Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

RSI Circle Image - Image is a circular graphic. Text on the left side says Correspondence Education. Text on the right side of the circle says distance education.Within the left side of the circle are icons with the following text: Graded assignments without feedback, weekly announcments with due dates, video lectures, auto-graded quizzes. Within the right side of the circle are icons with the following text: Graded assignments with feedback, weekly announcements explaining content, video lecture with discussions, instructor-initiated discussions, office hours, assessments with instructor feedback.

What to know about RSI!

As of July 1, 2021, the Department of Education has mandated that distance education classes must contain and demonstrate RSI, or Regular and Substantive Interaction within the course. The purpose of RSI is to distinguish distance education, which is eligible for federal financial aid, from correspondence education, which is not. Universities and colleges offering distance education courses (where most instruction happens online) must meet specific Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) requirements. These requirements, set by the Department of Education, ensure students in online courses receive meaningful engagement with instructors and peers, similar to traditional classroom settings. For more information and tips on RSI you can view the following RSI Primer created by Everett Community College .

Benefits of RSI:

  • Enhanced engagement: Regular interaction keeps students motivated and invested in the course.
  • Deeper understanding: Substantive discussions and feedback help students solidify their grasp of concepts and develop critical thinking skills.
  • Community building: Interaction fosters a sense of belonging and connection among students and instructors, creating a supportive learning environment.
  • Improved learning outcomes: Studies have shown that courses with strong RSI lead to better academic performance and student satisfaction. 

RSI plays a vital role in ensuring the quality and effectiveness of online education. By incorporating regular and substantive interactions, instructors can create dynamic learning environments that promote engagement, understanding, and success for all students.

Evidence of the following 3 criteria must be found within a course shell:

  1. Interactions should be mostly instructor-initiated not student-initiated.
  2. Interactions may vary in mode and format but must be regular.
  3. Interactions must be substantive, not trivial in nature.

Regular & Substantive Definitions

An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor by:

  • Providing 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.
  • 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.

Substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following:

  • Providing direct instruction
  • Assessing and/or providing feedback on a student’s coursework
  • Providing information and/or responding to student questions about the course content
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding course content or competency
  • Other instructional activities approved by SACSCOC

Some Means of Achieving Regular and Substantive Interaction Include, but are not Limited to:

  • Threaded discussion forums with regular and appropriate instructor participation based on E-mail and/or messages within the course management system.
  • Regular “Announcements” posted in the class that address course content or answer student questions.
  • Regular deadlines, distributed throughout the term of the course, for assignments and other student participation.
  • Regular, timely, appropriate feedback and evaluations of student work.
  • Instructor-prepared online e-lectures, podcasts or other forms of addressing course content and topics, presented in an appropriate format for the subject.
  • Instructor-prepared Syllabus, specific to each distance education course section, to document how regular contact between the students and the instructor is achieved and define response time for student questions and assignment feedback.
  • Establishing an active teaching presence in the class.
  • Frequent and substantive feedback throughout the course.
  • Instructor-guided introductions, especially at the beginning of the class, or at important intervals.
  • Daily or weekly assignments and projects that promote collaboration among students.
  • Questions posed on the discussion board that encourage critical thinking skills and promote interaction among all course participants.
  • Monitoring student interaction and activity to ensure that they participate fully.
  • Create a specific forum for questions regarding course content.
  • Asking students for feedback about the course on a regular basis and revising the content as needed to address issues identified.

Some Examples and Nonexamples (not inclusive)

These examples of interactions will help you meet RSI:

  • You post a discussion board question and actively facilitate the conversation by responding to students and redirecting as needed.
  • You post weekly announcements that answer common questions, summarize class progress, and discuss relevant course content.
  • You post a prerecorded video explaining concepts and posing guiding questions for the upcoming unit that require student responses.
  • You define the response time for feedback and emails in your syllabus or communication policy.

These examples of interactions will not help you meet RSI: 

  • You post a discussion board question and give students points for participation but do not engage in the discussion.
  • You sporadically post announcements as due date reminders.
  • You post a prerecorded video about the main concepts of the unit but does not engage students in discussion
  • You provide a statement in your syllabus that feedback and help will be provided but do not include specific details on timing or expectations.

References & Additional Resources: