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Seriously, Minnesota? Banning Free Courses? Ugh.

It’s not often my dander rises, in fact I like to think I’m a classic level headed Minnesotan drenched in “Minnesota Nice.” But today I’m riled.

It all began when I took a quick visit to Pharyngula to check out what my fellow rural Minnesotan was up to. Dr. Myers lives an hour from my office and hosts a delightful Freethinker Group in Morris. We’ve visited his facility on more than one occasion and walk away in awe at all the work he does both for Biology and the Free thought Community.

But I digress.

Today when I visited, I discovered that free online classes are now illegal in Minnesota.  Here’s the Slate article he mentions.

A quote:

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the state has decided to crack down on free education, notifying California-based startup Coursera that it is not allowed to offer its online courses to the state’s residents. Coursera, founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, partners with top-tier universities around the world to offer certain classes online for free to anyone who wants to take them. You know, unless they happen to be from Minnesota.

Now… back in the day, I worked for a large online metaphysical “university.” In fact I hosted their Minnesota office, enabling them to offer “PhDs.”

PZ wrote about it here.

I’ll resume after you stop laughing.

I quit working for them after they asked me to process dissertations and theses without reading them. “Just grade them on structure. See if they have an intro, a few sources, a discussion, conclusion… stuff like that.”

“You mean I don’t read them?”


“What about content, spelling, sentence structure…”

Their reply? “Quit trying to apply Harvard standards to our students.”

I quit. On the spot. Not only that, but I reported them to the State of Minnesota. In fact, I spoke to the same George Roedler in the Slate article. The SAME Roedler who is quoted as saying:

The law’s intent is to protect Minnesota students from wasting their money on degrees from substandard institutions.

Substandard institutions? Seriously? How about a fully legal metaphysical “university” granting upper level degrees without reading student papers? He wasn’t remotely concerned about that when I spoke to him in person. As long as the fees are paid, all is good.


Slate sums up the situation perfectly:

The thing is, no one is wasting their money on Coursera courses, because they’re free. (Yes, says Roedler, but they could still be wasting their time.) And again, while its partners are degree-granting institutions, no one is getting a Stanford degree by taking a class or two on Coursera. At most, some classes offer a “certificate of completion.” If every government took Minnesota’s approach, free online education probably wouldn’t exist, because the cost of compliance and registration in all 50 states, let alone other countries, would be prohibitive. Here’s hoping that common sense prevails.

I concur.

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