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Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot, Citing a Decades-Old Law (chronicle.com)
104 points by mbrubeck on Oct 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments



If the government was serious about cutting budget deficits, it would immediately discontinue the purchase of textbooks, switch to ereaders (there's a company in Europe selling basic eInk readers for £8), make use of out-of-copyright reading material, abandon the practice of lecturers performing the exact same lecture term after term when a recording will do, partner with companies like Coursera to provide curriculums, move towards homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand... And generally just run education in a way that reflects the technology we have at our disposal.


Quick tip that took me years to learn:

If it looks like a bunch of apparently smart people are behaving like total idiots, A) I could be a genius, my brain overflowing with incredible insight into the nature of the universe, or B) I could have a too-simple understanding of what they get up to, and therefore be acting like an arrogant, know-it-all jackass.

State A does happen to me occasionally, but most of the time I think I'm in state A I'm actually in state B. I've now learned to keep my mouth shut for entire minutes at a time, which helps me reduce the frequency with which people realize I'm in state B.


State A does not mean you're a genius. It just means that you've made an error in determining what variable the actors in a sociological phenomenon are actually trying to optimize.

Find the thing that the sociological phenomenon is most effectively optimizing and work back from there to get to B. In the case of higher education it's optimizing the benefits to all those who are benefiting from the current system and not optimizing trying to educate the most people at the lowest cost which was your meta "too-simple" understanding of your understanding.


or

C) there are massive, incumbent pressure groups obstructing changes in government spending practices


But more than that, there are laws, that were written perhaps in part due to pressures from these groups, but in part from all kinds of other pressures, which provide a lot of inertia for the way things are done.

Whenever there's some kind of education reform, it's usually to add stricter standards, because we're always falling behind in education and feel that stricter standards will help make sure that we don't. This means that textbooks need to meet stricter standards. Which mean that there needs to be some kind of review. Which means that someone needs to pay for that review. Which generally falls on the textbook publishers, or some overworked underpaid government committee. Which means that only a limited number of textbooks go through that review, locking out anything else which might be suitable but hasn't been reviewed to determine if it meets that standard.

The standards wind up changing every few years, so the textbooks need to be updated to match.


Quick tip I learned: avoid false dilemmas.


> it would immediately discontinue the purchase of textbooks, switch to ereaders

Please no. I've found that eReaders are only good for novels, where there is a linear progression from start to finish. The inability to flip back and forth through the book, have two pages open at once, and the like is a serious downside when it comes to reading reference materials on an eReader.

It's not an insurmountable problem, but it is one that the current generation of eReaders quite frankly suck at.


I second this one. I've bought lot of technical materials (Pickaxe, some CSS3 books) on my eReader (a Sony PRS T2) and eventually bought paper editions because it was more efficient. Was I conditioned by my previous learning experiences ? Maybe, but I found that eReaders are great for looking for a specific reference of something you've already seen, but for the process of learning, there is a king of serendipity that paper provides and eReader can't. IMHO even the web is a better learning medium than ebooks for this reason.


Thirded. I've been trying to read technical papers on my Kindle and wow is it uncomfortable. Reading a novel is an absolute delight, though.


> move towards homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand...

Pretty much all of current homeworks and exams can be. It's called standarized tests, and I'd argue it's one of the reasons education sucks as much as it does.

Except from that one, where I think a move in opposite direction is desirable, I'd love for all the changes you mentioned to happen.


Multiple choice is not ideal... but at the very least we shouldn't be employing teachers to tick these papers by hand when a computer could mark the pupils' answers instantaneously .

To be honest I don't think anything can be done to the 'education system' that will drastically improve the results. The bottleneck lies with the children (and their parents) and their thirst for knowledge (or lack thereof), which is a reflection of the culture and values they grow up with.

But what we can do is save a boatload of money on costs.


we already do this.

there's software that almost every higher ed university uses in their lower division courses to administer homework electronically. it grades the homework for the instructor and populates a gradebook. it's pretty hands off.

as far as I know, they have packages like this for every lower division STEM class. I used this software as late as multivariable calculus.


what about in highschool and earlier?


