Minnesota and Coursera

An article from Ars Technica today seems to paint a different picture from the early and emotional headlines regarding the state of Minnesota’s reported “ban” of Coursera’s  free online courses.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Katherine Mangan seemed to start the furor with the headline Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot, Citing a Decades-Old Law. It was picked-up and spread via Slate’s article:  Free Online Education Is Now Illegal in Minnesota

See Ms. Mangan’s timely updates and reports on the topic here

Most everyone was shocked that Minnesota would want to ban FREE online courses. This will certainly be an interesting story to track and the Ars Technica article provides a different perspective. AS DO the comments found at the bottom of the original article.

Ars Technica article on Minnesota and Coursera:

No, Minnesota did not kick Coursera out of the state (Updated)

Minn. law compels education institutions to register, but Coursera isn’t one.

by Cyrus Farivar (article link)

Despite many media reports that Minnesota has forced online education platform Coursera to forbid Minnesotans from taking classes online, the state official in charge of this policy says it has done no such thing.

On Thursday, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Minnesota had “given Coursera the boot.”

It is true that Coursera has changed its terms of service to include a cautionary note advising universities offering courses via the California startup that they could not do so in Minnesota without authorization from state regulators.

“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,” the terms, which were changed in August 2012, now read.

However, the state official in charge of enforcing this policy told Ars that his office does not have the power to regulate Coursera, as the company doesn’t offer courses directly. Rather, Coursera acts as a middleman for universities (including UC Irvine, Stanford, and many others) that want to offer free courses online.

“I don’t care what they do; we don’t regulate them,” George Roedler, the manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told Ars on Thursday.

“I specifically said that [Coursera] didn’t have to put anything on their website. They could do what they wanted. They could ignore it. They chose this route and the reason I believe they did it was to try to protect the schools in their wake. So be it. That’s what they did.”

Indeed, the change of the terms of service appears to be a precautionary measure to skirt potential violations of Minnesota law.

Law designed to protect students

Roedler explained that Minnesota’s state law requires that educational institutions serving Minnesotans must be registered with the state—and pay a fee that can go as high as $12,000—as a means for the state to keep an eye on what’s going on. He added that the law had been around for decades, and that many other states have similar laws on their books.

“It’s a consumer protection law,” Roedler added. “We have had situations where in the past this law was enforced through student complaints. If we register the school, we have some control over the school. We have some standing over them. [We can say]: ‘You’ve mistreated this student—come into compliance.’”

A co-founder of Coursera told Ars that the company was informed of Minnesota’s law in July 2012 and changed its terms of service the following month. In addition, the company does not even know how many Minnesotan students it has.

“While is it up to individual institutions to choose whether to apply for permission, the Terms of Service amendment is intended to protect all of Coursera’s partner universities with respect to Minnesota’s laws,” Andrew Ng told Ars in an e-mailed statement.

UPDATE (Saturday): Some astute commenters have noticed that Slate is now reporting that Minnesota is clarifying its position and doesn’t want to discourage Minnesotans from using Coursera.

Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, sent Slate this statement:

“Obviously, our office encourages lifelong learning and wants Minnesotans to take advantage of educational materials available on the Internet, particularly if they’re free. No Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera.”

“When the legislature convenes in January, my intent is to work with the Governor and Legislature to appropriately update the statute to meet modern-day circumstances. Until that time, I see no reason for our office to require registration of free, not-for-credit offerings.”

As the Online Education Boom has been occurring for over a decade, the reverberations are finally being noticed by the media due to recent developments with major universities who are finally jumping-in full force and legitimizing  online learning, despite years of turning-up their noses at this alternative form of education.

That we’re in a pivotal time in history cannot be denied. For those of us who have been in the trenches since the beginning and to the pioneers prior who realized the power and potential before it became popular, we are in exciting times.

That said, I still find many different views and philosophies about what online learning is and how it should be used.

Behind the scenes of this multi-billion dollar industry, I find most disturbing the business lobbyists who are writing legislation that is passed by states and impacting general education at all levels.  With so much money to be made (mostly “free” taxpayer funds), the potential for abuse is considerable and I hope when the smoke from the BOOM clears, that the results is smarter, confident, competent and successful STUDENTS.

Jump into the “r/evolution” and make a difference!



Learning Technologies- The web within us:  When minds and machines become one

video by Ray Kurzweil (excerpts below)

The onset of the 21st century is an era in which the very nature of what it means to be human is both enriched and challenged, as our species breaks the shackles of its genetic legacy, and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity. The paradigm shift rate is now doubling every decade, so the twenty-first century will see 20,000 years of progress at todays rate. Consider how much the world has changed recently. Just a few years ago, people did not use social networks (Facebook, for example, was founded in 2004 and now has over 800 million active users), wikis, blogs, or tweets. Most people did not use search engines or mobile phones in the 1990s. Imagine the world without these. That sounds like ancient history, but it was not so long ago. The world will change even more in the near future. By 2020, we will have the means to programme our biology away from disease and aging. Information technology will be the majority of the economy in the 2020s and by the end of that decade virtual environments will be indistinguishable from reality. Virtually all technology will be nanotechnology within two decades, solving the energy problem and providing every kind of material resource that we need from mere information and inexpensive raw materials.

www.ej4.com | Mobile Learning, mlearning Mobile learning, although much talked about, is still in the early adopter phase because costs are still high, there are questions about security and the IT department is still skeptical or doesnt want to support everyones new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) philosophy. Lots of companys (and learning vendors) are trying to figure out their mobile strategy. Here are some things to think about as you ponder your first (or next) mobile learning pilot. 1. Gotta … make business sense If the project doesnt makesave the company money or decrease the amount of effort for the user in a task then its not worth pushing it to mobile. On the job Performance support refresh learning in the car before a sales call are great examples of a good mobile pilot. 2. Gotta be … short How short? 1-2 minutes. Remember, were not trying to certify the technical team on a new safety procedure here. Have more than 2 minutes of content? Chunk it up. Part 1 of X. 3. Gotta be … Easily found If its short, then I need to be able to find the right piece at the right time. Dont make me search forever to find it or Im never coming back. 4. Gotta be … User Friendly See above, then simplify the interface. If you have to explain how to use the new mobile site or app then you already lost. Think about the last two or three apps or sites you went to on your phone. Was it hard to navigate? Then you never opened it again. 5. Gotta be … Fast If you think I <b>…<b>


by Tanya Elias
Athabasca University, Canada

originally appeared in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
February – 2011


The report extends a previous analysis of universal instructional design principles in distance education by applying them to the design of mobile learning. Eight principles with particular relevance for distance education are selected, and their recommendations are discussed in relation to the design of educational materials for a range of mobile devices. The problems and opportunities of mobile learning are discussed as is the need for educators to focus on content design issues rather than on searching for the next new technology.

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