Coursera blocks its online learning service in Cuba, Iran and Sudan to comply with US law

Coursera blocks its online learning service in Cuba, Iran and Sudan to comply with US law

Online learning company Coursera has blocked its own service from Cuba, Iran and Sudan in order to comply with US law on international trading.

The company is one of the largest MOOC, Massive Open Online Courses, startups, with more than 6 million registered students and over 500 courses. Its virtual classes, which can be accessed and taken by anyone with Internet access, are available to all countries worldwide, however it has reluctantly stepped back in these three places after the US government took a new stance on how companies like it do business in sanctioned countries. (Were it a non-profit, it would likely be free of the restrictions.)

Coursera explains its changes in a blog post:

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. 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. Accordingly we have instituted a restriction in compliance with the current export controls to ensure that our business remains in good standing with the law.

Internet users who visit Coursera from IP addresses in the three banned countries will no longer be able to log into the site, and therefore use it. They will still be able to peruse the course catalog and blog, however, since these are public services that the company does not make money from.

Coursera doesn’t suggest ways to circumvent the block, but affected users could, in theory, enjoy full access if they log in using a VPN service, which provides with an overseas-based IP address.


The startup says it core mission is “providing access to education for everyone,” so it is making this change which will shut out potential students with “deep regret.”

There is one bright spot, however, since the company was able to restore full access for users Syria. The trouble Middle Eastern country had initially been included on the block list, but Coursera is exempted thanks to a regulation for certain non-government organizations, particularly those in the education sector.

The company has partnerships with over 100 universities and educational establishments worldwide, including the likes of Yale and Stanford.

 Recently: Coursera launches Specializations with 10 universities to offer multi-course series for specific subjects

Image via Valerie Potapova / Shutterstock

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