On Friday, we remarked on the outrageous story that online education startup Coursera was being banned in Minnesota on the grounds that it hadn’t registered with the state government. We weren’t the only ones beating that drum. In response to the massive Internet backlash, Minnesota has clarified that the law does not apply to free online ed like Coursera after all. The Washington Post reports:
“Obviously, our office encourages lifelong learning and wants Minnesotans to take advantage of educational materials available on the Internet, particularly if they’re free,” said Larry Pogemiller, director of the [Minnesota Office of Higher Education]. “No Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera.”
Mystery solved: it apparently was a minor bureaucrat sticking a bit too closely to the letter of an outdated law. Via Meadia is glad that those responsible have come to their senses.
But with online learning spreading far more rapidly than anyone could have expected even a year ago, we’re bound to see more of these kinds of stories crop up. This time, everything resolved itself rather quickly and harmlessly. But as with any disruptive technology, look for entrenched interests to fight tooth and nail to protect their fiefdoms, often relying on exactly the kind of long-forgotten consumer protection laws which may make much less sense in today’s transforming world.