The NewsDemon Blog

Minnesotta Outlaws Online Education

By Newsgroup Usenet October 22nd, 2012

As controversy continues to swirl over the extreme amount of student loan debt that is being carried by a number of Americans, it seems that the state of Minnesota has come down on something that might help many: free online courses from a reputable company.

Minnesota officials have sent a you’re-not-welcome-here letter to Coursera, a California-based startup that partners with universities such as Princeton and the California Institute of Technology to offer free, online college courses.

Coursera is one of a growing number of sources of free college-level courses, often presented by top-shelf colleges themselves. The catch is that there’s little interaction with professors; students watch videos and take tests that are graded by computer or by other students.

A spokesperson for Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education defended the declaration by saying “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.”

Stanford has been using the company for part of its online offerings since it launched its free online courses last year. More than 30 universities have partnered with the service, including the University of California, San Francisco, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University.

Adding to the odd nature of the decision, it’s entirely unclear how the state plans to enforce the new law. And it’s also unclear whether the state has included other similar online education services like edX and Udacity in its ban. It is also unclear if the hundreds of newsgroups on USENET that offer discussions and assistance to higher education will also be targeted by Minnesota.

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