Major Changes to Distance Ed: Department of Education Rulemaking Final Session Update

quote box: At Rulemaking’s Conclusion…
Negotiations ended March 7. 
The Department considered many issues, we focus on those of interest to WCET & SAN members.
None of the issues we followed reached consensus, therefore the Department will write the proposed and final rules. 
For final regulations published by November 1, those regulations go into effect July 1 of the following year.
If enacted, what is proposed will have a huge impact on students, institutions, and states.
Be ready to make your voice known.

Major changes loom on the horizon for postsecondary distance education programs in the United States, but we are now in a temporary limbo of uncertainty. The Department of Education’s Program Integrity and Institutional Quality negotiated rulemaking sessions ended on March 7. Despite tons of suggestions and hours of discussion, none of the distance and digital education issues reached “consensus” among the negotiators. That leaves the Department with the responsibility of writing proposed rules. What will they do?

Today’s post is a brief update on the proposals considered and discussions that occurred in the third and final week of negotiations. For context, please review our summaries of the week 1 and week 2 sessions.

During negotiations, the Department’s proposals seemed bearish on distance and digital education. They want to see change.

Just because the proposals are going into hibernation, don’t sleep on them now. We encourage you to stay alert as the changes proposed could have a major impact on distance education and all of higher education. And remember, the Department can now write whatever language it wishes to propose and is not tied to the proposed language from week three. Final language could become less or more restrictive.

In the coming weeks, we will publish a follow-up post with a “call to action” that will include suggestions to work with elected officials. We suggest, if you have not done so, that you begin discussions with your government relations staff. Watch for advice on how to bear up and bear the responsibility of supporting or opposing what is being proposed.


The Department expressed concerns that for purposes of state authorization of distance education, Attorneys General in some reciprocity member states wish to protect their residents by enforcing their own, more stringent, state laws and are unable to do so under reciprocity.

Some negotiators originally proposed to allow states to enforce their own education-specific regulations. In response, some negotiators pointed out that some states have little to no oversight of out-of-state institutions.

To the suggestion that states are prohibited from enforcing these laws, a few negotiators also pointed out that states voluntarily joined the reciprocity agreement, most through state legislation signed by the governor, and are free to leave the agreement at any time if they disagree with the agreement.

Additionally, the Department proposed a revision to the regulation addressing the authorization of in-state institutions that was discussed and revised in week three.

Reciprocity Agreement – Enforcement of State Laws

Sub-Proposal: Institutions Subject to Certain State Laws 34 CFR 600.9(d)(1)(i)-(ii)

The Department proposed language around state enforcement of certain state laws regardless of whether or not the institution is participating in reciprocity. After several variations during negotiations, these three were the Department’s final proposed changes for States participating in a distance education reciprocity agreement:

  1. Retain the ability to enforce general-purpose state laws.
    1. Enforce applicable State laws related to closure, including record retention, teach-out plans or agreements, and tuition recovery funds or surety bonds; and
    1. Allow any member State of the agreement to condition or revoke authorization through reciprocity for violations of general-purpose laws and regulations.

Midway through the negotiations, the Department released proposed language that included that a reciprocity agreement must allow a state to enforce all applicable state laws. This proposal would have severely undermined reciprocity as state oversight and requirements would vary from state-to-state.

The final draft settled that a state can enforce its own general-purpose state laws (as is currently in regulation). These general-purpose state laws include fraud, misrepresentation, criminal acts, etc. This portion of the final proposed language is not a change to current requirements. A few negotiators were adamant that each state should be able to enforce all their rules. They envision reciprocity as merely having a single application and a single fee for all states. That would completely undermine reciprocity, but they will likely push the Department to adopt that position in the published proposal. The Departments’ representative pointedly told negotiators that the Department made concessions in negotiations that it might abandon if consensus was not reached. That was a stark reminder that the impact on reciprocity could, ultimately, be more stringent or damaging than what is reported here.

The Department’s language addressing state closure laws is a change but is consistent with the intent of the recently released final Certification Procedures regulations. However, that language is contrary to the current policy of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). The new proposed language would cause SARA to revise its policies to allow states to enforce their applicable state closure laws.

Finally, if an institution violates general purpose laws or regulations, the proposed language allows for any state to limit or revoke authorization through reciprocity in their state. In practice, this already exists in SARA as an institution that violates state laws will be reviewed by their home state with consequences that could affect their participation in SARA nationwide, not just in one state. However, this could result in unilateral state action not currently envisioned in SARA.

Reciprocity Agreement – Complaint Process

Sub-Proposal: Components of a Reciprocity Complaint Process 34 CFR 600.9(d)(1)(iii)-(vi)

The importance of a transparent complaint process for reciprocity agreements was a priority of the Department beginning with the original issue paper released in January. The final proposed language focuses on four features that a reciprocity agreement complaint process must include.

  1. Communicate about student complaints related to state authorization and the reciprocity agreement’s policies with the state where the student is located.
  2. Release a public annual report of student complaints about institutions by number and type of complaint.
  3. Allow submitting complaints alleging criminal offenses and violation of general purpose laws directly to the appropriate state agencies in the institution’s or student’s home state.
  4. Permit states to accept, investigate, and resolve complaints without first requiring the student to go through an institutional process.

While we know the proposed regulations are intended to apply to any state authorization reciprocity agreement that is developed, SARA provides many of these features already. The first three changes proposed by the Department are already in SARA policy. SARA promotes interstate communication about complaints, publishes quarterly complaint data, and allows states to enforce general-purpose laws. One minor difference is that SARA does not currently collect complaints by “type.” There is a proposal in SARA’s policy change process to require the classification of complaints. That proposal is likely to be accepted.

Another difference between the proposed and current SARA policy, is that the SARA policy directs the student to follow the institution’s complaint process before submitting a complaint to the State Portal Entity (SPE) where the institution is located (called the home state). The home state then will collaborate with the state where the student is located, but the home state maintains the final authority. The Department’s proposal recognizes that some states require the student to “exhaust” all grievance processes at the institution before submitting a complaint to the SPE. However, there could be very legitimate reasons a student would wish to address the state without going through the institution’s process.

