is *associated* with their gateway location in Texas.

                • Re:Or (Score:4, Informative)

                  by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday October 19, 2012 @12:56PM (#41708067) Homepage Journal

                  GeoIP location is absolute shit. I live in Riverside California, GeoIP says I'm in Nevada.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                    by maxwell demon (590494)

                    GeoIP location is absolute shit. I live in Riverside California, GeoIP says I'm in Nevada.

                    No, GeoIP location is perfectly accurate. If GeoIP says you are in Nevada, you obviously are in Nevada, and you only believe you were in Riverside California. Probably because someone wants you to believe it, for whatever evil plan, and they made the illusion almost perfect, but they forgot the GeoIP which is the only hint you have about your real loc... wait, why are there black heli&$%@

                    NO CARRIER

                • Yeah, no. The way things are...you can use a VPN to grab a Russian or British or French IP address...that's on top of the general inaccuracy of IPs to begin with. I'd feel bad for anyone who tried to present an IP Address as some sort of geographic location in court; the defence would just dismantle the DA's case in that fact alone.

                  IP Address -> kind of like a telephone number. Sure, sometimes it gives you a lead on the general exchange (last hop) that the number is calling from, but (show of hands) the

          • I could buy that - expect that the "Comic Book College of Knowledge", which is located in Minneapolis, has not recived a letter to shut down their .... errr ... text book store on 4 color sequential art

          • by tibit (1762298)

            Oh, so the "state" people from Minnesota can't read for themselves and need a face-to-face chat like you'd have with natives in some backwards place. Point taken, thank you.

        • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 1s44c (552956) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:25AM (#41706337)

          Except Coursera doesn't give out degrees. It's a topic-oriented class room where you can pick and choose what you want to learn. I don't believe they even give out certificates of completion, just a smack on the ass with a wink if you pass.

          Unless Coursera are offering highly biased education or in some way poisoning the minds of those that take their courses the people that are opposing them are opposing the basic human right to knowledge.

          Any law or rule that blatantly wrong should be ignored.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If you make the requirements of the class Coursera does actually give you a certificate that you completed it. It's really nearly useless though to anyone but yourself, and it's certainly not counted as College credit, nor is there a degree potential. The education is actually about the knowledge, not the paper, which is really how it should be.

      • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:56AM (#41705067)

        Or they're sick and tired of fake online universities charging their citizens or occupying peoples' time for degrees that aren't worth shit.

        A fake online university would be fraud, in any state. Thus, that argument is irrelevant.
        Coursera is free, as in no charge. Thus, that argument is also irrelevant.
        They don't offer accredited degrees. Thus, that argument is irrelevant.

        So what we have left with is that you think the State should be in charge of making sure you use your time for worthwhile pursuits. And that any knowledge not backed by a state board certified degree is not worthwhile.

        • by Golddess (1361003)

          A fake online university would be fraud, in any state. Thus, that argument is irrelevant.
          Coursera is free, as in no charge. Thus, that argument is also irrelevant.
          They don't offer accredited degrees. Thus, that argument is irrelevant.

          Just because you and I know that, doesn't mean the politicians do. It still very well could be that the politicians think that this is just another fly-by-night scam-iversity. Dunno how likely that is as I did not RTFA, but all your points rely on the politicians knowing what you know, and you haven't showed that they do.

        • We need a really good, snarky, "Bureaucracy" song, and maybe a video to go with it, that we can mass-email to goofy bastards like these.
      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        your accusations of bribery are completely without merit or citation

        Oh, did I miss something? Has Minnesota banned lobbying and no-show jobs for its legislators? Because it sure looks like they have a lot of lobbyists [state.mn.us] for a legislature that doesn't accept any patronage.

    • Political donations are often considered bribes. That's very often the wrong understanding.

      Much of the time they are donations to people who agree with you, but we just presume corruption.

      But when corruption does exist, it's usually an extortion payment and the cost of doing business. We complain about businesses, but in reality if the government wants to crush a corporation or an individual that person or group of people are toast.

      If you want to get the money out of politics, get the politics out of money.

      • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:02AM (#41705159) Journal

        We assume corruption because we built a system that depends on and rewards it. It is corrupt by design, not by accident. Voters have to be 'bribed' into voting for the guy who makes the most outrageous promises, and that takes money. So, at this point money and politics are integral, they are one, entirely inseparable.

      • If you want to get the money out of politics, get the politics out of money.

        You forgot to put "Confucius say" at the beginning.

      • It is corruption because whenever money and opinions intermingle there is always a shift in perception on the part of the recipient. We humans are social animals. We cannot help but think "he helped me, I should help him".

        Even if it doesn't sway the recipient's opinions, it causes the perception that it has. Part of the reason why Congress has such a low approval rating (lower than the US going communist for crying out loud!) is that people perceive that representatives are bought and paid for by special

    • by jythie (914043) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:51AM (#41705009)
      I actually suspect it is an accreditation issue or a consumer protection one. Secondary education institutions generally go through a process to show that they are not diploma mills preying on people, and some states are better then others at cracking down on the practice. Since they invoke the word 'university' (which, like doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc, is not something you can just call yourself in an official capacity) they probably trigged a consumer protection law.
      • by FictionPimp (712802) on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:18AM (#41705413) Homepage

        Someone should tell Dr. Dre, Doc and Dr. J that. Not to mention Dr. Claw, Dr. Evil, and Doctor Who. Hell I know plenty of people with PHD's in all sorts of silly things that put Doctor in front of their name, but I don't think that confused people into thinking they can prescribe meds and diagnose prostate cancer.

        In all seriousness though I think they are taking this overboard. There is no service being offered here. It's really no different than making a programming tutorial site and calling it code university or . It's obvious that it's not a 'real' university but just a term to denote that you feel you are a good resource for education.

        Their cause is a noble one and they are partnered with 33 real Universities that are fully accredited. I understand where they state is coming from, but it reeks of the same silly zero tolerance laws that expel kids from schools for having a bottle of ibuprofen.

        • You do know that if you have a PhD, you can call your self Doctor, right? It's the D in PhD.

          • I totally understand that concept. I think it's silly. I don't see how a accredited Doctor of Ufology is worthy of the title doctor.

          • by jythie (914043)
            Context and appearance matters. Yes you can call yourself a doctor or an engineer, you can have a PhD or an engineering degree, but if you appear to be associating yourself with the legal/regulated version of the usage that kicks in restrictions. I can call myself an engineer in a limited context because I have a degree in engineering... but if I appeared to be giving the impression that I was equivalent to a certified "E"ngineer, I could get in trouble.
            • Except that he didn't say that. He just said they put Doctor in front of their name. As if they aren't entitled to do so.

              • I think he was suggesting that it's relatively easy to be a Dr of something silly, as per www.oddee.com/item_90683.aspx for 10 examples to start you off.

        • by jythie (914043)
          Heh, well, I am sure if any of those people openned up an online clinic giving out medical advice, that would raise some legal eyebrows...

          *nods* which is why I suspect the whole matter could be cleared up with a phonecall or two. This really strikes me as a default ruling based off surface information and no clarification from the company.
        • by mholda (1457493)

          Someone should tell Dr. Dre, Doc and Dr. J that. Not to mention Dr. Claw, Dr. Evil , and Doctor Who. Hell I know plenty of people with PHD's in all sorts of silly things that put Doctor in front of their name

          He didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called "mister", thank you very much.

        • by BryanL (93656) <lowtherbf@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday October 19, 2012 @12:13PM (#41707563)

          Maybe they should ban Dr. Pepper too.

        • by thomst (1640045)

          FictionPimp opined:

          It's really no different than making a programming tutorial site and calling it code university or.

          Well ... no.

          As someone who is currently enrolled in a Coursera class in Greek and Roman Mythology - which is taught by Dr. Peter Struck of the University of Pennsylvania, perhaps THE premiere college for students of ancient history and the classics in the USA - I think I can speak with a certain degree (pun intended) of authority on this question.

          Dr. Struck's course demands the same amount of reading from a student as he would be required to do in a class for which he would receive university credit. It also includes approximately two hours of video lectures per week, and a weekly quiz, as well. There are two, short writing assignments (350-450 word essays) over the 10-week course, one of which is due this Sunday. (Unlike a for-credit class, these assignments are peer-graded - a necessity when there are over 50,000 students registered for this particular course.) There's also a final exam. Students with questions regarding the lectures or the reading are encouraged to take them to peer forums, where there are, in fact, some extremely knowlegeable participants who seem eager to provide explanations. Those who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate of completion - which is meaningless to me, because I'm taking the class strictly for the content.

          Are there shortcomings to this model? Yes, indeed. I'm dubious about the utility of peer grading of essays, for instance, and I think that, in general 350-450 words is nowhere near enough space to propose, explain, and defend an academic thesis. At least one of the weekly exams thus far has included a question derived from the reading for the FOLLOWING week - which hardly seems fair, and indicates to me that Professor Struck is not paying as much attention to coordinating his test questions with his course material as we students deserve. And, for my own tastes, I think Professor Struck's lectures focus too much on the narrative content of our reading, and not enough on the actual mythology it presents and illuminates, given that the course is supposed to be about Greek and Roman mythology. And, while I understand his desire to make the reading material as accessible as possible, I think the students would be better served if the texts on which his lectures are based were open-access versions (such as those on Perseus [tufts.edu]), rather than on texts that the student has to purchase. (Having said that, I hasten to add that students are free to USE the open-access editions, if they prefer, but Professor Struck's lectures are still based on closed-access versions.)

          Anyhow, despite those issues, I think the quality of the information conveyed is at least equal to what a community college student could expect - assuming, of course, that you could even FIND a community college course on Greek and Roman mythology. It might even be as good as a state university's satellite campus offering.

          And it's free. As in "beer."

      • by GPierce (123599)

        " Since they invoke the word 'university' (which, like doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc, is not something you can just call yourself in an official capacity"

        I think you should send an emergency e-mail to McDonald's warning them that they can't just call their training program Hamburger University.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No. The issue here is that they don't want any old school popping up and selling crap degrees. So the school needs to go through the proper channels.
      It has nothing to do with being online, or greasing any palms.

    • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:45AM (#41705799)

      Good point. I suspect that the end run around the teachers unions plays into this too. It just goes to illustrate that education is not quite as free and open as some might want you to believe. It's very tightly controlled by the government. The good news is that technology is chipping away at this long standing monopoly. Just this morning I heard that NewsWeek will no longer be a print publication - online only. We're moving from a world of the physical to a world of bits and bytes. In the corporate world I see a trend away from instructor led training classes to online or pre-recorded instruction.

      It's happening in the formal education world as well, just more slowly. The first hurdle was getting online degrees some recognition and that is happening now. I'm not willing to bet that formal in class instruction is going away completely but the days of trudging to a classroom and sitting on a hard wooden chair listening to some stuffy old windbag in a bow tie and tweed jacket sporting a C. Everett Coop beard-with-no-mustache are coming to an end.

    • by fropenn (1116699)
      At one point the Federal Department of Education wanted to require ALL distance education programs to acquire permission from each state where they did business. But that has now been withdrawn (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/07/31/education-department-wont-enforce-state-authorization-distance-education-programs).

      I wouldn't be surprised at all if other states also still implement this policy, although it seems like overkill for a site that is not trying to offer degrees or actual credits.
      • > programs to acquire permission from each state where they did business.

        In this case how is it business when the course if free??

    • I suspect there is a lot more to this story than anyone in the universities or legislature would ever admit publicly.

      But I suspect the real impetus here is that the state legislators don't want anyone coming into their state without having to lobby (aka bribe) them first. Every state university has to come to them once a year with hat-in-hand, and they sure don't want anyone bypassing this system by coming in from out of state without paying their largesse. The patron expects his coin before you do business here, citizen.

      More likely they're afraid on-line courses will kill off their meatspace universities, and then they won't have a vanity football team.

      (I think some states, including the one where I am now, wouldn't fund higher education at all, except to avoid being the only state in the Union without a football team.)

  • MECC (Score:5, Funny)

    by shakezula (842399) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:27AM (#41704673) Homepage
    I read "Minnesota," (and MOOC) and instantly had flashbacks to grade school, Apple-II, and Oregon Trail. Here's hoping no one contracts dysentery.
  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:37AM (#41704791)

    Scary politicians

  • "If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera..."

    Why would I agree to a Terms-of-Service in order to not use the service? That's completely contradictory.

    I hate to say it, but the first thing that springs to mind is this being emblematic of the generally shoddy, poorly-planned work of these massive online courses.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Lol.. That is just a limitation of liability clause to come in line with the law of the state. You agree to those terms and if you stay in Minnesota, you are the one breaking the law (if it can even be turned onto the consumer) not the school.

    • It is like Windows' term that if you disagree with the license, somebody who is not part of the agreement will pay you back. Legalese is not meant to make sense.
  • *Psst... hey Minnesota lawmakers..*... Just delete that Dial-up Networking icon from your desktop. It removes your Internets from your computer.

  • by rjune (123157) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:52AM (#41705013)

    A Ms. Grimes was quoted in the article, "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,” However, Coursera is free, so how do consumer protection laws come into play? Also, take a look at some of the participating institutions : Princeton, Duke, Illinois, Brown, University of Michigan, Columbia... I'm glad the Minnesota officials are so vigilant about protecting Minnesota residents.

  • by boyfaceddog (788041) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:58AM (#41705103) Journal

    The State of Minnesota will do the following for people who have Coursera degrees:

    They will not hire you
    If you work at a company that has a State contract you may not work on the State project in any capacity.
    Fines, lawsuits, etc.

