The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) defines online courses as those in which all or the majority (75% or more) of the instruction and interaction occurs via electronic communication or equivalent mechanisms, with the faculty and students physically separated from each other. UIS defines online learning as sections delivered online and asynchronously. The Department of Education describes regular and substantive interaction between instructor and students as an essential element of an online course. Failure to comply with the Department of Education’s regular and substantive interaction regulation can have a negative impact on student financial assistance.

The four main criteria of “regular and substantive interaction” are:

  1. Interaction must be initiated by the instructor. This arose from the original intent to differentiate distance and correspondence education. It also clashed with excellent teaching models that made extensive use of other forms of interaction.
  • Interaction must be “regular” and probably somewhat frequent. Interaction should be predictable (e.g., on Monday and Wednesday, once a week) or scheduled (e.g., specific dates in the syllabus).
  • Interaction must be “substantive” – of an academic nature. “Substantive” activities tend to be those that further learning or assess that learning. Interactions of an organizational, procedural, or informal nature do not count.
  • Interaction must be with an instructor that meets accrediting agency standards. Interaction is provided by institutional staff who meet accrediting agency standards for providing instruction in the subject matter being discussed.



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