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Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

The federal government has updated its guidelines for online education, defining and requiring "regular and substantive" interaction between student and instructor in online courses.

The FSCJ Online Advisory Committee has provided two documents to aid faculty in preparing and monitoring their online courses.

Substantive interaction is defined as engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following.

  • Providing direct instruction: Live, synchronous instruction where both the instructor and the student are online and in communication at the same time. 
    • Conducting nonmandatory virtual class meetings (optional for students to attend).
    • Synchronously interacting with students via chat at a scheduled time.
  • Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework. 
    • Regular grading and instructor feedback on assignments.
    • Use of rubric to grade assignments with textual or audio feedback provided to each student.
    • Instructor’s feedback on individual student’s performance in auto-graded assignments (such as via the comment option in the Canvas grade book).
  • Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency.
    • Providing module-specific “Module Questions” forums that encourage students to post regular questions for the instructor.
    • Providing manual feedback to the entire class on topics students struggled with in auto-graded assignments
    • Maintaining weekly office hours to provide information and answer students’ questions.
    • Posting regular announcements introducing or explaining the course content.
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency.
    • Contributing to/coaching students in online discussion forums.
    • Providing a summary/wrap-up post at the conclusion of discussions.
    • Using discussion platforms, such as Perusall and Packback, with instructor engagement in facilitating the discussions.
  • Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency.
    • No available guidance yet from the institution’s accrediting agency.
    • Refer to your program’s accrediting agency for additional guidance.

The Department of Education requires an institution to ensure regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency. Both of the sections below are needed in order to satisfy the “regular” portion of the federally mandated RSI guidelines.

  1. Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis appropriate to the session length.
    • At least two forms of substantive interactions weekly or every other week for 15-week and 12-week sessions. 
    • At least two forms of substantive interactions weekly for 7-week sessions. 
    • At least two forms of substantive interactions twice a week for 4-week sessions.
  2. Monitoring the student’s academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed, on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.
    • Monitoring students’ performance and progress in course assignments/assessments/activities on a weekly basis.
    • Followed by
      • Contacting struggling students individually or collectively to assist with or address missing submissions/poor grades.
      • Contacting students with proposed meeting times or office hours to discuss course content further.
      • Directing students to office hours through grading feedback.
      • Directing students to tutoring services or submitting early alerts will not satisfy this requirement, but we recommend continuing these practices for providing additional institutional support to struggling students.


  1. Distance Education and Innovation - A Rule by the Education Department on 09/02/2020
  2. United States Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education’s letter to WCET SAN
  3. Regular and Substantive Interaction Refresh: Reviewing & Sharing Our Best Interpretation of Current Guidance and Requirements – WCET Blogpost
  4. Regular and Substantive Interaction Update: Where Do We Go from Here? WCET Blogpost
  5. Clarity, Confusion on ‘Regular and Substantive Interaction – IHE Blogpost

Strategies for Synchronous Online (Live Online) Teaching

Online Synchronous Strategies - This website provides synchronous online course delivery strategies from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the University of Iowa. 

Encouraging Student Engagement During Synchronous Meetings: Preventing Midterm Drop-Off - This Faculty Focus article explores strategies for encouraging student participation in the live online classroom.

FSCJ Master Course content can be adjusted and used for live online delivery. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Remove online discussions (and associated points) and replace with live online classroom activities
  • Use master course learning units for live online presentation
  • Invite students to present selected assignments in the live online classroom
  • View and discuss master course videos in the live online classroom

Please feel free to contact a Faculty Development Specialist for technical assistance setting up a live online classroom.


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