    I worked for the state for about three years. They have a lot of contracts in the private sector.

    But feel free to take the courses. I'm sure it will all work out.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      Coursera doesn't give out degrees. they actually teach useful courses. And Fuck Minnesota for extending their reach to curtail people's rights, a state buffoon isn't qualified to tell the worth of a degree.

      A university or college can be unaccredited while having particular programs that are accredited. There are some hugely famous universities that fall into that category.

    • by PPH (736903)

      The State of Minnesota will do the following for people who have Coursera degrees:

      What's a Coursera degree? The last time I checked, they only offer individual courses on line. Now if Stanford, MIT or other universities accept Coursera transcripts for credit towards their degrees, I don't think Minnesota will have a lot to say about it.

      Many universities will allow credit from local community colleges to fullfill certain basic requirements. I don't think questions about where one took each course ever came up during a job interview.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:05AM (#41705209) Journal

    This just shows the strength of the Teachers Unions in MN, and why they need to be broken.

    What they're really saying is "Coursera, by offering the simple stuff for free, you ultimately threaten the jobs of all the shitty, worthless, lazy time-serving teachers we have as dues-paying members, and we cannot allow you to continue to do so. This is not about "the children" or the consumer, it's about protecting our own, and preserving that massive political power. We've spent millions fighting merit pay, teacher-quality review, and any sort of system where parents get to exercise any choice in their childs' (short of home-schooling, and everyone knows they're religious crazies anyway), and we'll be goddamned if you take away the easy, simple-to-teach online coursework forcing human teachers to focus on the more challenging materials to justify our existance."

  • "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

    Because we hold the average down.

  • Isn't a statute such as this unconstitutional given states do not have permission to regulate interstate trade. Coursera is not opperating in Minnesota. Instead residents are trading with Coursera over the Internet. It is the same in theory as them taking courses through mail.
    • Let's assume a professor at Harvard publishes a series of articles about his specialty (say, astronomy), and syndicates it to newspapers around the country as the delivery mechanism. I use this example to clarify the constitutional issues. I think it is pretty clear this falls under freedom of speech, and the state cannot restrict what he says. Now substitute video for written article, and the consumer's ISP as the delivery mechanism (which is how Coursera works). From a legal standpoint, has anything c

  • In a sane world... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SecurityGuy (217807) on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:39AM (#41705725)

    Coursera's answer should simply be "We're not operating in Minnesota. Our servers are in $PLACE. Minnesota has no jurisdiction in $PLACE. Have a nice day."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:42AM (#41705765)

    I use Coursera and many of the comments show that few posters haven't a clue what Coursera is.

    1. Coursera IS a collaborative effort among major Universites (I am using it to take courses from
    the University of Michigan, Duke and Stanford). There is no such thing as a Coursea course, it is
    only a channel by which existing well respectedUniversities offer their courses to the larger online community.

    2. More specifically Coursea is a channel for self education and does not offer ANY academic credit
    from institutions that use that channel for their courses. They also do not charge. There is no such
    thing as a "Coursera transcript"

    3. Coursera is not unique. There is a similar collaborative effort between Harvard and MIT to offer their
    courses on line in a similar manner called edx.org.

    The law is clearly misapplied since Coursera is not a university or academic institution no does it claim to be, the
    law would only apply to all the Universities that use Coursera. Of course I suppose once you really have to
    keep an eye on those shady, fly by night operations like Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Yale.

  • I didn't know about coursera until this article. I am excited to have access to this type of material. This site is perfect for people like me who want to gain knowledge in a field without the burden of a full university program. Its a free tutorial site on steroids. I don't understand the State's problem. This site isn't handing out degrees or anything. They probably fear for their 'monopoly' on higher education. Either way, I signed up for some Astronomy classes starting in a few weeks.
  • ...asking if the Office of Higher Education was correctly interpreteting the 1980s era law in question. If they are, I requested information as to how they plan to address the issue. One sits on the Education Reform committee, so I'm hoping to hear that it gets placed on their agenda for debate.

  • See the first amendment and the commerce clause. A state has no legal power to stop someone from offering free education online.

    -jcr

  • Coursera makes their site look like they're a real academic institution. Yes, they say "free", but lots of sites say "free" and lie. It's not clear whether "free" is just a bait to get people to sign up, and then attempts are made to "upgrade" them to a paid account. Or there may be "fees". Their terms say "We reserve the right to change or modify the Terms of Use at our sole discretion at any time. Any change or modification to the Terms of Use will be effective immediately upon posting by us. " So they

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks

Working...