Regular & Substantive Interaction (RSI)

Updated: Aug 10

On July 1, 2021, new requirements from the US Department of Education take effect as part of the Distance Education and Innovation regulations (Office of Postsecondary Education, 2020). One of the key regulation changes is greater clarity on regular and substantive interaction for distance education.

Yield Sign

According to NC SARA (2020), “regular is defined as taking place on a predictable and scheduled basis and substantive means students are engaged through teaching, learning, and assessment as well as at least two of five activities:"

  • providing direct instruction;

  • assessing or providing feedback on a student’s course work;

  • providing information or responding to questions about the content course or competency;

  • facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency;

  • or other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency. (para. 3)

With the new regulations, "distance education and correspondence education are more clearly distinguishable through five critical factors:"

  • Distance education should be delivered through an appropriate form of online media.

  • Distance education must use instructors that meet accreditor requirements for instruction in the subject matter.

  • There should be at least two forms of substantive interaction (see above).

  • There must be scheduled and predictable opportunities for instructor/student interaction (see above).

  • Instructors must be responsive to students’ requests for support. (NC SARA, 2020, para. 7)

Furthermore, "academic engagement can be fulfilled through virtual/augmented reality activities," (NC SARA, 2020, para. 5).


Why are the Distance Education and Innovation regulations important, particularly the focus on regular and substantive interaction? Neuroplasticity and learning are experience dependent as shared by Dr. Lara Boyd (2018), Neuroscientist and Physical Therapist at the University of British Columbia. There is a critical relationship between learning, practice, and memory. As shared by McTighe and Willis (2019), “Every lesson, assignment, and interaction shapes your students' brains” (p. 3). Therefore, how instructional designers and faculty design courses is important to learning since the brain continues to change as a result of experience and interactions with the environment both in and outside of the online classroom.


Author: Dr. Kristen Betts


Learn more about how INTERACT123 can support your work with regular and substantive interaction.