New Federal Distance Education Rule, Effective July 1, 2021

New Rules in Online Learning: Regular and Substantive Interaction

The U.S. Department of Education has issued Final Rules on Distance Education and Innovation which go into effect on July 1, 2021. Under the new regulations, the U.S. Department of Education requires that all online courses and programs for which students may use Title IV funds (federal financial aid) include regular and substantive interaction between students and their instructors. This ruling applies to both synchronous and asynchronous courses, with the primary focus being asynchronous courses. The Department of Education (ED) has the authority to audit courses and programs at institutions, like the University of Houston, with online offerings.

Elements of Regular and Substantive Interaction

The ED defines “substantive interaction” as “engaging students in teaching, learning and assessment, that is consistent with the course content under discussion and includes at least two of the following activities totaling at least 50-60 minutes every week for a 3 credit-hour course in a long fall/spring semester, or a scaled number of minutes for a course with a different number of credit-hours and a shorter or longer semester:

(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;

(vi) Interacting with an instructor about academic matters; and

(vii) Required discussion forum activity.

Please check back for updates. Thank you.


Examples of Regular and Substantive Interactions (RSI)

SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric

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