I don't think "marked by computer" automatically means multiple choice "standardized tests".

English homework can't be graded by computer, but subjects like math, physics, and chemistry could conceivably be checked by computer. There'd be some details to work out, such as how to "show work", but it could work.


At least one (and almost certainly more) company pursuing this. The service WebAssign is used in almost every science class at my high school. 90% of homework is done (and graded) via the site. However, the lack of any "show-your-work" functionality sometimes limits teachers' ability to assist students.


There might be a way to make manual grading scale. Perhaps set up a cooperative system where students grade others' papers in return for grading of their own papers in another subject matter. By having a larger body of graders, you could have each paper viewed by several people, and it would check that the graders agree on its score (without communicating with each other or knowing how the other evaluated it).

It's just like using TAs, except with casting a much wider net, though a lot more details would need to be worked out.

Remember, you have the advantage that grading a paper is easier than writing one (in compsci terms, the former is in P, while the latter is NP-complete).


recordings instead of lecturers? I'm not sure that's a great idea.


I actually find it a vastly superior format. You can rewind the bits you don't understand clearly, or when your mind wandered off. In a live lecture, you do not have that luxury. In order to get maximum value out of a live lecture, you need to pay 100% attention to everything as it is said, and 100% understand each thing as it is spoken. Two rather unrealistic expectations, especially when lectures are usually cumulative, building one topic on top of the understanding of another.

Questions are also probably better handled with an online (or offline) forum and office hours. At any rate, I was never overly convinced about the 'interactive' benefits of the lecture hall.


why not? There a much better uses of class time -- students asking questions or more engaging interactive activities. Just doing practice problems in class, where the professor is there to help, is a better use of class time than lecture.


That's a terrible idea. You want to cut educational standards to save money ?

You'll save money in the short-term but in the long term you'll destroy your economy as you won't have the highly educated workforce that will be required to be a competitive economy in the future.

We should focus on high quality education first, whether that uses technology or not.


What about GP's post that implies cutting down educational standards?


The objection was probably the post's implication that those technologies could manage all or most courses.

> switch to ereaders

Unless they're seeing different ereaders than me, that kills most detailed and colored diagrams in science textbooks. Also makes the experience worse in many geography, history, etc. courses.

> abandon the practice of lecturers performing the exact same lecture term after term when a recording will do

Recordings don't pause to answer questions mid-stream. A chat room or forum is probably good enough for upper-division courses where students have probably learned decent learning skills, but even freshman college courses probably need a human available at some point. Suppose they could be restricted to study sections...

> move towards homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand...

There go essays and critical thinking questions in every literature class, to start with. Also a lot of the more useful evaluations in my engineering and science courses probably couldn't be marked by a computer.

To be clear: I think Coursera and similar efforts are awesome, and are an excellent supplement to college educations. I think they could also manage partial replacement of a minority of college courses. But especially with typical college students, who are not self-directed learners, I don't think it's the kind of replacement that will help budgets much.


> Recordings don't pause to answer questions mid-stream.

Recordings can be paused a hell of a lot more easily than a lecture for a large audience -- the format typical for heavy-enrollment basic classes in most colleges.

I realize that googling something may fall a bit short of the ideal, but it's better than just sitting there quietly because you don't want to interrupt everyone else in a huge room. Also, those aren't your only possible options; for example, students could time their lecture viewing to coincide with the office hours of a TA, and actually be much more able to get questions answered in mid-lecture. Or you could watch lectures with a study group, and talk through points of confusion with your groupmates. Or you could [fill in the blank here!]


> Unless they're seeing different ereaders than me, that kills most detailed and colored diagrams in science textbooks. Also makes the experience worse in many geography, history, etc. courses.

