- Coursera and edX, whose MOOC platforms collectively serve some 140 million users, are each suspending content from their Russian university and industry partners on humanitarian grounds following the country's invasion of Ukraine.
- Both companies are also stepping up their support for Ukraine by allowing the country's higher education institutions to freely access services that let colleges incorporate the MOOC platforms' content into their classes, edX and Coursera announced last week.
- Udemy, another prominent MOOC platform, also said it is not pursuing any new enterprise relationships in the Russia and Belarus regions.
MOOC platforms are joining the legions of companies that have scaled back or cut ties with Russia since the country invaded Ukraine late last month. Oil and gas companies have pulled out of Russian projects. Carmakers have halted shipments to the country. And credit card companies are blocking transactions from Russian banks.
For the MOOC companies, it's unclear how the pullout will impact their bottom lines. Coursera, edX and Udemy spokespeople did not answer questions this week about how many courses their decisions will affect.
But their announcements raise questions about whether they will take actions against other countries in the future, said Phil Hill, a partner at ed tech consultancy MindWires. He cited the example of China, which the U.S. has accused of committing genocide against Uyghurs, members of a Turkic ethnic group native to northwest China who largely identify as Muslim.
"You have genocide going on in China. Are you ready to apply the same standards to China?" Hill said. "If China takes action against Taiwan, are they going to do the same thing?"
Other countries may hesitate to work with the companies if they believe the MOOCs will pull back services at a later date.
"We have to think, 'How does the rest of the world look at these moves in U.S. companies?," Hill said. "And the rest of the world might not be comfortable if U.S. companies get to make these decisions unilaterally."
Coursera announced last week it is suspending all content from Russian university and industry partners, a move that covers courses, specializations and degree programs. It is also halting further business with Russian institutions that contract with the company to use its content and suspending the ability of users in Russia to enroll in paid courses.
The company said its platform will remain available in regions without government sanctions.
"We will not support the financial or reputational benefit of Russian instructors or institutions on Coursera while this tragedy is taking place, nor will we look to profit from doing business in the region amid this humanitarian crisis," Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda said in a statement.
The company said it is working with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine to freely offer Coursera for Campus — which allows colleges to use the platform's content across their campuses — to the country's higher education institutions.
Users enrolled in content from Russian partners will have 90 days to complete their courses, according to an email the company sent to affected students. Any existing subscriptions or payments will not be renewed.
Another MOOC, edX, is taking similar actions. It announced last week it is removing all edX course content offered by Russian universities. It listed five institutions that will have their offerings taken down: ITMO University, National Research Nuclear University MEPhL, National University of Science and Technology MISiS, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia and Ural Federal University.
Users will not be able to find or enroll in affected courses on the company's website, but edX will work with learners already taking those classes to ensure they can complete them.
Also, edX is working with Ukraine's government to offer free access to edX Online Campus, which lets colleges use the platform's content, to the country's higher education institutions.
"We stand with Ukraine and all those who urgently seek peace," edX founder Anant Agarwal said in a statement. "The Russian government's unprovoked actions have made it impossible for us to continue to work in good conscience with Russian institutions."
A Udemy spokesperson said the company has been in touch with Ukraine's government about offering services and hopes to share more information soon.