Additionally, this proposed language suggests that the student could submit the complaint to the state where the student is located, and that state would have the authority to resolve the complaint. Under this proposed language, a state could enforce SARA policy on the out-of-state institution. However, we wonder about the enforcement of state law on an out-of-state institution that has no physical presence in the state. This also could result in State activity that is in conflict with current SARA policy.

Reciprocity Agreement – 500 Student Enrollment Cap in a State

Sub-Proposal: Maximum Threshold of Enrolled Students 34 CFR 600.9(d)(3)

The Department’s proposed language would require that institutions that enroll more than 500 students in a state in the two most recently completed award years may not be authorized through reciprocity in that state. The institution must seek authorization directly from the state.


The basic premise of this proposal is that reciprocity was intended only for institutions with a small footprint in a state. A large number of enrollments increases the risk to the state and it should be more directly involved in overseeing those institutions. Institutions that serve more than 500 students in a state would be required to obtain individual state institutional approval in those states. Reciprocity would only be sufficient for state authorization in the states for which the institution serves fewer than 500 students. Some negotiators sought to set the number at 100 or 200 students in a state. We could see a lower number emerge in the published proposal. On the other hand, other negotiators suggested that there are better indicators of risk than an enrollment count. Smaller fly-by-nights might do more damage than established larger institutions.

This proposed language was only added in week three and, as a result, there was extremely limited discussion and there are many unknowns. Are students participating in experiential learning included in the 500 students? Whose data is being used? Can states provide institutional approval quickly enough for the institution to remain in compliance? Will there be extensions if the state cannot act in time?

And there is one noticeably big question. If an institution serves more than 500 students in a state that has no oversight of out-of-state institutions, how is this proposed language protecting students since it removes student consumer protections in reciprocity and replaces them with no protections?

Reciprocity Agreement – Governance

Sub-Proposal: Representatives Serving a Governing Body 34 CFR 600.9(d)(2)

The Department’s proposed language directs that a governing body for a reciprocity agreement must consist solely of representatives from state regulatory and licensing bodies, enforcement agencies, and the state attorney’s general offices.


The proposal intends to direct the composition of a governing board of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is the entity administering the reciprocity agreement and places severe limitations as to those who may serve on the board including barring compacts who facilitate state collaboration to implement the agreement in their region. While it is understandable that states should fill the majority of the seats on a board administering a state-to-state agreement, the Department’s direction limits the ability to include subject matter experts to create sound policy. While we believe the SARA governance structure needs an overhaul that greatly prioritizes state voices, there remains a fundamental question of whether there is the legal authority for the Department to dictate the representation on a nonprofit organization governing board.

State Exemptions for In-State Authorization

Proposal: Revised State Exemptions 34 CFR 600.9(a)

textbox: Proposed: Changes to institutional authorization that will get rid of some state exemptions.

The Department also proposes revised regulations that could change what it means for the institution to be authorized in the state where the institution is located to be eligible to participate in Title IV HEA programs.

In addition to maintaining the 2010 requirement that a state must provide a process to accept and resolve student complaints and enforce state laws, the Department’s proposal revises the ability of the state to offer certain exemptions to state authorization of institutions located in the state.

Under the Department’s proposed regulations, states could only exempt: 

  1. Public institutions backed by the full faith and credit of the state.
  2. Institution chartered on or before November 8, 1965.

Currently, states can exempt institutions based on accreditation or in operation for at least twenty years. Those exemptions would be sunsetted by July 1, 2030. Additionally, an institution would not be exempted if there has been a change in ownership.


The Department expressed concern that in the event of a closure, an institution that is not subject to state oversight because of an exemption would leave a student without protection. The final proposed language allows states to rely on their oversight of public institutions and community colleges as well as provide for the continuation of exemptions for long-standing private institutions. This proposed language was a concession by the Department offered late in the rulemaking negotiations.


The Department put forward a number of proposed regulations that would directly affect distance education including proposed regulations around taking attendance, Title IV eligibility for asynchronous clock hour programs, the creation of a virtual campus designation for distance education programs, and accreditation of institutions offering distance education.

Proposal: Require Attendance-Taking for All Distance Education Courses

textbox: Proposed: For all distance education courses, institutions would need to document attendance and take action for 14 days of non-attendance.

When a student withdraws from a course or institution, the college or university needs to follow a complex set of rules to determine the amount (if any) of disbursed aid that should be refunded to the Department of Education.

If the student withdraws without official notice from distance education courses, the institution must determine the “last day of attendance,” which is defined as the last time the student participates in one of the activities identified as “active engagement” in the course. Examples include taking a test, submitting a paper, or participating in an online discussion about content. Simply logging into an LMS does not count. This determination of “last day of attendance” is a higher bar for online courses than what is required for in-person courses.

To begin negotiations, the Department cited some instances of institutions failing to adequately document the “last day of attendance” or knowingly adjusting the date to lower the amount to be refunded. The Department proposed the following to “simplify” and improve the accuracy of determining the student’s last day of course activity:

  1. Require that attendance be taken in all distance education courses. While they used the word “attendance,” they still seem to mean documenting the last instance of academic engagement for each student. An exception for dissertation research courses was added.
  2. Within 14 days of a student’s last date of attendance, document a student’s withdrawal date.

There was little discussion of this issue during negotiations other than trying to add additional exceptions. The Department said that this would “simplify” the process because institutions are already tracking all academic activities in their LMS. We talked to individuals from several institutions and we reached out to NASFAA (the financial aid organization) about the proposal. With the exception of fully-online institutions and those that are already attendance taking, all of those who responded agreed this would not “simplify” the process and would add more work. They also felt that they are aware of the “last day of attendance” requirement and are able to document it correctly. This regulation would result in more work to arrive at the same artifact that documents the student’s last activity.

