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Online education blocked where it’s needed most

The U.S. government blocked an online free education service to students in sanctioned countries, prohibiting education for students who need it most.

The connectivity of the Internet has long been touted as one of its most important attributes. Individuals in the U.S. can connect with people on the other side of the globe, allowing for instant communication on any topic from politics to the latest kitten meme. While some users take advantage of this connectivity for pleasure or work, others use to access something they might not otherwise be able to – education.

There are a number of different services online that can provide access to education. For instance, Wikipedia is an entirely free encyclopedia that can be accessed by anyone, so long as their governments allow it. However, others might need further guidance, in which a course with more instruction could be supremely beneficial.

Helping underprivileged areas
These services are certainly helpful to numerous people but in some parts of the world, they can be more essential than others. In war torn countries, for instance, or parts of the world where education is difficult to access, these outlets can be one of the only ways that someone can get access to a quality education.

This is why the recent news about government sanctions bleeding into online education are so discouraging. RT reported that Coursera has blocked students that live in Syria, Iran, Cuba and other U.S. sanctioned countries because of violations of U.S. law. Federal regulations require that exports, which includes this education service, do not enter sanctioned countries.

The news source noted that Coursera was developed by two Stanford progressions and provides education to 22 million students world wide.

The ramifications
The organization's website noted that students from sanctioned countries who are looking to access their courses will be prohibited from accessing their account. This problem has come up because of new a more strict interpretation of these sanctions.

"Until now the interpretation of export control regulations as they relate to MOOCs has been unclear and Coursera has been operating under the interpretation that MOOCs would not be restricted," the company wrote in a blog. "We recently received information that has led to the understanding that the services offered on Coursera are not in compliance with the law as it stands."

The growth of MOOCs
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Massive Open Online Courses have been growing increasingly popular across the U.S. and the rest of the country. The advantage of such classes is that people from a number of different locations can access education. On top of this, students can receive education from universities that may not otherwise be accessible. For instance, Coursera offers classes taught by professors from Cal Tech, and Stanford – universities that may not otherwise be accessible to students because of location, finance or other factors.

Phys.org reported that MOOCs have been causing a massive change in the higher education system. While students do not have the direct access to teachers that is offered in the class room and drop out rates are high, the advantages still reign true. The news source noted that a recent paper published by Lehigh professors indicated that these classes could create massive change within the higher education system in countries around the world.

Coursera has noted that it is working with the U.S. State Department and the Office of Foreign Assets and Controls to obtain permission to continue offering course in these sanctioned countries. Unfortunately, it would seem that these sanctioned countries could benefit the most from these online education services. Hopefully, these sanctions can be lifted sooner rather than later so that students can continue to receive access to education.

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