What is regular and substantive interaction in distance education?

As technology changes in our everyday lives, so does education to parallel those changes in technology. Nationally, distance education is rapidly changing, and community colleges are chasing after students digitally to add them to their enrollment numbers. Federal regulations require distance education courses to include regular and substantive interaction, between students and instructor, either asynchronously or synchronously. This descriptive study included conducting a system-wide survey of the California Community College system to identify how distance education faculty define regular and substantive interaction in their courses and how colleges measure that interaction. The survey also included identifying the training faculty go through prior to teaching their first distance education course; if the college has a peer review process; if distance education courses go through a review for accessibility standards; and if the college reviews distance education courses as part of a faculty members evaluation process. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with distance education faculty to gain further depth of the survey results. Results indicated that online discussion boards and videoconferencing was the best forms for students to interact with the instructor and with peers. Email, announcements, and personalized feedback were good forms of instructor-to-student interaction. Recommendations urge colleges to review their policies on distance education on an ongoing basis, to create a local peer review process, and create an evaluation mechanism to evaluate for regular and substantive interaction.