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Coursera Blocking Access to Students in Iran, Sudan & Cuba is an Injustice

Posted on by Leona Sharon


Objections and contradictions arise everywhere whenever it comes to differentiating online courses from those that are offered full-time. The entire world probably is now aware of the fact that the Massive Open Online Courses and their intentions. Delivering accessible education within one’s means to people all over the globe is the primary objective of the MOOC providers. However, the export control regulation board members are now raising objections on the fact that online courses which are being exported to several nations around the world are not meeting standards of career aspirants.

Coursera blocks access to students in Iran

Coursera that has achieved global reputation in online education has been found to be blocking access to students in Syria as well as Iran. According to the U.S Department of State and Office of Foreign Assets Control, Coursera was not able to keep up to the legal standards. According to them, “We instituted a restriction in compliance with current export controls to ensure that our business remains in good standing with the law.”

Well, as an educator, I would like to say that although it’s true that students in Iran, Sudan and Cuba are not able to access education, it’s indeed an unpleasant scenario. It is said that students who are living in the countries falling under new US regulations will be trying to access the site for free content. However, they will be showed a message stating that they would not be allowed to access the site.

Absolute injustice

In order for Coursera to comply with U.S. export controls, we cannot allow you access to the site”, are the exact words in the message which students would be getting on accessing Coursera’s site. Now, this I feel is absolute injustice because online education should be accessible to all, or otherwise, financially challenged individuals would never find it easier to obtain education.

Even the MENA Connector for French collaborative consumption network OuiShare, who is Mr. Ahmad Sufian Bayram says that there are a huge number of students who just can’t attend the universities and cannot even take up additional courses. Therefore, free courses are very important, and if these restrictions are set in such circumstances, how would students be able to educate themselves?

What happend to Coursera’s mission?

Surprisingly, Coursera that has achieved both name and fame in the world of online education is now posing restrictions to access their courses. My question is, “where Coursera has involved more than 100 institutional partners in 19 countries that have brought courses to about 5.5 million students from not less than 700 professors, what’s the use of imposing limitations?” In fact, Coursera initially stepped with the mission to educate millions of individuals all over the world by offering classes conducted by professors from world class universities. So, where’s the mission gone?

Following the footsteps of UK universities

Instead, what I feel is that Coursera should follow the footsteps of the UK universities that not only offer online courses but ensure considerable academic support that can help career aspirants to complete higher studies in the most convenient manner. UK universities have rather allured students from backward African nations like Nigeria where students have found new ways of obtaining education with

 in fact have allured thousands of international learners for several factors like:

  • Quality standards of teaching
  • Accessibility of study materials
  • Interactive and quality study materials including audio, video and even text
  • Discussions through social networking
  • Students support team that is always available for solving queries of students

Well, even if Coursera possesses all these qualities, it must be liberal enough to let students obtain education with absolute convenience. Experts have said that Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can however play a key role in making the disadvantaged students continue their education without confronting hindrances. So, we have to now wait and watch for the next step taken by Coursera for students of the oppressed nations.

Comment on this post

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