Regular Effective Contact
Regular Effective Contact between the instructor and students--initiated by the instructor--along with student-to-student contact, is spelled out in the state Title 5 regulations and in the Distance Education Guidelines for the California Community Colleges.
55204. Instructor Contact.
In addition to the requirements of section 55002 and any locally established requirements applicable to all courses, district governing boards shall ensure that:
- Any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and students, and among students, either synchronously or asynchronously, through group or individual meetings, orientation and review sessions, supplemental seminar or study sessions, field trips, library workshops, telephone contact, voice mail, e-mail, or other activities. Regular effective contact is an academic and professional matter pursuant to sections 53200 et seq.
- Any portion of a course provided through distance education is conducted consistent with guidelines issued by the Chancellor pursuant to section 409 of the Procedures and Standing Orders of the Board of Governors.
Interactions between instructor and student and among students for DE courses vary from course to course. Thus, districts and/or colleges will need to define “effective contact” including how often, and in what manner instructor-student interaction, and student-to-student interaction is achieved through collegial consultation with the district or college’s academic senate.
View the CVC-OEI's Student-Student Interaction Guide (contains examples)
Regular and Substantive Interaction
While Regular Effective Contact is a state regulation, Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) is a federal regulation. There are two ways your course can be scrutinized for evidence of RSI: through an audit and through accreditation. Audits are performed by the U.S. Department of Education, and our regional accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, (ACCJC) is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which is under the federal DOE.
It is possible that if auditors or accreditors find many LPC Distance Education courses without evidence of RSI, they can classify those as Correspondence Courses, which might jeopardize federal financial aid flowing to the college. Students in Distance Ed courses are eligible for financial aid, but students in Correspondence courses are not.
So what's the difference between Regular Effective Contact and Regular and Substantive Interaction? The feds define interaction if it meets at least two of five conditions:
- Providing direct instruction
- Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s course work
- Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency
- 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
An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency:
- Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and regular basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and
- 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.
Based on feedback from other California Community Colleges, some specifics that federal auditors and accreditors are looking for in your course:
- A syllabus that sets expectations for instructor response time, grade turnaround time, student participation, and instructor participation.
- Regular substantive academic feedback to all students on all assignments. For example, tell a student why he got a B and what he can do to get an A. Also, use rubrics for grading. Academic feedback does not include reminders about deadlines or other logistical matters. The feedback must go beyond perfunctory comments such as "good job" or "great work."
- Regular instructor participation in discussions that deal with academic content. You should constantly provide substantive feedback and facilitate all of the discussions.
- Regular announcements that offer feedback that are academic in nature.
Do not put interactions in third-party sites, such as MyMathLab or your personal emails; auditors and accreditors will only look inside your course for evidence. Additionally, they do not consider posting lecture videos as interaction.
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