I am been involved in an interesting chain of events this week. It turns out that Minnesotans (of which I am one) are not allowed to take courses from Coursera in Minnesota. Here is an excerpt from the 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.
This is a story about how I found out about this, and what happened after:
- Steve Krauss says something about the terms of service somewhere.
- Laura Gibbs overhears, and posted the news on Google Plus.
- Then it looks like Jeff Erickson re-shared it on Google Plus.
- Then Theron Hitchman re-shared it on Google Plus.
- I read Theron’s post. Since I am a Minnesotan, and since I was about to start a course offered by Coursera, I found this interesting (I dropped the course. This was partly because I don’t like breaking the law, but mostly because I knew that I didn’t have time for it).
- Then John Golden sent out this tweet on Twitter:
Any tweeps besides @roberttalbert doing the Rice coursera Python class?
— John Golden (@mathhombre) October 16, 2012
- Robert Talbert re-tweeted it, and I replied:
— Bret Benesh (@bretbenesh) October 16, 2012
This led to a conversation on Twitter about the Terms of Service.
- Robert Talbert was included on these tweets, and wrote about it on his blog at The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Katie Mangen, also a writer at the Chronicle, then wrote this article based on Robert’s blog post (she called me for a quote, but I was useless. I only knew what was written in Coursera’s Terms of Service).
- Will Oremus read Katie’s article, and wrote his own article in freakin’ Slate.
The moral of the story: Steve Krauss should be careful what he says, because it could end up being written about in Slate.
Update (10/20/2012): Minnesota has come out and explicitly allowed Minnesotans to take courses. We will see if Coursera removes the language from its terms of service.