No Learning Allowed in Minnesota

Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education informed Coursera, which partners with universities to offer their courses online, that it cannot operate within the state because of a law requiring colleges to obtain government permission to operate in state borders, reports The Chronicle of Education. The state couldn’t say whether this will affect other online course services like Cambridge’s own edX. As Chris Vogel notes today, edX is inching its way toward educating 1 billion people, a goal made somewhat more difficult if states start banning their residents from participating in the online learning movement. Then again, that seems terribly unlikely to happen. The Chronicle notes that it’s pretty difficult to physically prevent Minnesotans from signing up for Coursera’s online courses in the privacy of their homes.

As a sad little concession though, Coursera’s terms of service now contain a special note for Minnesota users reading:

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.

This is likely to create universal adherence to the state law because everyone on the internet agrees to Terms of Service only after reading them carefully. Just kidding. It actually seems to create an odd situation where Minnesota residents who want to take non-degree college courses for free online must do so secretly. (Reading Lolita in Bemidji anyone?) As Slate’s Will Oremus notes, we can pair this with New York’s crackdown on smartphone based cab hailing services to note that it hasn’t been a great week for technology unburdened by regulation, at least outside the borders of Massachusetts.