Tag: regulations

RSI References and Resources

RSI References and Resources

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What’s new?!

What’s new?!

The OSCQR rubric and supporting documentation have been updated to specifically identify standards that support RSI. This updated version is referred to as OSCQR 4.0.

  1. Specific OSCQR standards target online course design elements to directly address and support RSI.
    • OSCQR standards 2, 3, 29, 38, 39, 41, 43,  specifically address RSI in the standard itself.
  2. Specific OSCQR standards have been identified as standards that can support RSI compliance in some way.
    • OSCQR Standards 1, 6, 9, 10, 19, 30, 31, 40, 44-47, are RSI-related.

These RSI OSCQR standards have been enhanced to include:

  • An RSI section on each respective OSCQR standard webpage to clearly explain how the standard addresses RSI
  • An updated description of the standard and the examples augmented with additional detail and information to support an understanding and ideas for how to ensure that the online course meets the standard and RSI requirements.

OSCQR standards that support RSI in any way are identified:

  • On the OSCQR website for each respective standard by the RSI dashboard icon
  • On the .pdf and interactive rubrics by mini rsi dashboard


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How OSCQR supports RSI

How OSCQR supports RSI

Best practices in high quality online courses assume regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between the online instructors and learners that is articulated in both the design and delivery of the course. OSCQR provides standards that can be used to guide and improve the instructional design of an online course, including explanations of  instructor intentions and expectations for aspects of the delivery of the online course.

RSI is still in the process of being understood, interpreted, and implemented. One can take a very strict /narrow interpretation, and the argument can be made that there are related practices that are more loosely supportive of RSI and good, general overall effective online practices.

RSI-related OSCQR Standards

OSCQR is a tool that looks ONLY at the instructional design of a course NOT the delivery, and includes effective practices beyond RSI. So, RSI has to be visible in the online course design of content, instructions, stated expectations, and dedicated spaces/areas/forums within the course, to apply/test against OSCQR standards.

OSCQR can be leveraged by faculty, instructional designers, departments, and institutions to assist in planning, designing, improving, documenting, and implementing online courses/programs that are in compliance with RSI regulations. However, there are multiple interconnected factors and activities that must be in place to support RSI. Faculty training, awareness, experience, skill, engagement, and delivery are essential additional aspects that will impact the success of any RSI/online course quality initiative, as are institutional/departmental policy, approaches, resources, support, and monitoring. To that end:

  1. OSCQR standards serve as guidelines and effective practices in new online course development and online course review of existing online courses to guide online course design, refresh, and online faculty development activities to support RSI compliance.
  2. OSCQR standards can be used by online faculty and instructional designers in faculty self-assessments, faculty training activities, resource materials, course reviews reviews, as recommendations and standards to support and document how the online course meets the RSI requirements.

Over all, it is important to keep in mind that the main purpose of the RSI regulation is to differentiate between distance and correspondence courses for financial aid purposes. Even without any changes to OSCQR, a SUNY course with a good online instructional designer and conscientious online instructor would be able to document and demonstrate RSI compliance.

By updating OSCQR with the RSI lens, we are just trying to make that a little clearer and easier.

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RSI Standards

RSI Standards

RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR standards 2, 3, 29, 38, 39, 41, 43, specifically address Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) standards.

2. Course provides an overall orientation or overview, as well as module-level overviews to make course content, activities, assignments, due dates, interactions, and assessments, predictable and easy to navigate/find.

3. Course includes a course information area and syllabus that make course expectations clear and findable.

29. 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.

38. Regular and substantive instructor-to-student expectations, and predictable/scheduled interactions and feedback. are present, appropriate for the course length and structure, and are easy to find.

39. Expectations for all course interactions (instructor to student, student to student, student to instructor) are clearly stated and modeled in all course interaction/communication channels.

41. Course provides activities intended to build a sense of class community, support open communication, promote regular and substantive interaction, and establish trust (e.g., ice-breaking activities, Course Bulletin Board, planned Office Hours, and dedicated discussion forums).

