Regular and Substantive Interaction in an Online Course

Regular, Substantive, and Manageable Interactions
Regular, Substantive, and Manageable Interactions

Your instructional designer ( can help you review your online course to ensure that it includes high quality interactions and experiences, and can provide you with examples of ways to include meaningful, manageable, and constructive interactions. These types of interactions are important not only to ensure that a course or program meets the qualifications for financial aid, but also to ensure instructor presence – which is critical for developing a quality learning environment for students.

To be eligible for student financial aid and full-time status, distance courses and programs must meet the “regular and substantive interaction” requirement established by the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (

Distance education courses are delivered online via the internet, are instructor lead and instructor paced, and are designed to require “regular & substantive interaction” between students and the instructor and students and students, either asynchronously or synchronously, or through a combination of both asynchronous and synchronous interactions using one or more of the following technologies: the internet; one-way and two-way transmission through open broadcast, closed-circuit cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio-conferencing; or videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs used in conjunction with any of the other technologies.

Interaction is defined as between “students and students” and “instructor and students.”

Four elements make up regular and substantive interaction:
1) Interaction must be initiated by the instructor. The faculty member guides the flow of events by initiating a lecture, online discussions, assignments, or other learning activities.

2) Interaction must be “regular” and probably somewhat frequent. The instructor interacts with students on a fairly set schedule and those communications should not be too far apart. Students should also interact with each other on assignments, discussions, projects on a regular basis. At a minimum there should be weekly opportunities for interactions.

3) Interaction must be “substantive” – interactions should be academic. Interactions are activities that further learning or assessment of learning over organizational or procedural communications; just grading a test or project would not be substantive interaction, while providing feedback on, or discussion around, a test or project would be substantive interaction.

4) Interaction must be with an instructor that meets accrediting agency standards. Interaction should be initiated by someone who is qualified to do so as it relates to the subject matter (faculty, professors of practice, lecturers, GTAs).

Additional Resources:
“Regular and Substantial Interaction in Online and Distance Learning,” retrieved from Ohio State Office of Distance Education and eLearning Resource Center
“Interpreting what is Required for ‘Regular and Substantive Interaction’” retrieved from WCET Frontiers

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