Regarding the “14 day” requirement, we will need to clarify the Department’s intent. At one point they said that this would prompt the institution to follow-up with absent students and try to re-engage them. At another time, it sounded like a fixed deadline. Institutions will need to document excused absences for students who (for example) are known to be ill or on temporary military duty. Some institutional personnel said that with post-traditional students, it is common for students to not participate for two weeks (due to personal or work issues), but still complete the course successfully.

Although requested more than once by a negotiator, documentation of the extent of the non-compliance was not provided.

Proposal: Disallow Aid for Clock Hour Asynchronous Courses

textbox: Proposed: Institutions using clock hour financial aid disbursement can no longer offer asynchronous distance education.

Most commonly, federal financial aid is disbursed to students either through the credit hour or clock hour method. The latter is commonly found in practical programs, such as cosmetology, welding, and the like. Aid for clock hour programs is, literally, determined by student participation by the minute. The Department expected that institutions using asynchronous distance education would have “sophisticated technologies” to track that activity. They reported several instances of weak time tracking. As a result, they proposed:

  1. Disallow enrollment in asynchronous distance education courses for programs that use the clock-hour method of financial aid disbursement. 

NOTE: This will NOT affect courses offered through credit hours.


At first, we and our friends at the American Association of Community Colleges had trouble finding affected programs. As negotiations went on, we were able to find more and more institutions that were shocked at the proposal. Negotiators tried a last-minute proposal to save funding for asynchronous clock-hour programs, but it was unsuccessful. We understand the Department’s concern but are afraid it will hurt students in these programs who demonstrate the most need. Requested data on the extent of the noncompliance was not provided. It was unclear why they would ban an entire modality without sharing convincing evidence.

Proposal: Change Accreditation Review Thresholds for Distance Education

Institutional accreditation agencies conduct “substantive change” reviews of institutions when certain benchmarks are reached. It is a logical check to make sure that the institution is acting within its mission and has the capacity to successfully implement new initiatives. The Department requires some “substantive change” reviews and the agencies could have additional requirements. In 2021, the Department of Education guidance charged accreditors with overseeing any program that is offered at a distance “in whole or in part.” The accrediting agencies struggled with this change as nearly every program across the country would trigger the need for this review. The Department proposed the return to a version of the pre-2021 standard without any objections from the negotiators:

  1. Require accrediting agencies to conduct a “substantive change” review of distance education programs or institutions when they traverse any of the following thresholds:
    1. For the first time, an institution offers 50% of a program through distance education. OR
    1. An institution enrolls at least 50% of students in distance education. A student counts as a distance education enrollment if they are taking at least one course through distance education. OR
    1. An institution offers at least 50% of its courses through distance education.

This is an improvement over the current “in whole or in part” criterion, which accrediting agencies had trouble implementing. It is quite reasonable for an institution to be reviewed the first time it offers more than half of a program at a distance. Given the post-COVID world, we strongly believe that many institutions will trigger review by surpassing the second or third threshold. It will be interesting to see how accreditation agencies deal with this requirement as there will still be many, many institutional substantive change reviews as a result.

The Department also proposed to add the following definition (to go into CFR 34 600.2) that will help with these calculations and elsewhere in the proposed rules. Except for the part after the “or,” you might recognize this as the definition used by IPEDS. We were intentional in suggesting that the negotiators make this addition:

Distance education course: A course in which instruction takes place exclusively as described in the definition of distance education in this section notwithstanding in-person non-instructional requirements, including orientation, testing, academic support services, or residency experience.

 Proposal: Creating a “Virtual Location” and Collecting More Data on Distance Education

Institutions are required to report students as participating in one of three physical locations: a) the main campus, b) a branch campus, or c) an additional location. The latter is a: “physical facility that is geographically separate from the main campus of the institution…at which the institution offers at least 50 percent of an educational program.” The Department adds to that last definition and also proposes the collection of additional data about distance education students:

  1. Institutions offering distance education will be required to create a subset of “additional location” called a “virtual location.” That new location will include students for “which the institution offers 100 percent of an educational program through distance education or correspondence courses, notwithstanding requirements for students to complete on-campus or residential periods of 90 days or less.”
  2. As part of institutional disclosures, for each student receiving Title IV aid: “the institution must submit to the Secretary, in accordance with procedures established by the Secretary, a report regarding the recipient’s enrollment in distance education or correspondence courses.

Frankly, we are still trying to figure out the long-term implications. One benefit of the virtual location is that if an institution were to close its entire distance education operations, the affected students would have the same financial aid protections as if the entire institution closed. Additionally, we have long advocated for more collection of data about distance education programs and students. The Department said it will allow it to collect more data about distance education programs, as defined in that section. The other data requirement reported above is more granular as to enrollment in courses. We have many questions about the details about what will be gathered. We have all seen “research” and data analyses that fall short and pin differences in outcomes on the modality. They often overlook differences in the population served. This data can be quite helpful. It would be great to have regulations based on outcomes and not suppositions. Setting the context is important.


The Department also proposed numerous changes to Cash Management regulations associated with Title IV financial aid. Although most of those proposed changes are focused on financial aid processes that are outside the scope of WCET members, proposed changes to including instructional materials in tuition and fees, i.e., inclusive access programs, may impact your institutions.

Proposal: Restrict What Can Be Included in Tuition and Fees

textbox: Proposed: Institutions using “inclusive” or “equitable” access for books and resources will need to allow students to opt-into the program.

Some institutions bundle the cost for instructional materials into a student’s tuition and fees to lower the cost of books and materials as well as ensure that students have all of their instructional materials on the first day of class. The Department, citing a desire to ensure that students have direct control over how their financial aid is spent, proposed removing an institution’s ability to automatically bundle the cost of instructional materials into tuition and fees unless:

  1. Students opt-in to the program each academic term.
  2. An institution can show that the materials are at or below fair market value.

