Changing Regulations: Understanding Regular and Substantive Interaction and Student Authentication

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

The US Department of Education has approved a major overhaul of regulations relating to distance education. This session will provide participants with an overview of those regulations related to regular and substantive interaction requirements for distance education as well as student authentication requirements. 


Russ Poulin leads WCET, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which focuses on the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET’s members hail from all fifty states and a few from Canada. As WICHE Vice President, he advises on policy and projects for the regional higher education compact. Russ represented the distance education community on federal negotiated rulemaking committees and subcommittees. He has received recognition from the Presidents’ Forum, Excelsior College, and the National University Technology Network for his contributions to policies for technology-enhanced postsecondary education. Russ received a bachelors from the University of Colorado Denver and a masters from the University of Northern Colorado. He is also partial to movies, cats, and his wife, Laurie. Contact him at: or @RussPoulin.

Extended Abstract

Recent (proposed) regulatory changes to the definition of distance education will have a profound impact on how instructional designers and faculty develop and teach distance education courses. These changes are particular significant given the use of online education as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the huge increase in the number of both faculty and students in online education courses, consumer expectations around the quality of online education, and accreditor attention to online education. This session will focus on recent (proposed) changes to the Department of Education’s definition of distance education as well as changes to regulations governing student authentication. Attendees in this session will:

  • Understand recent (proposed) changes to the definition of distance education with an emphasis on:
    • Modalities covered in the definition,
    • Definition of “instructor,”
    • Definition of “regular,” and
    • Definition of “substantive.”
  • Understand the pedagogical impact of the (proposed) changes to the definition of distance education including a discussion of its impact on:
    • Course design,
    • Instructional delivery,
    • Faculty engagement,
    • Student engagement, and
    • Financial aid eligibility.
  • Participate in the development of collaborative strategies for translating federal regulatory requirements into institutional policies.
  • Participate in the development of collaborative strategies translating federal regulatory requirements into instructional best practices.

The session will incorporate a combination of didactic and interactive interactions. Session speakers will provide ample time to both answer participant questions as well as facilitate the development of collaborative solutions that address federal regulatory requirements.  Participants will leave the session with resources that summarize federal distance education regulations as well as a list of sources for further reference.