The University of Alabama, Office for Academic Affairs

Regular and Substantive Interaction Policy

Unit:  Office of Institutional Effectiveness
Contact: Ginger Bishop
Title:  Director, Assistant Provost, SACSCOC Liaison
Effective Date: 12/1/2021
Revision Date: 12/01/2021

 
 

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that instruction offered through technology-enabled course delivery (“Distance Education”), excluding correspondence education, has regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between students and instructors. This policy outlines the requirements for RSI in accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The term “regular and substantive interaction” distinguishes distance education from correspondence education, which impacts a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid for the relevant course(s). By implementing this policy, The University of Alabama ensures that students in hybrid, fully online courses and fully online programs and certificates experience, to the extent reasonably practicable, the same level of educational quality and service as those students who receive face-to-face instruction in a classroom on the campus of the University.

Policy

The University of Alabama requires that all Distance Education classes:
  • Be delivered through an allowable form of technology, which may include:
    • The internet;
    • One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;
    • Audio conferencing; and/or
    • Video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassettes, DVDs, or CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed.
  • Be led by an instructor(s) who meets the qualifications outlined in The University of Alabama’s Policy on Teaching Credentials for UA Instructors of Record;
  • Provide Regular interaction, pursuant to the definition provided herein;
    • Interaction must be scheduled and predictable, not self-paced.
    • These interactions will be offered regardless of whether or not students avail themselves to these opportunities.
    • Instructors must monitor students’ academic engagement and success and ensure prompt and proactive engagement in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.
  • Provide Substantive interaction, pursuant to the definition provided herein, including at least two forms of the following:
    • Direct live instruction (courses that utilize recorded instruction alone must meet two other forms of substantive interaction);
    • Assessment or feedback on a student’s coursework;
    • Information or responses to questions about the content of a course or competency;
    • Facilitated group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency;
    • Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s and/or academic degree program’s accrediting agency.
Failure to comply could result in disciplinary action and/or suspension of courses found in violation of this policy.

Definitions 

Distance Education: Education that uses one or more of the technologies (i.e. internet, one-way, and two-way transmission, audio conference, or other media) to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor(s), either synchronously or asynchronously. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 34 C.F.R. §600.2)

Correspondence Course: A course provided by an institution under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor. Interaction between the instructor and student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student. Correspondence courses are typically self-paced. If a course is part correspondence and part residential training, the Secretary [of Education for U.S. Department of Education] considers the course to be a correspondence course. A correspondence course is not distance education. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 34 C.F.R. §600.2)

Substantive Interaction: Engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, including at least two of the elements provided herein below:
  • Direct live instruction (courses that utilize recorded instruction alone must meet two other forms of substantive interaction);
  • Assessment or feedback on a student’s coursework;
  • Information or responses to questions about the content of a course or competency;
  • Facilitated group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency;
  • Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s and/or academic degree program’s accrediting agency. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 34 C.F.R. §600.2)
Regular Interaction: (1) Providing the opportunity for substantive interaction with students on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course and (2) 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. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 34 C.F.R. §600.2)

References

Higher Education Opportunity Act, 34 C.F.R. §600.2

Scope

The policy applies to all Deans, Department Chairs, faculty, and staff developing, offering, and engaging in the delivery of Distance Education.
 
 

Office of the Provost

Approved by Dr. Lesley Reid, Associate Provost, 12/01/2021