Although the Department had initially proposed regulations that would have allowed for a “health and safety” exemption, that exemption was removed in the proposed week three regulations. Under the final proposed regulations, the only exemption is for confined or incarcerated students.


If the proposed regulations go forward, institutions with opt-out inclusive access programs will need to convert the programs to opt-in. They will also have to show that the cost of the opt-in materials are at or below fair market value. It was unclear from the Department’s discussion how frequently this analysis would need to be conducted. The Department made clear that they greatly valued student choice in how they spend their financial aid and personal funds. Additionally, it does not appear that institutions with practical programs such as welding, cosmetology, or even scuba diving that require specific equipment will be able to bundle the cost of that equipment into tuition and fees. We recognize that may be problematic for programs that require specific equipment as a part of industry standards.


So, what’s next from the Department?

The Department will now work on the final proposed language that may differ from the language that was provided for the final week of negotiations. In fact, on at least one occasion the federal negotiator stated that there would be no guarantee that language negotiated during week three would be reflected in the Department’s final proposed language. Because there was no consensus on any of these issues, the Department can put forward whatever language it wishes.

Once the Department releases the final proposed regulatory language, it will be available for public comment for at least thirty days. Although we are not certain when the Department plans to release the final proposed rules, we have heard a credible rumor that it will be in May or June. Once the Department receives public comment, it must respond to those comments. If it can publish the final regulations by November 1st, then they will go into effect on July 1, 2025. It’s possible that a few sections might have implementation dates beyond July 1 if the Department believes that institutions will need additional time to come into compliance. The Department divided its work into six “issue papers.” It is also possible that they may decide to release proposed regulations for some of those in the coming months and wait on the others.


In the coming days we will continue to keep our ears to the ground and talk with other stakeholders. Additionally, we will publish a call-to-action post in the coming weeks that will contain one-page issue summaries that you can share with your government relations and institutional leadership teams. We suggest that you begin working with your leadership and government relations teams to engage with elected officials if there are portions of these regulations that you either support or are against. Either way, consider the eventual impact that the proposals could have if implemented…on students, on states, and on processes to implement them. Think about what questions you need to have answered.

If the Department plans to publish proposed regulations for comment in May or June, we will have little time to act. Be prepared. 


Unveiling the Highlights: WCET’s 2024 Virtual Summit

That’s why when I say it was a wonderful event that was a pleasure to attend, I may be a little biased (and super proud of my team members who did all of the planning), but not by much. I was simply impressed by the work that went into the event, the amazing presenters and facilitators, and the interaction of the attendees.

This event was particularly significant for higher education practitioners at this moment in time. We’ve started to learn about the highs and lows of AI in higher education, ranging from creative and promising applications to enhance student learning and success, to questions about the use of AI in ways that may not meet academic integrity standards and policies. Students see how AI benefits those in the workplace and want to understand and learn how to use it while they are in school. We see the potential issues when it comes to implicit bias in technologies such as AI and the inherent inequities that exist due to disparities in access to current technological tools, capabilities, and resources. Events such as this year’s Summit provide us with the opportunity to collectively learn from experts and leaders in our field, post questions to both these individuals and fellow attendees, and engage in conversations that benefit everyone.

Key Themes and Topics

Session 1: Embracing AI in Higher Education: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching, Learning, and Administration

We started the day with a welcome and introduction from Van Davis, Chief Strategy Officer for WCET.

thumbnail of the AI Policy Framework. Click link for full version.

My Takeaways from Session 1:

Session 2: Effective Governance for AI in Higher Education

The sessions continued with a conversation about effective governance for AI in Higher Education with Gloria Niles, Karen Watté, and Michael K. Moore. This was an insightful discussion concerning the guidelines formulated by their institutions for the utilization of AI by students and staff. The speakers also elaborated on the various groups of stakeholders involved in the development of their guidelines and policies. Gloria and Karen provided lessons learned from their experiences with AI governance.

My Takeaways from Session 2:

Conversations about the governance of AI should come early and make sure those in the conversations represent the entire institution. A small task force that can be flexible and responsive is helpful.

Session 3: Operational Uses and Considerations for AI in Higher Education

In our next session, Asim Ali, Sheenah Hartigan, and Corey Edwards highlighted the practical applications of AI and provided specific examples of AI use for their colleges and universities. I appreciated learning about the real ways AI is being used to assist with recruitment, student support, admissions, and more.

My Takeaways from Session 3:

AI tools can offer valuable support to staff and faculty, which creates additional time to work on more substantial matters or work one-on-one with more students.

Don’t fear AI technology – it’s coming whether we’re ready for it or not. Join the conversations at your institution or organization. It’s the people who drive the implementation of the technology that will make or break its success. AI is highly capable, but it can’t completely implement itself. 

Session 4: Pedagogical Innovations and Applications of AI in Higher Education

The penultimate session of the Summit focused more on the pedagogical side of using AI and showcased outstanding and innovative approaches that leverage AI to improve teaching and learning.

My Takeaways from Session 4:

It’s time to initiate our own learning and development about AI. And we should actively help our students learn more about these technologies. AI is being used in the workplace already, and we need to help prepare students to utilize these tools ethically and successfully. Keep an open growth mind when it comes to learning about this (and other) technology, starting from a closed and uninformed mindset will only impede your personal growth and that of your students.

Session 5: Student Perspectives on AI in Higher Education

a student waves to a computer screen showing a video conference session with several young adults who may be fellow students and one individual who may be the instructor.

While all the sessions were top-notch, the final session of the day was my favorite. I adore my job and team but often miss working with students, so it makes sense that getting to hear directly from students about their views and concerns about AI was a great way to end the day.

The students who presented, Joe Rendon and Chrischen Thompson, who are currently serving as SAN and Every Learner Everywhere interns, spoke eloquently and knowledgeably about the many uses of AI for students and when each of them uses AI. The use cases included brainstorming a project or piece of writing or helping them process their thoughts about an assignment. They ask questions about formatting and sometimes get ideas for an outline or structure for a paper.

