Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

Federal US Department of Education (DoE) regulatory definitions of distance education require that institutions ensure that Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) between students and instructors. 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.

Here is a visual example of how to meet this standard:

Infographic illustrating the levels of RSI support for various instructional activities.
Source image: Online Learning Consortium, Inc.. CC Attribution 4.0.

You should be considering now how you plan to incorporate regular and substantive interaction in your online course. Please note that RSI also meets University of Nevada, Reno Digital Standard 4.6: Course offers opportunities for student-to-student interaction and constructive collaboration.

Please see the following resources for more information: