Explore Policies & Data

Distance Education Policies

There are federal, regional, and state bodies that guide, review, and assess all aspects of higher education institutions to ensure the quality of distance education and related services. Here are just a few key rules and regulations that are important to consider when designing and delivering an online course.

ACCJC Evaluation of DE

ACCJC Policy on Distance Education and on Correspondence Education
  • Definition of Distance Education (34 C.F.R. § 602.3.)
    Distance Education means:
    Education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (4) to
    deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and
    substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or
    asynchronously. The technologies may include:
    1. the internet;
    2. one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable,
      microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;
    3. audioconferencing; or
    4. video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassettes, DVDs, or CD-ROMs are used in
      a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (3).
  • Commission policy specifies that all learning opportunities provided by accredited institutions must have equivalent quality, accountability, and focus on student outcomes, regardless of mode of delivery. This policy provides a framework that allows institutions the flexibility to adapt their delivery modes to the emerging needs of students and society while maintaining quality.
  • Any institution offering courses and programs through distance education or correspondence
    education is expected to meet the requirements of accreditation in each of its courses and
    programs and at each of its sites.
  • Institutions which offer distance education or correspondence education must have
    processes in place through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education or correspondence course or program is the same person who
    participates every time in and completes the course or program and receives the academic
    credit (WCET Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education V.2.0, June 2009). This requirement will be met if the institution verifies the identity of a student who
    participates in class or coursework by using, at the institution’s discretion, such methods as
    a secure log-in and password, proctored examinations, other technologies and/or practices
    that are developed and effective in verifying each student’s identification. The institution must also publish policies that ensure the protection of student privacy and will notify students at the time of class registration of any charges associated with verification of student identity (34 C.F.R. § 602.17(g)).
Understanding Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

Kapi‘olani CC Definition of Regular and Substantive Interaction (Approved April 2021)

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) is a requirement for Distance Education (DE) classes at Kapi‘olani Community College. In meeting this requirement, instructors are responsible for interacting with students on a predictable and regular basis. They monitor students’ academic engagement and success, and proactively engage in substantive interactions with the students. These interactions occur in at least two of the following ways:

  • Providing direct instruction (ie. instructor-created videos, slide presentations, or other instructional materials or meeting with the class synchronously online)
  • Providing feedback on assignments (preferably individualized)
  • Providing information and/or responding to questions
  • Facilitating group discussions (including discussions that utilize Web 2.0 tools such as Padlet, FlipGrid, collaborative creation tools, etc.)
  • Engaging in one or more of the following instructional activities:
    • Sending announcements, reminders or nudges to students
    • Holding synchronous group or individual conferences
    • Assigning and facilitating peer feedback
    • Assigning and facilitating group projects
    • Assigning and facilitating student-led instruction (student presentations, student-led discussions, etc.)
    • Sharing individualized course performance, progress, and/or early-alert reports with students

Federal Policies

Student Identity Verification (SIV)

Institutions are asked to verify student identity (“Are your online students really the ones registered for the course?”).

A DE course must take measures to establish that the student who registers in an online course is the student who participates in and receives the academic credit. (Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, 602.17)  See WCET Discussion on Student Authentication.



In addition to using a secure login system such as Laulima, require at least one activity where the student must prove his/her identity. Most common authentication activity is a proctored test at any UH Testing Center, where a student must present his/her ID and take a proctored test. Other options include a required field trip, an individual conference with the instructor, or a synchronous meeting either F2F or over the Internet, where the ID’s can be verified.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.  FERPA also requires the University system to provide students with access to their education records, an opportunity to have the records amended, and some control over its disclosure.

UH Hilo Registrar’s Office has a good tutorial on their website.  It should take about 10 minutes to read through and take a review quiz.

Since Laulima requires students to log in, using Laulima is an easy first step to protect student work and identity.  UH ITS also recommends that any information that could potentially identify students should not be placed on Google servers (i.e. Google Docs, Google Forms).  Contact the ITS Information Security team if you have questions.

Digital Accessibility

Online education holds great potential for people with disabilities. Website and online course accessibility is required for public institutions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In some states like California, the state law requires that all online content be accessible from the start, but so far, Hawaii does not have that requirement.  However, when a student requiring accommodation is enrolled, the accommodations must be provided in a timely manner.  Since this can require a lot of time and stress, we highly recommend that the instructors creating new courses plan for accessibility from the start. If you are creating or selecting new multimedia for existing courses, same should be considered.  If you already have a lot of videos or other resources that need to be reviewed for accessibility, enlist the help of DSSO and CELTT to figure out a plan to help you gradually add video captions and web accessibility features.

With the latest series of legal challenges from the disability rights groups against higher education institutions, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive.

Accessible Web Design

Most of Laulima content is a webpage that should meet WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards.

WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards also have levels: Level A = Beginner, Level AA = Intermediate, Level AAA = Advanced.  You can find out what’s in each level by clicking on the WUHCAG WCAG 2.0 Checklists website.

Adding alternative text for images is very important and according to webaim.org, the “first principle of web accessibility”.  You will have to add descriptive text for the image but you’ll also have to keep it concise.  Read more about Alternative Text from webaim.org

Please review

Refer to the Guide for the Section 508 Standards for complete recommendations or Section 508 and 504: Closed Captioning and Web Accessibility Requirements for a summary. See also 2016 Roadmap to Web Accessibility in Higher Education (OPTIONAL reference)

The DE Folks @Kapi‘olani CC

DE Coordinator

FS DE Committee Co-Chairs & Vice Chair

Counselor, Online Learner Success

Institutional/Policy Analyst, OFIE

Instructional Designers

Disability Support Services Office (DSSO)

  • Phone 808-734-9552 Fax 808-734-9456
  • Email kapdss@hawaii.edu
  • DSSO Website

DE Faculty Champions


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