I was actually really shocked to read this. http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/minnesota-gives-coursera-the-boot-citing-a-decades-old-law/40542
Minnesota has long said it is big on education and yet it is attacking one of the best education platforms out there today. I’m not a big letter writer to my reps at the state level. I will go to a town hall now and then as in maybe once a year. But this matter actually got me worked up. The government of MN wants to ban Coursera, a great group doing great work to help give to those who otherwise would not be able to learn. I wrote a letter to my reps about my feelings on this matter. I am posting it here because I do feel that education is important. And organizations like Coursera are doing great work to help people.
I was at an event last week and Prof Ng was there too. One of the winners of the machine learning competition that used the data set I donated, had only taken Prof Ng free Coursera course, that’s all the experience he had! Why would the state of Mn limit the residents from being able to get the same skills to improve their lives?
I recently read how the state of MN is giving Coursera, an organization that gives free online classes from accredited universities, the boot. Essentially, making it illegal for residents to get free classes online from well respected schools like Stanford University. (http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/18/minnesota_bans_coursera_state_takes_bold_stand_against_free_education.html)
I know Coursera and I know Prof Ng the co founder, in fact I spoke with him last weekend while at a conference we were both presenting at. The law in question I believe is misused. Classes like machine learning are actually hard to find at the level we need right now. I know, because I hire people with that skill set. I also know the local MN universities don’t know how to produce programs to give us candidates that can fill the jobs I need to fill. I know this because they have approached me and have said, they don’t know what to teach! If someone in the state of MN, takes a class on Coursera and is successful and can show me in an interview that they mastered the materials, I would hire them. But this use of the law is making it so, I can’t. How is that a benefit to anyone?
Last weekend I was at a machine learning conference, the winner of the machine learning event, had no experience in machine learning other than taking a 10 week class on Coursera about machine learning. Skills he can’t realistically get from our local schools today! I have to hire people from Silicon Valley to the jobs I need done around machine learning, jobs I would really much rather hire locally but until the universities catch up, I don’t have the skills coming out of the schools to fill the jobs. But, I can get those skills from people who take a free class online. This law, is NOT helping the economy. There are a lot of people out of work, I would love to hire them and if they can get the skills from a FREE class online from Stanford, how is that not a win win for everyone? Coursera’s mission is to put the student first, to help give access to education to people who otherwise would not be able to afford it. How is this not in-line with the values of the government of MN? Why would we ban such an organization that is helping people in ways our own schools can’t?
Can you do something about this misuse of the law and let Coursera be welcomed back in the state of MN?