Regular and Substantive Interaction
To ensure that federal financial aid funds are used appropriately, the U.S. Department of Education requires that online courses include regular and substantive interaction. This mandate states that faculty teaching online must interact in meaningful ways with their students on a regular basis and that interactions must be substantive and academic in nature.
CCS Expectations for the Quality of Online Instruction
The College of Continuing Studies at The University of Alabama lists 9 expectations for the quality of online instruction, as follows. Several of these policies align closely with federal RSI requirements. Refer to the resources provided below to help you meet both federal policy and CCS expectations.
- Instructors will ensure that any multiple choice and short answer exams will be administered so that all test takers complete the exam at the same time and that the identical exam is not administered to any future cohorts.
- Exams with multiple choice/short answer questions that are not administered to students in supervised test centers will have randomized question sequences.
- Randomize the order of test questions in Blackboard Learn (YouTube video)
- Visit Blackboard’s Test and Survey Options help page to learn how to randomize test questions and responses.
- All essay-based homework, papers, or exams students submit for a grade will be screened by an antiplagiarism service such as TurnItIn.
- View the Turnitin resources provided by the Center for Instructional Technology, including workshops, tutorials for instructors, and student help.
- Instructors will offer, and publish in the course syllabus, fixed, regular office hours weekly equal to the number of credits awarded by the course.
- For virtual office hours, use the Zoom Video Conferencing tool.
- How to Make Virtual Office Hours Work for You and Your Students (Arizona State University)
- Using Office Hours Effectively (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
- Instructors will respond to email and voicemail from students within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.
- Write a communication plan for your online course. See this example from Oregon State Ecampus.
- Instructors in the Program will complete a minimum of eight (8) hours of training in online pedagogy and Federal Regulation compliance which may be fulfilled through completion of faculty development opportunities provided by the College of Continuing Studies.
- Instructors in the Program will complete a minimum of 8 hours of training per year after initial training that will include information on Federal Regulation compliance. The College of Continuing Studies can provide resources to facilitate this best practice.
- See our Calendar of Events for current faculty development opportunities.
- The Academic Department will establish a formal, written system of peer review for instructors teaching online courses. The College of Continuing Studies can provide resources to facilitate this best practice.
- Refer to Oregon State University’s Peer-Review of Online Teaching Guidelines for help.
- The Academic Department will adopt written standardized guidelines that apply specific standards for evaluating the educational effectiveness and Federal Regulation compliance of instructors teaching online courses and will establish a policy of regularly evaluating faculty using these standards. The College of Continuing Studies can provide resources to facilitate this practice.
For training to help you meet these expectations, see the Calendar of Events for workshop opportunities.