Federal Regulation Updates for Distance Education

October 2020

Department of Education's summary of the Final Rule.

NC-SARA's Announcement on Release of Department of Education Final Rules

August 2020

According to the US DOE, the secretary has "issued final rules today that govern distance learning in higher education and promote educational innovation to better serve the needs of an increasingly diverse population of students. While work on the Distance Learning and Innovation regulation started more than a year ago, the COVID-19 national emergency underscores the need for students to have access to high-quality remote learning options."

On page 105 - 106, there are five critical factors to differentiate distance education from correspondence courses.

On pages 339 -341, the rule defines technologies and substantive interaction.

The technologies that may be used to offer distance education include ...

Substantive interaction is defined as engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following ...

Institutions ensure regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency ...


The regulations will take effect July 1, 2021, but institutions may voluntarily implement any or all provisions. This rule falls within the Negotiated Rulemaking for Higher Education 2018-19.

Further explanation and analysis is provided by WCET's Frontiers online publication.