The students cautioned us that it is important to teach students how to write good prompts to use with generative AI and also to make sure that you and your students use the most up-to-date tools. If the AI platform you use is not up-to-date, you run the risk of receiving outdated outputs.

Students want their colleges and universities to specifically detail when it is okay to use AI and when it is not, especially between different courses. The students said that sometimes different classes have different expectations and standards for using AI, and while that’s fine, that information must be clearly communicated and consistently available for reference. All of us need to keep privacy and data protection in mind when working with these tools. I was particularly interested to hear one of the students say that at times they do worry about using AI too much and that they won’t learn as much as they may have in working completely on their own.

My Takeaways from Session 5:

We must clearly outline our expectations for students regarding the use of AI when completing assignments or assessments. The information should be included in the class syllabus, whether it is a class-specific policy, departmental guideline, program-level requirement, or institutional standard. Add a conversation about AI to the time you discuss the syllabus. These approaches will help students see the positives and negatives about using AI for their work, so they can understand when it is helpful and ethical to use these tools.

Thank You

At the end of session 5, Van Davis came back on the screen to thank the students and to wrap up the day. Thank you, Van, for concluding the event and recapping the crucial topics discussed throughout all of the sessions.

WCET would like to thank and celebrate the speakers and facilitators who participated in this year’s summit. We genuinely appreciated hearing about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings on AI in higher ed. We would also like to thank and applaud our attendees for their engagement, questions, and the sense of community they helped us foster during this event.

blocks with the words thank you in multi colors.

Reiterating My Takeaways

Here are the takeaways I included for each session:

  1. It’s time to consider the strategic use of AI, and that use should align with the values of our institution or organization. For example, despite the numerous and exciting possibilities AI presents for enhancing accessibility, it’s important to acknowledge that not all of your students and staff may have screen readers compatible with the latest tools. Accessibility policies should be reviewed with this in mind.
  2. Conversations about the governance of AI should come early and make sure those in the conversations represent the entire institution. A small task force that can be flexible and responsive is helpful.
  3. AI tools can offer valuable support to staff and faculty, which creates additional time to work on more substantial matters or work one-on-one with more students. Don’t fear AI technology – it’s coming whether we’re ready for it or not. Join the conversations at your institution or organization. It’s the people who drive the implementation of the technology that will make or break its success. AI is highly capable, but it can’t completely implement itself. 
  4. It’s time to initiate our learning and development of AI. And we should actively help our students learn more about these technologies. AI is being used in the workplace already, and we need to help prepare students to utilize these tools ethically and successfully. Keep an open growth mind when it comes to learning about this (and other) technology, starting from a closed and uninformed mindset will only impede your personal growth and that of your students.
  5. We must clearly outline our expectations for students regarding the use of AI when completing assignments or assessments. The information should be included in the class syllabus, whether it is a class-specific policy, departmental guideline, program-level requirement, or institutional standard. Add a conversation about AI to the time you discuss the syllabus. These approaches will help students see the positives and negatives about using AI for their work, so they can understand when it is helpful and ethical to use these tools.

Did you attend this year’s Summit? If so, thank you for learning with us. If you weren’t able to attend, don’t worry, we have lots of great events coming up soon!

WCET Webcast: Accessibility in EdTech: How Do Your Products Rate? – 3/13/2024

WCET Webcast: Seismic Shifts in Distance Ed Regulations: Gauging Department of Education Rulemaking – 3/20/2024

WCET Webcast: AI Ethics, Governance, Policy, and Practice in Higher Education: A Strategic Webcast for Leaders and Practitioners – 4/4/2024

Meeting: Distance Ed at a Crossroads: The Changing Landscape of New Regulations – July 30, 2024 – July 31, 2024

Meeting: WCET 36th Annual Meeting – 10/8/2024 – 10/10/2024 **Session Submissions are Now Open! The deadline for submissions is 4/2/2024.

Keep up with all of our events at!


Rethinking Diversity: Prioritizing Access, Equity, and Belonging in the Workplace

Today’s workplaces are ever evolving, and one of the best consequences of that is the pursuit of equity and access. It is imperative that we not only foster inclusive environments but actively celebrate such workplaces that embrace diversity and recognize those individuals working to advance inclusive initiatives.

In today’s post, guest author Sabrina Short, Founder and CEO of NOLAvate Black discusses the power of the inclusive workplace and explores practical strategies and ways to empower those in the environment to truly embrace and support equity in the workplace. Thank you to Sabrina for sharing about this outstanding organization and challenging us to rethink about workplace diversity in a new light.

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

I have been very fortunate in my life to be surrounded by people who believed in me, poured their time and affection into me, and supported the progression of my career. Navigating your career can be tough, especially when you feel like you are the only one who looks like you. Early on in my professional journey, I worked for corporate and large organizations. In these roles, I was often the youngest and often the only or one of very few Black people on the team. However, there were those, specifically Black women, in my life who believed in me and opened many doors that helped me get to where I am today. While having mentors who share your background provides validation and safety, cultivating relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds also brings invaluable perspectives, networks, and opportunities that promote professional advancement.

I am the founder and CEO of NOLAvate Black, a global tech exchange that focuses on bringing resources, funding, expertise, and innovation to our local technology and creative economy.

We started as a conference focused on addressing systematic racism and injustice that prevents Black people and under-resource communities from gaining access to higher demand and higher wage jobs in the technology section. A major part of my work is fostering spaces that are inclusive and accessible, and inciting leaders in the technology workspace to think differently about how they engage underrepresented talent. When building culturally inclusive teams, allies are instrumental in removing barriers, providing access to opportunities, and offering perspective for uncharted spaces. Embracing both representation and diversity in our support networks builds a sustainable organization that can thrive in a multicultural and interconnected world.

