By Autumn Yates
Staff writer

Hutchinson Community College students in online education will have the opportunity to become more interactive with their instructors and classes.

Tricia Paramore, HutchCC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, explains the concept between Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI).

“Instructors should be spending the same amount of time in their online classes as they do in their face-to-face classes,” Paramore said.

This concept was introduced by the United States Department of Education and will begin at Hutchinson Community College in the spring semester of 2024. It will call on instructors to interact with students for a certain amount of time. This time must be regularly scheduled and substantive. This may include grading, providing feedback, interacting and engaging with students, zoom links for online “office hours,” and other methods of interaction.

Paramore said she was excited about the addition and the type of learning it will bring to students. She explains that students who are not fully online have many more supplemental opportunities to connect with their classes and instructors. RSI will allow online students a similar chance.

Paramore said that the more interaction a student has with an instructor allows for more feedback, which will hopefully lead to “better learning.” A unique aspect of this plan is that online instructors can choose to have “office hours” online like they would if they were on campus. They can create and leave a Zoom link open for students to join and leave as they please to ask questions.

However, this is one of many opportunities for instructors and is not required of them.

Paramore teaches an online class and believes there could be no negative associated with RSI. “Ultimately, we all as instructors want our students to be successful and to learn what the class is trying to teach them … the more interaction you have between the student and the instructor, I think the better chance you’re gonna have of that student actually getting it and being successful in the class,” Paramore said.

She said that some teachers may find it to be more time-consuming, nonetheless, it is part of being an instructor.

“If you have a class assigned to you, then you teach the class,” Paramore said. “Part of why you teach is to interact with the students … we are instructors a lot of times because we like interacting with students.”

At this point, there are no specific penalties for instructors who do not adhere to the new procedure.

Philosophy instructor at HutchCC, Kelby Accardi-Harrison, enjoys that RSI “encourages us to overcome a natural human tendency to prioritize what is right in front of us.”

Accardi-Harrison also said that she has more of a tendency to respond to a student who is right in front of her, rather than one sitting in her inbox. She said that she believes that RSI will give instructors more accountability to give online students “the attention they deserve.”

She also hopes RSI will improve students’ anxiety about their classes.

“Students will know what to expect from their instructors and when, so that they have a better sense of their current performance in an online class,”Accardi-Harrison said.

Her only criticism of the change is that it aims to make online students interact “as often as” in person. The online education realm is purposely different from in-person education.

“I’m not sure that asking it to be like an in person class is the right way of thinking,” Accardi-Harrison said. “It should be the best possible version of an online educational experience. And I do think RSI will enhance that.”

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