Agreed! Worse, in my mind, is that e-readers are good mainly for linear access of read-only text; textbooks are much better at random access and user modification. I love my Kindle, but I think it sucks for books I'm trying to study seriously. Flipping back and forth between diagrams and text, jumping back to look at previous pages, putting in bookmarks, notes in the margins: all stuff paper is much better at.

And really, the price of textbooks isn't high because they're printed on paper. It's because textbooks are expensive to create, and many markets have a small number of suppliers, giving them crazy pricing power.

And now that I think about it, textbooks are a tiny proportion of what schools spend, which is in turn a small portion of government costs. So I now regret that we've all been fooled into wasting time on a proposal that makes no sense.


Replace e-ink readers with tablets, which are the price of 1 textbook. Have 12hr tutor rooms where students can drop in and ask questions they are stuck about. Tutors can be paid less then professors and are far more convenient than lectures. That along with recorded office hours with professors for the harder courses would make an experience superior to most lecture style courses.

People would have to write down their questions while watching the lectures, could probably watch the lectures with fellow students in a TV room with the tutor room right next door in the library or right in the tutor room on their tablets.

TA-level pay grade markers would mark everything.

This wont work for everything, but it will work for the vast majority of courses. One building the size of a library with a combo study hall / cafe could probably cover the needs of an entire university.


"use of out-of-copyright reading material" rather than the best material.

"homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand" implying that we should only test (and thus only teach) skills that can be tested by computer rather than the skills that we want students to learn. Basically you'd be wiping out essay type questions (which test depth on knowledge) in favour of multiple-choice (which test breadth).


Recorded lectures instead of live people who can answer questions?


Recorded lectures are better. Students/pupils can rewind things they missed or didn't immediately understand, can pause to refer to source material or look things up, watch the whole thing again, even rewatch previous lectures. They can still submit questions (forum, classroom, whatever) except now they wont be holding up the whole lecture.

And logistically, what happens with 'live people' is that some people ask their own questions, which the lecturer will make some attempt to answer. It's not like a lecture format somehow provides the interactive benefits of a 1-to-1 tutorial for every student in the audience simultaneously.


"Recorded lectures are better."

Cite? You can't just base this huge claim on some hand waving about how you can rewind and pause things. You need a study showing how wildly successful a school based on recorded lectures is compared to traditional lectures before you start leading all of society down these paths.


I could get behind using old textbooks and putting them on eReaders, though. At least in a targeted manner. My math department in college kept a bookshelf full of copies of texts they had used back through the early 20th century. It's kind of amazing to see how much more clearly-written calculus textbooks were in the 1940s. And the ones of that vintage that are still in print can be had for cheap - the sticker says I bought my copy of "Vector and Tensor Analysis" by Borisenko and Tarapov (part of the Dover Books on Mathematics series) for $7.

On the other hand, a biology book that old is going to be missing a whole lot of key stuff; probably even knowledge of the Krebs cycle was too new to be reliably appearing in school texts.

Perhaps instead educators could band together to produce open source textbooks.


Exactly. The contentions that

a) live lectures are crucial for the interactive element

b) the best, modern textbooks are necessary for acceptable education

sound reasonable but don't stand up to much scrutiny.

> Perhaps instead educators could band together to produce open source textbooks.

You would think there'd be more interest in 'spend once, solve forever' initiatives like that.


Costs =/= Standards


California is taking the lead in this, yet again.. http://www.clrn.org/fdti/


Thank you Terminator!!! We knew you'd do a great job!...


Universities are not part of the government, fyi. They take money from the government, but the government's leverage consists of conditions on funding, standards for accreditation, and well... laws like this. If the changes you propose were written in law..., I think most people would agree that's a bad thing for many reasons.


A distinction without a difference. I would be stunned to find out that more than 5% of US universities got a minority of their funding from the government , and who pays the piper calls the tune.

For my purposes state guaranteed and subsidised student loans count as they wouldn't happen without it and the restrictions placed upon which institutions' students are eligible are another example of government power over universities.