Embracing Equity in the Workplace

Building Relational Advocacy

While all three roles—ally, sponsor, and mentor—can contribute to diversity and access in the workplace and professional circles, they have distinct functions and responsibilities:


An ally is someone who supports individuals from marginalized groups, and works to challenge discrimination, bias, and systemic barriers for underrepresented people. Allies often focus on creating a more inclusive environment and raising awareness about issues related to diversity and equity.


Mentors are experienced individuals who provide guidance, advice, and support to a less experienced individual to help them develop personally and professionally. Mentors offer wisdom, perspective, and expertise based on their own career experiences and knowledge. While mentors may also advocate for their mentees’ career advancement, their primary role is to provide guidance, coaching, and developmental opportunities.


A sponsor is a senior-level individual within an organization who actively champions and advocates for the career advancement of an early career professional. Sponsors use their influence, networks, and power within the organization to create opportunities for others. Sponsors are typically more directly involved by providing visibility to decision-makers and advocating for advancement.

When deciding to be an advocate, each person must decide if they have the time, resources and commitment to invest in someone, break barriers that they can’t achieve on their own. No matter what pathway you choose as an advocate, be intentional to actively foster a space where power is transferred, barriers are removed toward access to opportunity, and where there is a redistribution of influence and resources to foster greater equity and inclusion.

Advocacy, in its most profound sense, goes beyond tokenistic gestures and surface-level performative actions to address systemic inequities that have existed for generations. It is crucial to recognize that with the right mentorship and access to resources, everyone has the potential to be successful.

No matter your background, whether as an ally, sponsor, and/or a mentor, we all must work together to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals and ensure that everyone is empowered and valued within our organizations.

Our work is not easy work, as diversity isn’t a priority for many organizations, but it is so worthwhile when I hear “thank you NOLAvate Black, because you changed my life.”

Helping people find jobs, fostering communities of culture, helping businesses secure funding, and supporting companies as they build inclusive teams – not only changes lives, it changes our communities.


Nurturing Digital Learning: Unveiling the HBCU Advantage

A calendar page open to the month of february

This month, February, WCET’s main focus topic has been on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

February marks Black History Month, an observance that honors the rich histories and acknowledges the invaluable contributions of African Americans across various facets of society. In honor of this Heritage Month, we wanted to highlight the the inclusive and supportive nature of HBCUs, especially in the digital education space.

This week’s guest author, Barry Briggs, is currently an intern with WCET and Every Learner Everywhere and is close to completing his Masters degree from Auburn University. Barry has been engaged in research alongside WCET focused on Minority Serving Institutions. Today, he joins us to explore how the teaching and learning philosophy employed by HBCUs, even in the realm of digital learning, significantly impacts the well-being, achievements, and overall success of their students.

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) stand as beacons of inclusive education, fostering environments where every student’s voice is heard and valued. As we HBCUs now lead the way when navigating digital environments, showcasing a distinctive advantage in digital learning. Today we’re here to unravel the secrets behind this advantage and highlight how other institutions can follow their lead.

Beyond Teaching and Learning: The Rhetoric of Care

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the concept of a rhetoric of care takes center stage, becoming a defining characteristic of the digital learning experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). But what exactly is a “rhetoric of care?” First, let’s discuss the concept of a pedagogy of kindness to see how HBCUs implement these principles and create a uniquely nurturing digital learning environment.


A rhetoric of care in education goes beyond the traditional roles of teaching and learning. It’s a philosophy that emphasizes empathy, understanding, and genuine concern for the well-being of students.

At HBCUs, this approach is not just a strategy; it’s a fundamental aspect of their educational ethos. In the digital realm, a rhetoric of care manifests in various ways, each contributing to a more holistic and supportive learning environment. This manifestation involves:

  • actively listening to students,
  • understanding their individual needs, and,
  • adapting teaching practices to foster a sense of belonging.

In the digital context, this translates to faculty members going the extra mile to connect with students on a personal level. Regular check-ins, virtual office hours, and personalized feedback become not just tasks but expressions of care, ensuring that students feel seen and valued in the virtual classroom. These spaces have a culture of kindness woven into the fabric of every interaction. Faculty members model kindness through their communication, fostering a sense of community that transcends the digital divide. This intentional approach to teaching creates a ripple effect, as students, in turn, engage with course materials and their peers with a spirit of empathy and collaboration.

A great example of such an approach is the Psychiatry Clerkship at Morehouse School of medicine.

quote textbox: “In the digital context, this [“rhetoric of care”] translates to faculty members going the extra mile to connect with students on a personal level...

These spaces have a culture of kindness woven into the fabric of every interaction...

This intentional approach to teaching creates a ripple effect, as students, in turn, engage with course materials and their peers with a spirit of empathy and collaboration.”

The medical school collaborated with students to build a six-week e-learning Curriculum. Student exit surveys showed that students appreciated the inclusion of asynchronous e-learning modules into their curricula. 90 of 95 students who completed the psychiatry clerkship during the 2020-2021 academic year completed the exit survey, and 90 out of the 95 of students appreciated self-directed learning portion of their modules. This feedback indicates that there’s positive relationship between student comprehension and autonomy in learning. On a scale of 1-5, 5=most beneficial and 1=least beneficial, the ADMSEP e-modules received an average score of 4.16. This module was also free to the students. The Online MedED-Case E, a case assigned online and paid by the institution, received an average score of 3.93.The clerkship models the rhetoric of care philosophy by giving students power over their digital learning space. They played a huge role in how they online section of the course was crafted.

The result of implementing these models is an HBCU digital learning experience that is  both an academic journey and a transformative and enriching period of personal and intellectual growth. The combination of a rhetoric of care and a pedagogy of kindness sets HBCUs apart, creating a model for digital learning that prioritizes the holistic development of each student. In the next sections, we will explore how these principles extend beyond individual interactions to shape the broader inclusivity and collaborative spirit that defines HBCU digital learning.

