This week’s WCET Frontiers blog is written by guest author Alexandra M. Pickett, Director, SUNY Online Teaching, SUNY Online with The State University of New York. The blog features updates to The SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric, OSCQR. OSCQR can assist faculty, instructional designers, departments, and institutions by helping them plan, design, and refresh online courses/programs, and can be leveraged to ensure that online course designs support regular and substantive interaction between online learners and their instructor(s). OSCQR 4.0 has been updated to reflect and support the US federal Department of Education (ED) regulation regarding requirements for Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) in all online/distance education courses for financial aid purposes that went into effect on July 1. Thank you Alex!
What Updates Can We Expect to See?
OSCQR, developed by SUNY Online and adopted by the Online Learning Consortium in 2016 (OLC), is an openly-licensed, freely available set of online course quality tools, materials, and resources that are research-based, flexible, customizable, and non-evaluative. The 50 OSCQR online course quality standards integrate best practices in online instructional design, address accessibility, and now incorporate specific suggestions for ensuring Regular and Substantive Interaction in online course design.
An emphasis on regular and substantive interaction is entirely consistent with well-documented, research-based effective practices in online course design and delivery, and in online teaching and learning environments of any kind (asynchronous, synchronous, blended/hybrid).
According to the new regulation, regular and substantive interactions must:
- Be with an instructor as defined by the institution’s accreditor.
- Be initiated by the instructor.
- Be scheduled and predictable.
- Be academic in nature and relevant to the course.
- Substantive interaction assumes direct interaction between the learner and the instructor and requires a minimum of two of the following:
- Providing direct instruction.
- Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework.
- Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course.
- 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 (ED regulation, pp. 339-341).
In collaboration with a volunteer campus-based workgroup, OSCQR standards were reviewed and updated, and OSCQR supporting materials, resources, and documentation were refreshed to make sure that Regular and Substantive Interaction is clearly visible, articulated, and highlighted in specific OSCQR standards, and in all related OSCQR support materials.
How Can Institutions Leverage OSCQR?
OSCQR can assist faculty, instructional designers, departments, and institutions by helping them plan, design, and refresh online courses/programs, and can be leveraged to ensure that online course designs support regular and substantive interaction between online learners and their instructor(s).
Best practices in high quality online courses assume regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between the online instructors and learners that is articulated in both the design and delivery of the course. OSCQR provides standards that can be used to guide and improve the instructional design of an online course, including explanations of instructor intentions and expectations for aspects of the delivery of the online course. Since OSCQR is a tool that looks only at the instructional design of an online course and not the delivery, and includes effective practices beyond RSI, RSI must be visible in the design of online course content, instructions, stated expectations, and dedicated spaces/areas/forums within the course, to apply/test against OSCQR standards.
OSCQR standards serve as guidelines and effective practices in new online course development, and the review and refresh of existing online courses. Additionally, the standards serve as a framework for online faculty development activities to support RSI compliance.
OSCQR standards can be used by online faculty and instructional designers in faculty self-assessments, faculty training activities, resource materials, course reviews, and as recommendations and standards to support and document how the online course meets the RSI requirements.
In addition to the use of OSCQR, other activities are essential to fully ensure RSI compliance, such as faculty/ID training and awareness building, online teaching skills, and institutional/departmental policy and monitoring. The new version of OSCQR is one tool that can be used to support RSI in the instructional design of any online course.