A state senator has proposed allowing colleges to offer large not-for-credit online classes in Minnesota if they remain free of charge.
The Massive Open Online Courses, known as MOOCs, enable one professor to teach tens of thousands of students online at the same time. But Minnesota requires private and out-of-state colleges offering online courses to register with the state and pay a fee, regardless of whether the classes are free or offer no credit.
It was meant to protect consumers from low-quality schools. But online-education supporters say it has impeded providers of the courses. Online-education company Coursera has said the process is burdensome. The bill's sponsor, Republican Jeremy Miller of Winona, says it's time for the law to go.
"It's ridiculous that Minnesota is trying to regulate a free online educational course," Miller said. "That's why we're working to eliminate this barrier, and make sure that these free courses can be offered in our state."
Miller acknowledges his bill could change to account for growing college acceptance of the courses.
"This legislation does nothing about colleges or universities offering these courses for credit, but I do think that is a conversation we're going to have," Miller said.
Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller has called the law outdated.