Creating An Inclusive Online Campus Culture

Inclusivity is a hallmark of HBCU campuses, and this ethos can be extended into the digital realm. HBCUs leverage technology to replicate the on-campus inclusive atmosphere and move it online. Virtual clubs, events, and forums provide spaces for online learners to connect, fostering a sense of community regardless of physical location. The HBCU advantage lies in the ability to make each student feel valued and included, transcending the boundaries of the virtual classroom.

As part of my internship with Complete College America (CCA), I worked with a team of other students and staff to create a virtual app that could be pitched as an idea to our respective campuses.

College students using a laptop

These apps would have a plethora of virtual clubs and activities for students.  Working on this project with CCA gave me the opportunity to be at the forefront of shifting the Digital Landscape at HBCU and higher Ed spaces abroad, and the assignment left us with a glimmering hope for the future of digital learning at HBCU’s.

While working with CCA, we shared our individual experiences with technology at our individual HBCUs with the purpose of improving the digital learning landscape for future students. We envisioned apps, held talks with educational professionals, and took the time to assess how HBCUs can translate their rich cultural heritage to the digital learning space. We also discussed in detail updates to policies that will provide equitable student access educational technologies. By sharing our own individual student experiences, we began to imagine innovative ways to level the playing field for all students. ChatGPT and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools were at the forefront of many of our panel discussions. In the end, many of us believe AI will be instrumental in shifting the current educational landscape.

Elevating the Digital Learning Experience

HBCUs elevate the voices of their students in the digital learning landscape and their commitment to student input goes beyond lip service; it drives continuous improvement in digital learning practices. Morehouse  self-directed online learning modules have created the blueprint for transforming the digital learning sphere at HBCU’s and universities abroad. Dedicated platforms for feedback and suggestions empower students to actively shape their educational journey. HBCUs understand that by listening to students, they not only enhance the learning experience but also cultivate a culture of responsiveness and adaptability. The Collaborative E-learning program at Morehouse is a great example and can serve as a blueprint for other universities to follow.

The HBCU advantage in digital learning is a testament to their unwavering commitment to a rhetoric of care, inclusivity, collaborative assignment design, and amplification of student voices. The practices used by HBCUs can inspire and transform broader educational institutions. The lessons learned from HBCUs underscore the profound impact of nurturing, inclusive, and collaborative approaches to education, setting a high standard for the future of digital learning. Now is a great time to learn from HBCU’s digital learning practices and proactively influence the educational landscape rather than simply reacting to it.


Major Changes to Distance Ed: Department of Education Rulemaking Week 2 Update

Textbox: About Rulemaking
The Department is considering many issues, we focus on those of interest to our members.

We are still in the proposal and negotiation stage.

Negotiations end March 7.

Proposed rules will likely be published for public comment in October.

If that is the case, the rules will go into effect on July 1 2026 at the earliest.

The film Nyad is sometimes difficult to watch as the titular character braves her way through a Cuba to Florida swim that took 53 hours of non-stop swimming. Along the way she is besieged by poisonous jellyfish, sharks, exhaustion, and the constant battering of waves.

We feel a connection with her. Last week was the second week of the Department of Education’s latest marathon negotiated rulemaking sessions. While we are relatively dry, we are exhausted from dodging the sharks and shoals of rulemaking. We applaud those who are serving as negotiators.

Today’s post is an update on the changes from week one, including the new proposals and discussions among negotiators and that we have had with others. See our summary of the week 1 session.

Watch for additional details in the coming weeks, including suggestions on how you can get involved.

We encourage you to stay alert as the changes proposed could have a major impact on distance education and all of higher education. We designed this post so that you can quickly scan to find the items of interest to you. We would love to hear your questions or feedback.

State Authorization – Distance Education Reciprocity; In-State Exemptions

Department of Education’s “State Authorization” Issue Paper Week 2

Distance Education Reciprocity 34 CFR 600.2 and 34 CFR 600.9

In considering “state authorization,” the Department continues to primarily focus on distance education reciprocity agreements. In week two, the Department’s proposal expanded the language addressing complaints and governance that were the sole focus of their January proposal. This time they also took into consideration a far-sweeping negotiator’s proposal from week 1 to limit the scope of reciprocity.

Textbox: Proposal:
Institutions participating in reciprocity still need to follow the requirements of each state.

That proposal contemplates limiting reciprocity covering only the application for authorization in each state. It would also subject reciprocity institutions to “education-specific laws.” The week two committee discussion centered on the definition of “education-specific” and the applicability of those laws.” Clarity did not seem to result. Another proposal emerged recommending the removal of the “education-specific” term and to plainly say that, for reciprocity, each state can enforce all state laws.

Applicability of enforcement of state education-specific laws upon institutions participating in reciprocity will affect the value of reciprocity by removing the uniformity of oversight of institutions across all member states. For example, even if participating in reciprocity, institutions would be subject to state requirements (e.g., bonding, closure, tuition refund timeline) at the discretion of each state.

If the proposals are implemented, the assertion that reciprocity still exists is disingenuous. Along with institutions having to research and be subject to varying laws, it would also have a big impact on states. If a state decides to apply other regulations to institutions through reciprocity, a single application would be insufficient. States would need some sort of additional application targeting their need to know about institutions serving their students. Additionally, they need funds to support the additional oversight responsibilities of the institutions serving students in their state.

In-State Authorization Exemptions 34 CFR 600.9

Textbox: Proposal:
States change state laws to 
re-authorize institutions that have long been approved.

Outside of reciprocity, the negotiators also considered authorizations for in-state institutions. A week two proposal seeks to sunset state determinations of authorization for in-state institutions when the authorization is exempted based on: a) accreditation or b) the institution has been in operation for more than 20 years.

To remain eligible for Title IV, HEA programs, this proposed language would require states that exert such exemptions to change their state’s laws for institutions to be considered authorized by the state. Private, non-profit institutions might be most affected by this proposal.

