You know what would be terrible? If someone figured out a way to make the very best college courses available for free online to anyone who wanted them.
Oh wait! Someone did! Coursera, a California-based startup, offers dozens of free courses from top American universities (think Stanford, Princeton, Caltech, Duke). They don't grant degrees. They just take material that was previously available to handful of uber-achievers who happen to have more than $100,000 to spend on tuition and make it available for free to everyone with an Internet connection. Here's what Coursera says about their goals:
We hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
Naturally, they must be stopped.
Luckily Minnesota is on the case. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
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.
The result is this notice in Coursera's terms of service:
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.
Well done, North Star State. I bet no Minnesotans will use their totally unrestricted (and basically unrestrictable) Internet access to take Penn's Neuroethics course or Stanford's six week series on Game Theory now. They are safe from free, super awesome online courses.
Tyler and I wish to be perfectly clear: unlike Coursera, we will not shut down MRU to the residents of Minnesota. We are prepared to defend our rights under the First Amendment to teach the good people of Minnesota all about the Solow Model, water policy in Africa, and the economics of garlic–even if we have to do so from a Minnesota jail!