edX 6.00x: end of course certificates and US embargoes

In keeping with the generally bumpy ride on this course, its ending also didn’t go quite to plan. Completion certificates for those of us who achieved 55% or more were eventually issued a few days later than originally scheduled on 1st February.

However, the reason given for the slight delay was an intriguing one. Some “unexpected legal issues with distribution” had occurred. There’s been no official word from the course team to all students as to what the issues were, but one student who is still caught by these issues posted this message that they’d received onto the course forum:

Your certificate is being held pending confirmation that the issuance of your certificate is in compliance with strict U.S. embargoes on Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan. If you think our system has mistakenly identified you as being connected with one of those countries, please let us know …

It’s ironic that probably the least valuable part of the course – the certificate – is what the embargo has been applied to rather than the course contents which do have real value! No-one can fathom the strange workings of the minds of lawyers I suppose. Or perhaps, just maybe, edX were breaching the embargoes all along by allowing students connected with those countries to enrol and access the course materials in the first place. Whoops.

I guess it just goes to show that MOOCs still have some way to go before all of the kinks are ironed out and that the promised revolution make take a little longer to arrive in some parts of the world.