There’s been a lot of news over the past few days regarding an addition we made to our Terms of Service (ToS) for Minnesota citizens in August.
Last week, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the modification to our ToS. It was picked up by Slate, and from there it quickly went viral. Over the past few days, we’ve been working closely with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, and have now removed the message from our ToS.
In light of the recent events, we’d like to share some background and insight about what happened:
In July, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education brought our attention to Minnesota Statutes 136A.61 to 136A.71, which state that a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so.
Some states, like Minnesota, have laws to regulate higher education dissemination, mainly in the interest of protecting their citizens from sub-par education. We understood the good intent of the regulation, but given our non-degree granting status and free content, we questioned this application. That said, whenever possible, we try to work with governments and institutions, since we believe that this will allow us to serve more students in the long term.
So, we decided to modify the ToS to specifically address the issue of Minnesota residents taking classes on Coursera from universities that had not been authorized by the State of Minnesota.
Here’s the full text that we added to the ToS:
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.
Following last week’s public response regarding this decision, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education graciously re-evaluated the extent to which this application of the statute made sense in this context. On Friday, Larry Pogemiller, Director of the Office, made a statement that “no Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera,” and that they will update the 20-year-old statute to “meet modern-day circumstances.” After talking with the Office of Higher Education this morning, we are taking down the above clause in our ToS. We are appreciative of the responsiveness of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and would like to thank them for working us to deliver the best online education experience for our Minnesota-based students. We look forward to a continued collaboration.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received regarding this issue, and hope that you continue to enjoy our courses – whether you are from Madagascar, Mongolia,,… or Minnesota!