The U.S. Department of Education requires that all online courses for which students may receive federal financial aid “involve regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors.”
Ensuring regular and substantive interaction is consistent with the University’s best practices on online course design and delivery.
The University’s Online Teaching Essentials (OTE) provides faculty with foundational skills and fundamental concepts for creating a successful high quality student learning experience. OTE models how to form a learning community to increase student motivation and engagement, powerful practices for feedback and presence, and skills for facilitating and managing online/hybrid course to ensure a high quality online learning experiences for students.
The OTE course provides faculty with the necessary information for the University to comply with federal guidelines.
Student participation and outreach is always welcome by faculty, but to count as “regular and substantive” interactions must be faculty driven:
Not Initiated by the Instructor:
Interactions with students should be reasonably frequent and consistent throughout the semester. For classes taught asynchronously interactions must be weekly.
Not Frequent and Consistent:
Interaction should be connected to the course subject matter and contribute to the students’ progress towards course learning objectives.
Not Focused on Course Content:
Regular and substantive interaction can be incorporated into an online course in a variety of ways. Below are just a few to consider:
The Office of Online Learning and Services, Center for Teaching and Learning, and University Libraries have created the Remote Pedagogy Fundamentals (RPF) course to support faculty teaching online and hybrid formats. This course provides faculty with ongoing access to suggestions for how to incorporate regular and substantive interaction in their courses.
RPF has been developed specifically to provide St. John’s faculty with an opportunity to acquire basic skills for teaching in a virtual environment. This six hour self-paced asynchronous course allows faculty to explore best practices for creating an inclusive and engaging virtual learning environment. Content modules include shifting to a remote teaching and learning mindset; inclusive teaching strategies; and designing and teaching a remote course that facilitates engaged student learning. The use of technology as a tool to facilitate student engagement and learning is emphasized and suggestions are provided to assist faculty in thinking through effective course design using technology.
The course also models best practices by engaging the faculty-learner through self-reflection journal prompts, self-check exercises, and discussion prompts, in addition to providing suggestions for professional development “next steps” and a bank of for-further-exploration resources.
To access Remote Pedagogy Fundamentals:
Distance education: (1) Education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (2) (i) through (iv) of this definition to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor or instructors and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously…
The technologies that may be used to offer distance education include: (i) The internet; (ii) One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; (iii) Audio conference; or (iv) Other media used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (2) (i) through (iii) of this definition
(3) For purposes of this definition, an instructor is an individual responsible for delivering course content and who meets the qualifications for instruction established by an institution’s accrediting agency.
Active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student's course of study that
(1) Is defined by the institution in accordance with any applicable requirements of its State or accrediting agency;
(2) Includes, but is not limited to: (i) Attending a synchronous class, lecture, recitation, or field or laboratory activity, physically or online, where there is an opportunity for interaction between the instructor and students; (ii) Submitting an academic assignment; (iii) Taking an assessment or an exam; (iv) Participating in an interactive tutorial, webinar, or other interactive computer-assisted instruction; (v) Participating in a study group, group project, or an online discussion that is assigned by the institution; or (vi) Interacting with an instructor about academic matters; and
(3) Does not include, for example (i) Living in institutional housing; (ii) Participating in the institution's meal plan; (iii) Logging into an online class or tutorial without any further participation; or (iv) Participating in academic counseling or advisement.
(5) An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency: (i) Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and (ii) 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.
Download New Federal Requirements for Distance Education: Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)