OSCQR – Standard #31RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR – Standard #31RSI Dashboard illustration

Course provides activities that emulate real world applications of the discipline, such as experiential learning, case studies, and problem-based activities.

Review These Explanations

Relevance is central to adult learning. (Knowles, 1984). When the adult learner can apply a learning activity to practical value beyond the duration of the course, relevance is established between the stated learning objective, the learning activity, and the assessment of that activity.

Experiential learning, case studies, and problem-based activities are designed to immerse learners in real world scenarios, with the goal of having learners build on their existing knowledge and skills to analyze specific problems and find solutions. These active learning activities engage learners by having them establish what they know and don’t know, work together to come up with real-world solutions, share those solutions, and review possible results.

According to Kolb (1984), experiential learning relies on four elements:

  • Experience;
  • Critical reflection;
  • Abstract conceptualization; and
  • Active experimentation in a new situation.

Through experience, online learners are led to make observations and reflections. From there, abstract concepts are explored through critical reflection, which learners can then actively test and evaluate. This active learning process engages the learners in scaffolding what they already know, and creating new knowledge.


Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing.

Kolb, D. A., (1984), Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall.

Louis Deslauriers, Logan S McCarty, Kelly Miller, Kristina Callaghan, and Greg Kestin. 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.

Stack, S. (2015) “Learning Outcomes in an online vs traditional course,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 9: No. 1, Article 5.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8410–8415.

Tamim, R., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. & Schmid, R. (2011). What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study. Review of Educational Research. 81. 4-28.

  • Not specifically about active learning, but an interesting finding was that the effect size for using technology in teaching and learning is higher when technology is used to support student thinking versus presenting content.

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSI

Activities that are instructor-guided, or instructor facilitated, where the instructor interacts directly with online learners, and on a scheduled and predictable basis are how regular and substantive interactions  are expressed in an online course. The role of the instructor is active and involved (e.g., a consistent instructor presence is visible throughout the design of the course, and it is clear that the instructor is an attentive, engaged participant in course interactions. RSI can be designed into an online course by:

  • Designing activities where the instructor plays an active role.
  • Answering questions about an activity.
  • Provide guidance during, provide feedback, and evaluation after an activity that is instructor-facilitated.
  • Including optional synchronous interactions.
  • Providing instructor-created video content.
  • Practicum/studio/lab/hand’s-on experiences: An opportunity is provided to interact with the course preceptor, or instructor on goals of the practicum activity, and the opportunities for self-assessment and feedback are provided based on the practicum objectives/goals.

Direct interaction with the instructor around these types of course activities, such as guiding, asking questions, and providing feedback to deepen learning and understanding in an online discussion forum, for example, further supports RSI, and is a good general practice. Scheduling specific instructor-facilitated course discussions/interactions, question and answer, or help and feedback sessions (group or individual) course content and activities demonstrates compliance with RSI.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Support and Promote Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access.
  • Instructor presence in these types of online course activities (real-world, hand’s on, problems, cases, experiences) helps learners to develop their own individual understanding of how to apply the course content in ways that are relevant and important beyond the course context.
  • Create scenario-based discussion forums for learners to interact in. Establish and assign roles for learners within those scenarios.
  • Use mini-cases as pre-lab work where learners can see what might go wrong before they are actually immersed in an online lab.
  • Have learners create and facilitate course related scenarios.
  • Have learners turn in reflective essays along with applied learning activities to measure critical thinking and reflection stages of the process.
  • Assign “offline” activities to learners, and have the learners “debrief” in the online environment.
  • Require foreign language learners to interact with native speakers (online) and summarize their experiences.
  • Have learners document their real-world experiences through digital storytelling tools.
  • Explore MERLOT for case studies that you can integrated into your course.


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

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore methods and approaches that incorporate real-world applications and promote experiential and problem-based learning in online courses to benefit learner success.

Anchored Instruction
Anchored instruction is the process of presenting instruction in the context of an authentic environment with problems or issues which learners must resolve. The problems or issues which are presented to learners in the authentic environment are “anchors” which link learning of content and skills to authentic tasks and activities in which the learning must used. (Read more …)
Assign Collaborative Experiential Learning While Partnering With Clients
While there is sometimes resistance to group collaborations in online learning, (Smith et al., 2011, p 121) adding a collaborative experiential learning component can more deeply engage students AND provide them the opportunity to develop an array of competencies including “coordinating across time zones and geographic locations, developing computer skills, enhancing internet search skills, and interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds” (Johnson, 2013, p 34). (Read more …)
Engage Adult Learners with Course-Long Role Play
Role playing in the context of educational simulations has been cited as a particularly engaging strategy for online courses (Ausburn, 2004; Bender, 2005; Cornelius, Gordon, and Ackland, 2011; Lytle, Lytle, and Brophy, 2006; and Serby, 2011). Such role playing when conducted for an extended time period (e.g., for the duration of an academic term) in the context of as realistic as possible tasks may be particularly engaging for adult learners (Ausburn, 2004 and Ausburn, 2004). (Read more …)
Problem-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning is an instructional strategy in which students learn the subject matter of a course and the related skills by solving real-world problems and reflecting on their experiences of solving the problem/s. In Problem-Based Learning, students may be given a specific course-related problem to solve or they may be provided with a selection of related problems from which they can choose. (Read more …)
Use Online Debates to Enhance Classroom Engagement
A debate is a formal competition between two teams, usually with three members each, arguing a discussion statement known as “the moot”. Shaw (2012) believes that debates stimulate critical thinking and can be a highly effective way to actively engage students in research in the online classroom. Student-generated debate presentations can become a welcome change from the call and response format of the typical online discussion board interactions. (Read more …)
Use Pop Culture to Energize Online Discussions
Faculty want to get to know their students and they want to provide them with opportunities to get to know them and each other (Phillips 2008). So how can faculty foster increased student interaction and engagement with the material, with the faculty member, and with other students? (Read more …)
Using Mobile Apps to Facilitate Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is a method of inquiry-based learning where students are required to develop an end product using their knowledge of a specific topic. In most cases, the product is directly applicable or usable in the real world. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Lee, S., Ngampornchai, A., Trail-Constant, T., Abril, A., & Srinivasan, S. (2016). Online group projects in higher education: persistent challenges and implications for practice. Active Learning In Higher Education, 17(3), 249-260.

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