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Regular And Substantive Interaction in Online and Distance Learning

The U.S. Department of Education released final regulatory language for Distance Education and Innovation, effective July 1, 2021, that included an updated definition of distance education which distinguishes it from correspondence education. For all distance education courses in which students may use federal financial aid, the Department of Education requires institutions to monitor and evaluate distance education offerings to ensure there is regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between students and faculty.  

The Department of Education will focus on five factors to determine compliance with the federal regulation of RSI in distance education: 

  • Our online courses are delivered through appropriate media (e.g. internet, audio conferencing).  
  • The instructor of record meets our accreditation requirements. 
  • The instructor of record engages in at least two of five substantive activities.   
  • The instructor of record incorporates scheduled and predictable opportunities for interaction with students.  
  • The instructor of record is responsive to student requests.  

Incorporating RSI in our online courses shows our commitment to effective teaching and quality interactions and experiences with our students.

What is RSI? 

Regular and substantive interaction is characterized by the following:  

Initiated by the Instructor

Instructors should have an active presence in the course by initiating and guiding a range of interactions with students in a timely manner.

Frequent and Consistent

Interactions with students should be reasonably frequent and consistently repeated throughout the term where students are likely to grow to expect it.

Focused on the Course Subject

Interactions should be connected to the subject of the course and contribute to the students’ progress toward course and program learning objectives.


Substantive Interaction 

Substantive interaction is defined as engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment consistent with the course content and includes at least two of the following types of interactions 

  • Providing direct instruction
  • Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework 
  • Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency  
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding the course content or competency 
  • Using other instructional activities approved by WKU or SACSCOC 

Examples of substantive interaction:

  • Posting follow-up questions on a discussion board to assist students in reaching a higher learning potential 
  • Providing constructive feedback on student assignments, which identifies specifically what has been done correctly, needs improvement, or guides students to the next steps of learning. Brief comments like “good job” or “you need to improve” are not substantive.  
  • Hosting synchronous online meetings and chats that further explore course material and answer student questions.

Regular Interaction 

Regular interaction is defined as engaging students on a scheduled and predictable basis about course content. 

Examples of regular interaction: 

  • Being present, guiding, and initiating contact with students 
  • Participating in regularly scheduled learning sessions 
  • Setting assignments and assessment deadlines throughout the term of the class 
  • Interaction with students happens frequently and students grow to expect it. 
  • Assignments and assessment deadlines that are spread throughout the term of the class 

More examples of RSI are available in this
RSI Requirement Checklist  from Blue Mountain Community College. 




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 Last Modified 4/18/22