Minnesota says no to online education [updated]

Will Oremus for Slate:

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. A policy analyst for the state’s Office of Higher Education told The Chronicle that Minnesota is simply enforcing a longstanding state law requiring colleges to get the government’s permission to offer instruction within its borders. She couldn’t say whether other online education startups like edX and Udacity were also told to stay out.

Someone ought to warn Apple that iTunes U is apparently illegal in Minnesota.

This is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard of. The state’s position is completely unenforceable. Time for the bureaucrats running the Office of Higher Education to get their heads out of their asses and recognize it’s 2012. Unless they’re going to shut down the Internet in Minnesota, I highly doubt they’re going to be able to stop people from learning stuff online there.

Friend of The Loop Julio Ojeda-Zapata follows up in a piece published in Pioneer Press. Apparently the state is easing restrictions on online schools:

Hey, all you colleges and universities not in Minnesota: Want to offer a free, online, not-for-credit course to people living here, no questions asked? This is your lucky day. The State of Minnesota has stopped enforcing a 20-year-old statute requiring such institutions to go through a lengthy registration process before they could offer no-cost Internet coursework.