How to Increase Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) in Online and Distance Learning

Meaningful engagement between instructors and students is an essential component of successful online and distance learning, driving higher quality interactions and experiences. This aligns with the Department of Education’s rules requiring courses to include “Regular and Substantive Interaction,” especially in distance and competency-based education (to ensure federal financial aid funds are used appropriately). 

In this webinar, speakers will 1) discuss how to create a learning environment that cultivates quality, meaningful interactions and 2) share innovative, best-practice examples in action. Participants will explore the tools and approaches to best support students in sharing their ideas and engaging more deeply in their learning. 


  • Identify the essential elements of Regular and Substantive Interaction
  • Evaluate use cases for practical, easy-to-use tools to assist in cultivating engagement
  • Develop a plan of action to drive higher quality interactions and experiences

Intended audience: Instructional Designers, Faculty, Learning Experience Designers, Instructional Technologists, Online Education Directors, Faculty Developers, Librarians, OER Coordinators, Higher Education Administrators 

This webinar is sponsored by Harmonize. 

Please note: This webinar will be recorded and all registered participants will receive a link to the recording after the webinar.

Speaker Bio

Spencer Willis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Practice – The University of Arizona

Spencer serves as an expert in online teaching, learning, and educational technology. His work involves designing and facilitating faculty development trainings for UA faculty teaching online, participating in peer review of teaching (in-person and online), and collaborating with Digital Learning to support online course development and quality assurance. Spencer holds a joint appointment as Lecturer in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH), Department of Health Promotion Sciences. Spencer earned an undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics from Alcorn State University, a graduate degree in health studies from the University of Alabama, and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree from Jackson State University. His professional interests include experiential and active learning online as well as career and professional development in public health.
Caryn Sever
Interim Associate Director of Instructional Design and Development – Northern Virginia Community College

Caryn is the Interim Associate Director of Instructional Design and Development and an Instructional Designer at Northern Virginia Community College. Her instructional design experience covers a wide range, spanning higher education and the private and public sectors. Her design philosophy centers on a constructivist, learner-centered approach, leveraging technology where appropriate while maintaining focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in course design and delivery. Caryn continues her education journey to obtain her PhD in Instructional Design and Technology at Old Dominion University. Caryn lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, two wonderful, rambunctious sons, and two cattle dogs.

Eric Loepp, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director of Learning Technology – University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Eric Loepp is an associate professor of political science and Director of Learning Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he teaches courses in American government, political behavior, and research methods. His disciplinary research focuses on candidate evaluations and electoral decision-making, particularly in primary elections. He has also conducted research on learning technology use in the classroom, with an emphasis on communication tools and LMS interaction.

Marcus Popetz
CEO – Harmonize

Marcus began working with computers at the stereotypical predetermined young age for geeks, but fought against it as a career choice for almost 15 adult years despite his abilities. He eventually found his perfect niche as the liaison between technology and humans. Marcus spends his workday translating back and forth across the technology barrier between business types and engineers to guide development in the proper direction, and spends his non-work days biking and living the good life with his wife and two young boys.

(Moderator) Angela Gunder, Ph.D.
Chief Academic Officer and VP of Learning – Online Learning Consortium

Angela Gunder is the Chief Academic Officer and VP of Learning for the Online Learning Consortium. In this role, she is responsible for gathering, curating, and leveraging the intellectual capital created by and disseminated through OLC. Prior to her position at the OLC, Angela served as the Director of Instructional Design & Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning, managing and mentoring the team that builds the fully-online programs for The University of Arizona. Her over fifteen-year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in web design, usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning.