“We are deeply sorry to have to block any student anywhere from taking an edX course”, edX president Anant Agarwal said on his blog. “This is completely antithetical to the vision and foundational values of edX and all MOOC’s. We will continue to work diligently with the U.S. government until every student, from any country in the world, can take any course they choose on edX.”
A month ago students from U.S. government-designated state sponsors of terrorism were still allowed to take part in MOOCs offered through platforms owned by U.S. companies, although they might have encountered difficulty registering.
Information or service?
Agarwal: “EdX has worked for many months with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets and Control (“OFAC”) and the U.S. State Department to determine how we can assure that no one in any country is blocked from taking an edX course. The business of MOOCs is new territory for everyone, so we are all learning together. The question at issue involved whether offering MOOCs fell under information (permitted without a license) or services (prohibited without a license). OFAC has taken the position that MOOCs fall into the category of services.”
EdX recently learned that MITx’s Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics was not covered by the licenses granted to us for offering courses to students in these countries. “Certain STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses must be submitted to OFAC for independent consideration, which we have done”, Agarwal says. “We don’t know why these STEM courses were excluded from the licenses, and we don’t know when we may hear from OFAC regarding this course. So, our only recourse at this moment is to temporarily block students from these countries for this one course, based on their IP addresses.”