OSCQR – Standard #29RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR – Standard #29RSI Dashboard illustration

Course offers access to a variety of engaging resources to present content, support learning and collaboration, and facilitate regular and substantive interaction with the instructor.

Review These Explanations

Learners’ perceptions of their own learning may not be an accurate measure of how well they’re actually learning. For example, a recent study (Deslauriers, et al, 2019) found that while a lecture delivered by a charismatic personality can result in students reporting that they feel they learned more through a traditional lecture, they actually learned more by taking part in active-learning strategies. Active learning requires effort and can feel frustrating. That experience can be perceived as a negative learning experience and the effort misinterpreted as a sign of poor learning.

Learners benefit more from active learning activities than from the simple passive presentation of content. External readings and activities, assignments, discussions, interactive web sites, online assessments (formative and summative) should all be connected clearly to mastering course concepts, and aligned with module, course, and program objectives. An online course that presents course content in an engaging and appropriate manner, that facilitates interaction, application, and collaboration around course concepts, and that provides authentic online assessments and opportunities for engaging feedback makes the course more engaging, interactive, and effective. Centering pedagogical decisions on the learner provides the learner with options for how they make their thinking and their learning visible in ways appropriate and effective in the online environment, and open to feedback from both the instructors and their peers in the course, which provides opportunities to deepen learning, and for more authentic ways to assess learning/mastery.

Learners engage in online learning activities more readily when relevance to the course content is clear to them. Resources should be contextualized, and opportunities for feedback should be included throughout the course (Chakraborty & Nafukho, 2014).

Learners need to know why they are required to read, review, discuss, or create materials in the course. When they know reasoning behind what they need to complete, they will be more engaged.


Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L.S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., and Kestin, G. (2019) Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116, 39, Pp. 19251–19257.

Chakraborty, M., & Nafukho, F. f. (2014). Strengthening student engagement: what do students want in online courses?. European Journal of Training & Development, 38(9), 782-802.

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSI

RSI Dashboard illustrationOnline courses support regular and substantive interaction by offering a variety of types of engagement and interaction with the instructor in ways that are predictable and scheduled. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

Substantive interaction is defined as direct interaction between the learner and the instructor to engage learners in course teaching, learning, and assessment activities. This direct instruction from the instructor includes:

  • Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework.
  • Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course.
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency.
  • Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency.

Regular interaction means that the instructor interacts with online learners on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency.

RSI is consistent with the research and theory explained by the Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI), which comprises Social, Cognitive and Teaching presences. This standard aligns closely with the CoI definition of Teaching Presence, which, as defined, is “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.” (p.5, Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).

Teaching Presence comprises 3 overarching categories of indicators

  • Facilitating Discourse
    • Identifying areas of agreement and disagreement.
    • Seeking to reach consensus and understanding.
    • Setting the climate for learning
    • Drawing in participants, prompting discussion/interaction.
    • Assessing the efficacy of the process.
  • Instructional Design and Organization
    • Setting the curriculum.
    • Designing methods.
    • Establishing time parameters.
    • Utilizing the medium effectively.
    • Establishing netiquette.
  • Direct Instruction
    • Presenting content and questions.
    • Focusing the discussion.
    • Summarizing the discussion.
    • Confirming understanding.
    • Diagnosing misperceptions.
    • Injecting knowledge from diverse sources.
    • Responding to technical concerns.

Online courses designed to support and facilitate high levels of teaching presence in both learners and instructors that engage learners in a variety of active, interactive, and authentic online learning activities support and facilitate RSI with the instructor. Directing learners to ask questions and interact with the instructor about course activites, such as in an online discussion forum, further supports RSI, and is a good general practice. Scheduling a specific instructor-facilitated discussion on these topics demonstrates compliance with RSI.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions


  • Team ‘teach back’ assignments. Create teams and assign (one team at a time) the task of teaching an important module concept (using a rubric) – in their format of choice. Perhaps this could be done one time per week or one time per module. The course Instructor would offer feedback to ensure information correctness. Teams would review feedback and edit as needed. The course Instructor would then share the final product with the entire class.
  • Team resource contributions. Create study teams. Give each team a blog. Team members would evaluate and submit 1-3 internet resources (websites, articles, etc) that add value (as defined in a rubric) to discussion topics and/or module topics. The Course Instructor would then comment/rate team resource contributions.
  • Provide opportunities for social annotation or collaborative bookmarking (e.g., use diigo, or Hypothes.is – to enable your learners to annotate, contribute and comment on additional resources), comment areas, and discussion forums (in text or media) associated with resources and other content.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

These Pedagogical Practice from TOPR explore methods and approaches to integrating engaging resources and activities into your online course content to benefit learner success.

Convert Course Materials into an Instructional Simulation Using Gaming Elements
In an online course, a frequent criticism is that PowerPoint’s are poorly designed and critical supporting information is often missing (with no presenter to fill in the blanks!) (Elder, 2009). On the other hand, instructional simulations combine multimedia elements (i.e. sound, images, video, etc) to represent (simulate) particular aspects of an actual situation (Hays, 2006). (Read more …)
Convert PowerPoint Presentations into Wiki Pages for Online Delivery
While PowerPoint presentations can be effective when used as a visual aid to support the messages presented face-to-face, they are typically not as effective when viewed in a fully online environment where the instructor is absent. It is difficult to include enough context to the slides without adding excessive text (Shank, 2012). (Read more …)
Use Academic Challenges and Experiential Missions to Provide Learner Choice and Engage Learners In Online Course Activities
Aligning learners’ instructional preferences with course activities and providing opportunities for learner choice are widely recognized as educational best practice, helping learners to engage with content and learn more effectively (Kern & State, 2009; Patall, Dent, Oyer, & Wynn, 2013; Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010), and researchers and practitioners have started extending this instructional approach to online learning (Akdemir & Koszalka, 2008; Tonsing-Meyer, 2013). (Read more …)
Use Videos to Illustrate Complicated Conceptual Knowledge
Most academic disciplines include highly conceptual or abstract concepts that are difficult for learners to grasp. For instance, building a solid foundation of conceptual knowledge for learners is critical in engineering education (Streveler et al., 2008). An incomplete conceptual understanding hinders the development of central engineering competencies and expertise. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Dixson, M. d. (2012). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction, Updated Edition. NACTA Journal, 56(2), 99-100.
Wyatt, J. L. (2014). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. Adult Learning, 25(2), 74-75.

Share What You Know

OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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