> For my purposes state guaranteed and subsidised student loans count as they wouldn't happen without it and the restrictions placed upon which institutions' students are eligible are another example of government power over universities.

"Power" is being used in such a wonderfully nebulous way here. The relevant power under discussion is decisions about infrastructure adoption and teaching methodologies. If you can point me to an instance where the government denied a university of students in order to keep them from adopting distance learning, I'll cede your point.


Nebulous? Sure. To be more explicit; I assume absent extremely syrong evidence that people and institutions rarely follow a pattern of pissing off those upon whom their livelihoods depend. There's a great Upton Sinclair quote to that effect but I'm on my phone. Again, who pays the piper calls the tune. Not saying there's a cabal deciding all this but ideologies need not be explicit to have power.

On an unrelated note, I don't expect to change your mind and while I'd be glad if you were to “cede the point” I do not argue with that aim in mind. Expecting to change your interlocutor's mind when you argue on the internet is the mark of a fool. This isn't lesswrong; most commenters aim to win arguments, not mote closely approach the truth. Arguing on the internet is for the rraders, the audience.

tokenadult will not be convinced by yummyfajitas that the US education system is excellent but every time he disses it yummyfajitas brings up the same excellent argument and tokenadult refuses to engage with it and makes ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority. To some people this does not seem like someone with the facts on his side.


> I assume absent extremely syrong evidence that people and institutions rarely follow a pattern of pissing off those upon whom their livelihoods depend.

That's not remotely more explicit.

> On an unrelated note, I don't expect to change your mind... [snip]

So basically, you're using me as a foil. I understand. Fuck you.


What about advanced courses? Almost nothing in an advanced math course, for instance, can be computer graded by current technology, or even technology reasonably on the horizon. For instance, in a number theory course, how would you handle grading a problem like "Prove that every prime number has a primitive root"? Would you dumb down the course to match the limits of grading technology?


No need to impose these ideas unilaterally. The ideal situation is to have hands-on, qualitative (for lack of a better word) tuition where there is no technological alternative.


All of those ideas are certainly good things. But even if they managed to decrease the eduction budget to $0, that wouldn't make a dent in government deficits (in the USA, at least, and I suspect elsewhere). They're driven primarily by unfunded entitlement spending and to a lesser extent by the military budget.


I think you are confusing the federal and state governments. The federal government spends most of its budget on defense and entitlements. Only a smaller portion goes on to education (usually in the form of grants and subsidies to the state). Education happens at the state level. For example, California's proposed budget for 2012-2013 (http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/Revised/BudgetSummary/SummaryC...) spends $50 of the $141 billion total budget on education (k-12 and higher education). Compare that to the < 2% ($72 billion) that the US federal budget will spend in the department of education. (Note: Consider that California alone spends 5/7ths of what the federal government will spend on the department of education this year).

The parent's ideas for reforms are most applicable to state governments, since that's where most education spending happens. California is also in a pretty bad spot economically, so if it were possible to drastically reduce the cost of education (without impacting the level of service), it would significantly help our state's finances.

[Disclaimer: California is the largest state economy, and the relative education budget will vary between states.]


As of 2010, we spent $1,038B on health care, $955B on pensions, $898B on education and $848 on defense.

The deficit was $1,293B, so education spending was a big chunk of it.

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/piechart_2010_US_total


Which company is making e-Ink readers for that cheap?


txtr http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/txtr-beagle-8-kindle-rival-...

Not sure about all the details but the gist is you can make these things cheaper by stripping out some of the features that the Kindle has: built-in battery, wifi, 3G, lots of controls on the device.


I'd love to get my hands on e-ink displays for < £8; I'd put them to great use. A replacement screen for Kindle costed me around $45 two months ago.


Same. It's unfortunate that there's seemingly no way to obtain e-ink displays directly from the manufacturers.

I don't know how txtr is managing to obtain such a low price point, though. 4GB of flash, a CPU, RAM, the display, the case, manufacturing costs, a bluetooth radio, and two AAA batteries seems extremely difficult to obtain for < $13. This is not including the price of manufacturing and shipping.

