Sorry, but that’s the law. And the law is the law. From the Chronicle of Higher Education :
Okay, so I’m not Coursera. No need to rub it in. But to the extent that anyone who reads this blawg and learns something (it could happen), I’m as much a law-breaker as they are, right down to my pirate eye-patch.
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.
While it’s completely understandable that the State of Minnesota wants to prevent people from opening up “Scott’s Air Conditioning and Law School” out of the back of their Chevy station wagons, and charge tuition to anyone foolish enough to attend, it’s a little less comprehensible when applied to free courseware.
The state explains that it’s just protecting you from me.
Well, given some of the monumentally dumb stuff that people suggest exists to educate others on the internet, it’s not exactly an outlandish concern.
But [Minnesota Office of Higher Education policy analyst] Ms.[Tricia] 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.
On the other hand, there is not a strong likelihood that the State of Minnesota is going to have a sufficient impact on information offered for free on the web as it thinks. I, for one, have no plan to seek authorization.
So if you live in the State of Minnesota, it would be greatly appreciated if you would avert your eyes whenever you feel there is any chance you might learn something from Simple Justice. And if they ever catch me, I plan to use this in mitigation of sentence. I’m counting on you.
H/T Walter Olson