43. Course provides learners with opportunities in course interactions to share resources and inject knowledge from diverse sources of information with guidance and/or standards from the instructor.

OSCQR Standards 1, 6, 9, 10, 19, 30, 31, 40, 44-47, can be leveraged to support and articulate RSI.

1. Course includes Welcome and Getting Started content.

6. Course provides access to learner success resources (technical help, orientation, tutoring).

9. Course objectives/outcomes are clearly defined, measurable, and aligned to learning activities and assessments.

10. Course provides contact information for instructor, department, and program.

19. Instructions are provided and well written.

30. Course provides activities for learners to develop higher-order thinking and problem solving skills, such as critical reflection and analysis.

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

40. Learners have an opportunity to get to know the instructor.

44. Course grading policies, including consequences of late submissions, are clearly stated in the Course Information/ Syllabus materials.

45. Course includes frequent, appropriate, and authentic methods to assess the learners’ mastery of content.

46. Criteria for the assessment of a graded assignment are clearly articulated (rubrics, exemplary work).

47. Course provides opportunities for learners to review their performance and assess their own learning throughout the course (via pre-tests, self-tests with feedback, reflective assignments, peer assessment, etc.).


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Regular & Substantive Interaction

Regular & Substantive Interaction

New federal US Department of Education (DoE) regulatory definitions of distance education require that institutions ensure regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between a student and an instructor(s).*

RSI Dashboard illustration
RSI Dashboard Illustration**

RSI compliance is the legal federal requirement that distinguishes the status of courses between distance education and correspondence courses. Correspondence courses are not eligible for financial aid. Institutions risk losing access to student financial aid if the institution is audited by the US Department of Education’s (DoE) Office of Inspector General, or as part of a periodic Departmental financial aid program review, and found to be out of compliance. Institutions may be required to repay financial aid associated with the correspondence courses and students. Regulations related to RSI have not been waived due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compliance with the US DoE regulations

New Regulations for Distance Education and Innovation (go into effect July 1, 2021)***



As of July 1st, 2021

Interaction Only initiated by the instructor Mostly instructor initiated, some leeway
Instructor Meets accreditation standards Explicit reliance on accreditor approval
Of an academic nature Has a list of activities (instruction, assessment, tutoring, answering questions)
Regular Regular and somewhat substantive Predictable and scheduled and tracking and intervention


An instructor is an individual responsible for delivering course content and who meets the qualifications for instruction established by an institution’s accrediting agency. Eligible programs can be taught by “the instructor or instructors.

A distance education course is one in which instruction is delivered by one or more types of technology, including the internet, various wired and wireless media, or audio conference to students who are separated from the instructor(s). These technologies “support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.

Predictable and Scheduled Interaction: Regular interaction requires an institution to ensure, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency, that there is the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency.

The institution also is responsible for monitoring the student’s academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.

Academic engagement requires  active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student’s course of study as defined by the institution consistent with any requirements imposed by its state approval or accrediting agency. Academic engagement can include such activities as attending a class where the students and instructor can interact, turning in an academic assignment or taking a test, participating in an interactive computer-assisted instruction, participating in an institutional-directed group activity or online discussion, or interacting with the instructor regarding academic matters.

An emphasis on regular and substantive interaction is entirely consistent with well-documented research-based effective practices in online course design and delivery. In online teaching and learning environments of any kind, (asynchronous, synchronous, blended/hybrid), regular and substantive interactions must:

  • Be with an instructor as defined by the institution’s accreditor.
  • Be initiated by the instructor.
  • Be scheduled and predictable.
  • Be academic in nature and relevant to the course.
  • Substantive interaction assumes direct interaction between the learner and the instructor and requires direct instruction from the instructor including:
    • 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.


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Citations & Attributions:

*Regular and Substantive Interaction documentation taken/adapted from the WCET Policy Playbook
**The RSI graphic illustration and some content has been adapted and is used with the permission of the SUNY Online Team.
***Retrieved from Regular and Substantive Interaction: Regulatory & Pedagogical Implications presentation by WCET