EDIT: Ah, I see. They've got their own book store, so they're hoping to recoup costs on that.


No one ..start of 2013 you will be able to get it with a mobile contract in the UK.. so not 8gbp and who knows why they banded about that figure then. Future looks bright, though.

FTA;

"The catch

You won’t be able to get the txtr beagle as a standalone product just yet. Instead the plan is to distribute it as an accessory on smartphone mobile phone contracts.

I can understand why txtr is taking this approach, after all it's reliant on a smartphone for transfers, but I'm still disappointed that txtr isn't brave enough to launch the product on its own.

Txtr hope to bring the product to the UK at the beginning of next year but were unable to comment on which mobile phone operators were in the pipeline to offer the device with their contracts."


Excellent question.

Amazon's Kindle is being sold basically at cost. Amazon has incredible power to make suppliers dance, and they've spent years bringing the price of the Kindle down. So I don't think it's possible to make a decent e-reader significantly cheaper than the Kindle without subsidies.


Before you rage against the machine, a simple question wasn't answered in the article.

Could Coursera just apply to offer their services in the state of Minnesota? I mean, unless it is a terribly difficult process, I don't see the big deal here.


> I mean, unless it is a terribly difficult process, I don't see the big deal here.

It quickly becomes a big deal as soon as other jurisdictions start doing the same thing. If I was Coursera I would definitely not want to go down that path. It takes away the key benefit of being on the web, which is the elimination of geographic barriers. Better to just be transparent and let your users see the absurdity for themselves.

Keep in mind that there's absolutely zero evidence that this regulation has any benefit. Clearly many other states are not enforcing this kind of law, and yet they're not demonstrably any worse off. This looks to me like a classic licensing scam: it probably got passed with the support of incumbents who wanted a higher barrier to entry.


Why? They just solved the problem with a ToS update. Now it is in the hands of the voters.


IANAL but it seems pretty clear to me that Coursera is exempted under 136A.653 subd 2 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=136A.653):

Subd. 2.Educational program; nonprofit organizations. Educational programs which are sponsored by a bona fide and nonprofit trade, labor, business, professional or fraternal organization, which programs are conducted solely for that organization's membership or for the members of the particular industries or professions served by that organization, and which are not available to the public on a fee basis, are exempted from the provisions of sections 136A.61 to 136A.71.


Subd. 3 seems to be more likely

Educational program; business firms. Educational programs which are sponsored by a business firm for the training of its employees or the employees of other business firms with which it has contracted to provide educational services at no cost to the employees are exempted from the provisions of sections 136A.61 to 136A.71.


That doesn't seem to apply at all. Coursera programs aren't for training their own employees, nor the employees of other businesses.


Courses are certainly sponsored by a business. Are you an employee of another business or sole proprietorship? Did you enter into a contract for educational services from coursera at no cost? Then it sounds like it applies to me....


Coursera isn't a nonprofit, and a plain reading of that statute seems to require nonprofit status.


I guess it might not be that clear then... Nevertheless, until they actually start charging something I, for one, could be persuaded that they constitute a 'good faith' non-profit.

Alternately, I can't imagine it'd be too difficult to spin off a second organization, funded by the for-profit parent that provides the non-profit programs. There are likely additional incentives for doing so.


I would advise coordinating with Coursera and asking the Minnesota state legislature to devise a new subdivision that exempts things like Coursera.


Coursera is not non-profit.


I bet a compromise could be worked out if Coursera agrees to make instructional materials available via 'gopher'.


Probably more positives here for Coursera than negatives. It'll get them more press and won't stop anyone from taking classes.

Hopefully it'll even make someone in the MN Office of Higher Education realize they need to update their policies.


Well, there's the proof that Coursera and the rest are serious threats to the existing order.


Or more likely, Minnesota's just had a lot of problems in the past with scammers running useless unaccredited online and mail-in degreee programs like everywhere else.


