Regular effective instructor-student and student-student contact is required in all online courses. Research has shown that online courses with high levels of social interaction have a positive impact on learning.
Click the links below to familiarize yourself with regulations about regular effective contact in online courses. You will also find examples and best practices for incorporating regular effective contact in your course.
Title 5, § 55204, Instructor Contact of California Education Code requires distance education courses to have “regular effective contact between instructor and students, and among students*.”
*Please Note: In Spring 2019, Title 5 was amended to include the phrase “among students” to require student-student interaction in addition to instructor-student interaction. Review this resource to learn more about this update to Title 5.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) requires distance education courses to have “regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor.” Read this article to learn more about four elements that guide regular and substantive interaction and this document for ACCJC’s guide for evaluating distance education.
ACCJC’s definition of distance education above mirrors federal regulatory requirements.
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) recommends that colleges develop regular and effective contact policies and adopted a paper providing guidance on professional standards for educational practices in online education.
Below you will find examples of instructor-student and student-student interaction. You do not need to incorporate all the examples below. They are intended as a suggested guide and may vary by discipline or instructional design:
- Welcome email or video
- Ideally a welcome email or video is emailed to students before the class begins to promote early engagement and set the tone for the course
- Some instructors send more than one pre-semester communication to create multiple touch points with students before the class begins
- First day or week of course check-in assignment
- Examples: a discussion forum with a self-introduction, icebreaker, internet scavenger hunt, etc.
- A first day or week check-in assignment also helps determine non-participation for census roster reporting
- Video conferencing via Zoom
- Examples: use for office hours, exam review sessions, lectures, student presentations, group projects, guest speakers, virtual field trips, etc.
- Customized front page
- Use a Front Page to post engaging content and important information about your course
- Discussion boards
- Instructor moderated discussions
- Equity Tip: Consider creating a system to track which students you respond to in the forum each week to ensure every student gets at least one response from you throughout the term. You can create an Excel spreadsheet to track responses or divide your roster into groups (i.e. alphabetical by last name– group #1 is A-F, group #2 is G-L, etc.) and respond to each group in intervals
- Q&A board where instructors or fellow students answer questions
- Instructor moderated discussions
- Weekly announcements
- Create written, audio, or video announcements
- Can be used to preview, summarize, or clarify course content
- Post announcements with links to relevant articles or videos about course content
- Individual contact with students via e-mail, phone, or video
- Facilitating student to student contact
- Timely and individualized feedback on student work
- Add text, video, audio, or speech recognition comments in SpeedGrader
- Add annotated comments using DocViewer in SpeedGrader
Note: If you are using a publisher 3rd party website that only allows for automatically graded assignments, this should be supplemented with assignments in Canvas that allow you to give individualized, thorough feedback. When possible, course activity and interaction should be kept in Canvas for documentation.
Email Distance Education Coordinator Jennifer Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org to add additional examples and best practices to this list.