This is so backwards but so are many of the laws that are on the books in many states.


This is 'backward' until you meet a bunch of doctors who claim to cure cancer using cucumber juice and find that they all have PhDs and MDs from the University of Tantric Study and Life Exploration, Middlesex Town Massahoma. People in trouble DO fall for this bs.


I find it very hard to believe anyone can possibly be confused here.

Coursera is not a university, doesn't look or pretend to be a university. It doesn't grant PhDs, MDs, or indeed anything beyond a simple certificate that isn't even valid as college credit. They go to some length on every single course page to explain this. Some courses don't even give you a certificate. The website doesn't talk about certification it talks about "Advance your knowledge and career". There is a big tab that says "Universities" so I can't see how you could think Coursera was a university.


That's optimistic. There are plenty of quacks out there who claim to cure cancer using things like "black salve," which regularly causes permanent disfigurement and sometimes death. (Googlers beware.)


But people who are desperate and gullible don't check references. The scammer can just as easily claim to have an MD they never earned from a legitimate school, or an MD from a school that doesn't exist, or one that has never received approval to teach in any particular state.

School accreditation really isn't an effective solution to the problem you pose.


How much would you care to bet that the University of Tantric Study and Life Exploration, Middlesex Town Massahoma, would have all of the approvals necessary?


It's not a backwards law, it's a silly application of the law. The consumer protection angle is as valid today as it was decades ago, it's just irrelevant in the context of an entity that doesn't charge anything.


I attended a tech demo conference in Minnesota last week.

One topic of conversation during a networking break was having a theme to the next demo conference. The one theme which was heavily discussed? Wait for it. Edu-tech.

Oh, the irony.


"the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota"

Many many years ago, presumably during a discussion about travel, a great aunt of mine told her brother-in-law that he had been in two states she never had: intoxication and insanity. Either seems a sufficient defense here, and will the state of Minnesota make you blow in the bag and issue you a ticket for sober learning?


Why doesn't coursera take the same approach as Uber and respectfully disagree to comply?


"Complying" means adding a paragraph to their terms of service, informing minnesotans of their obligation under minnesotan law... which exists as a consumer protection initiative


aka operate illegally?


It is not clear to me that it is illegal. If Coursera has no presence in Minnesota, there are a lot of things that Minnesota cannot require of Coursera. For instance Minnesota cannot require the withholding and payment of sales taxes.

Therefore I'm not at all sure that Minnesota has the right to enforce these regulations. They probably can require that Minnesota residents not do business with Coursera. They can definitely say that Coursera courses are not worth college credits in Minnesota. But I'm doubtful that they can legally require that Coursera assist them one bit in their attempts to enforce those rules.


Or win on 1st amendment grounds.


Not even close; Minnesota isn't saying that Coursera cannot operate in Minnesota, just that it cannot do so without approval -- just like how you don't have the right to have a huge demonstration without proper permits. There is well-established precedent that it is acceptable to have minor hurdles in the expression of free speech in the interest of maintaining an orderly society.

Edit: also, the problem is that they are calling it a "college course", this is a simple consumer protection issue..


My impression is that they can get away with requiring permits for demonstrations because there are physical space considerations, public safety, etc. Imagine if a state decided you needed a permit to write for a political blog. Same content as a protest may have, but without the meatspace messiness.


Coursera isn't a political blog, it's a commercial service (even if provided for no fee).


Of course, I did not mean to imply equivalence. I am only pointing out that restrictions to freedom of speech being acceptable for physical protests does not necessarily imply anything about what may be acceptable limitations in other scenarios.

(In this case I agree with the exception)


Newspapers are a commercial service.


A better title for this would be:

"Minnesota Tells Coursera To Hit the Trail...Oregon Trail That Is."

The infamous "Oregon Trail" game was developed in Minnesota.


I live in Minnesota. I am enrolled for five Coursera courses (of which I am really keeping up with two, Keith Devlin's Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, a "transitions" course, and Mohamed Noor's Introduction to Genetics and Evolution). I have received no notification from Coursera to this effect. Checking my email messages from Coursera, I see no such notice, and logging into the site, there is no attempt to use geolocation to give a Minnesota-specific notice to me.

Moreover, I only see two blogs reporting this (one presumably cribbing from the other) as I do a Google News search. No local news organization in Minnesota has picked up this story. So thus far I'm not even sure that this is a true factual report. (I'll check with my state government during business hours tomorrow.) I doubt that this is true, and I doubt that this will hold up. Because I just met my incumbent state senator and state representative this evening (at a candidate forum in our newly redistricted state Senate district), I suppose I could contact their offices for immediate response to this issue, if there really is an issue here. My advice from a Minnesota Coursera student (who is also a lawyer familiar education regulations in the state of Minnesota, continually discovering new regulations that bureaucrats have ignored for varying lengths of time) is stay tuned for further news, and check the facts before proceeding to react to this.

AFTER EDIT: The first reply here refers to the Coursera terms of service,

https://www.coursera.org/about/terms

not a very prominent link on the Coursera site, and in context the notice fits in a big wall of text like this:

"Notice for California Users

Under California Civil Code Section 1789.3, California Website users are entitled to the following specific consumer rights notice: The Complaint Assistance Unit of the Division of Consumer Services of the California Department of Consumer Affairs may be contacted in writing at 1625 N. Market Blvd., Suite S-202, Sacramento, California 95834, or by telephone at (800) 952-5210.

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.

Choice of Law/Forum Selection

"Sites are managed by Coursera, located in Santa Clara County, California. You agree that any dispute arising out of or relating to these Terms of Use or any content posted to a Site, including copies and republication thereof, whether based in contract, tort, statutory or other law, will be governed by the laws of the State of California, excluding its conflicts of law provisions. You further consent to the personal jurisdiction of and exclusive venue in the federal and state courts located in and serving Santa Clara County, California as the legal forum for any such dispute.

"Excluding claims for injunctive or other equitable relief, for claims related to the Coursera Sites where the total amount sought is less than ten thousand U.S. Dollars ($10,000.00 USD), either Coursera or You may elect at any point during the dispute to resolve the claim through binding, non-appearance-based arbitration. The dispute will then be resolved using an established alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") provider, mutually agreed upon by You and Coursera. The parties and the selected ADR provider shall not involve any personal appearance by the parties or witnesses, unless otherwise mutually agreed by the parties; rather, the arbitration shall be conducted, at the option of the party seeking relief, online, by telephone, online, or via written submissions alone. Any judgment rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction."

That's about midway down a rather lengthy ToS, definitely "below the fold" for a casual glance at usual screen resolutions. Again, I will say that Coursera has not sent any notice to users of Coursera about that by email (I searched in my emails again) and doesn't draw attention to that by geolocation as users log in. So while Coursera feels compelled to add terms to its ToS, at least as of this moment, there doesn't seem to be any actual change in user interaction based on this. I will contact the relevant offices in Minnesota and see what they have to say about this during business hours. As before, Google News only reveals the blog here and another blog reporting on this.

Summing up, I think the blog post has a title that is link bait compared to the substance of the issue, and the issue appears to be doing nothing to discourage participation on Coursera on the part of Minnesota students. Coursera has put up a pro-forma legal notice, but it is still dealing with Minnesota students, and no one in Minnesota seems worried about signing up for Coursera courses.


I'd advise actually reading the article properly.

> I have received no notification from Coursera to this effect. Checking my email messages from Coursera, I see no such notice, and logging into the site, there is no attempt to use geolocation to give a Minnesota-specific notice to me.

No such claim was made.

The claim is that Coursera made a change to its Terms of Service. I just checked; there is such a notice in there. It's right underneath the one for California.

The letters were sent to "postsecondary institutions". You are not a postsecondary institution.


Is Cousera a "university", or claim to be anything like one? It doesn't have any admissions system or fees or grant any degrees.




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