Cash Management – Limitation of Books and Supplies as Part of Tuition & Fees

Department of Education’s “Cash Management” Issue Paper Week 2

The Department has expressed concern about “inclusive access” programs in which digital content is delivered to students by the first day of class and students pay for these books and/or supplies through tuition and fees. They worry about the institution’s transparency in enabling a student’s ability to opt out. The original proposed regulations (which were discussed during the first week of negotiations) eliminated the provision allowing institutions to include the cost of books and supplies as part of tuition and fees unless there was a health and safety reason or if the institution was the only option for students to access those books and supplies.

Textbox: Proposal:
For inclusive access, students would need to opt-in.

The revised proposed language in 668.164 (c)(1) and (2) only allows an institution to include the cost of books and supplies as part of tuition and fees if there 1) is a health and safety reason or 2) the books and supplies are made available below a competitive market rate. Additionally, institutions would have to disclose the cost of those books and supplies and students would have to opt-in to the fee each payment period.

There was much discussion among the negotiators about these proposed changes. Several negotiators expressed concern that students might no longer have instructional materials on the first day of class. The Department and several other negotiators talked about the importance of providing students with transparency and consumer choice regarding the purchase of materials.

Return to Title IV (R2T4) – Require Attendance Taking for All Distance Education Courses

Department of Education’s “Return to Title IV” Issue Paper Week 2

Treatment of Title IV Funds When a Student Withdraws 34 CFR 668.22

There are times when a student will stop attending an institution without telling anyone. While the Department presents no evidence, it does assert that this is more likely in distance education courses. When a student drops out, the Department expects unused aid funds to be returned to federal coffers. Therefore, the date when a student stops attending is crucial. Distance education has long been held to a higher standard using the “Last Day of Attendance” rule. Under that rule, if a student drops-out without notice, then the institution has to base the refund for Title IV funds to the Department on the last day that the student demonstrated “academic engagement” (e.g., took a quiz, participated in a discussion, submitted a paper). Just recording logins is not sufficient.

To increase the accuracy of the Last Day of Attendance determination and to “simplify” processes, the Department originally proposed that institutions be required to take attendance for all distance education programs. For week two, they changed that requirement to have attendance taken for all distance education courses. Additionally, if a student does not “attend” for 14 days, the institution is to begin procedures to withdraw the student.

textbox: Proposal:
For students not “attending” for 14 days, the institution begins withdrawal procedures.

Negotiators have not extensively discussed this issue and do seem to lean towards adopting it. Meanwhile, we have heard significant questions and concerns suggesting this may not truly “simplify” the process. We also have heard that it is not uncommon for adult students to stop out for 14 days and still finish classes.

NASFAA also heard of the need for more work from financial aid administrators. If adopted, there will most likely be significant guidance needed from the Department about how to comply.

Accreditation – Substantive Change for Distance Ed; Outsourcing Instruction

Department of Education’s “Accreditation” Issue Paper Week 2

Substantive Changes 34 CFR 602.22

Relative to institutions serving students by distance education the most relevant sub issue is the lengthy substantive change regulation which includes three subsections of note:

Textbox: Return to old 50% substantive change standards for distance ed accreditation reviews.

First, the Department proposes that the institution must seek approval from their accreditor of a substantive change upon an institution for approval for distance education when it meets or exceeds the 50% threshold of distance education programs. The institution:

  • Offers at least 50% of a program through distance education, or
  • Enrolls at least 50% of its students in distance education, or
  • Offers at least 50% of its courses through distance education.

This subsection proposal offered language that did not change from week one to week two. We concur with this language as a return to the prior guidance that had been rescinded in Fall 2020.

Second, that the institution adds any non-degree or degree-granting program at a level not previously offered by the institution.

Textbox: Proposal:
Additional oversight requirements for outsourced instruction.

Third, when entering into a “written arrangement” with an ineligible institution or organization that offers more than 25% and up to 50% of one or more of the accredited institution’s educational programs, the Department proposes that the agency evaluate the arrangement to meet certain standards. The minimum standards include:

  • Assessment of the ineligible institution’s or organization’s administrative and financial capacity and
  • Expertise to deliver the portion of the program provided under the arrangement.

This subsection was the subject of a robust discussion among the negotiators. The accreditation negotiator stated that the proposed standards are the responsibility of the institution with accreditor review. Additionally, some negotiators appeared to broaden the view beyond instruction to other activities of ineligible parties, such as providing recruiting. This discussion was reminiscent of the expansion of the definition of Third Party Servicer (TPS) and OPM discussions from winter of 2023. This is an area to watch in week three.

Distance Education – Disallow Asynch Courses for Clock Hour; Create a “Virtual Location”

Department of Education’s “Distance Education” Issue Paper Week 2

Definitions 34 CFR 600.2 – End the ability for institutions offering “clock hour” financial aid to offer asynchronous programs

Most traditional institutions grant aid based on credit hours. Another method is through the use of “clock hours.” This is typically reserved for institutions offering practical programs, such as auto maintenance, cosmetology, and massage therapy. For institutions that use the clock hour method of delivering financial aid, the Department proposes disallowing aid for asynchronous distance education programs. This was not changed from week one.

Textbox: Proposal: “Clock hour” programs could no longer be taught asynchronously.

There was some frustration that requests for more information and data on the prevalence of asynchronous clock hour instruction and related compliance problems. It also seemed to be clarified that the practice would not be allowed for hybrid “clock hour” programs.

NOTE: If your institution is a clock hour program, tell us the impact this proposal will have as this one appears ready to be adopted unless there is more evidence of negative impact.

Remember that this WILL NOT have an impact if your institution offers your programs using credit hours.

Definitions 34 CFR 600.2 – Classify all distance education programs as a “virtual location”

For higher education Title IV financial aid purposes, in-person courses are offered either at a “Main Campus,” a “Branch Campus,” or an “Additional Location.” These are official Departmental categories.

They want to add a new “Additional Location” category called a “virtual location” for all programs “through which the institution offers 100 percent of an educational program through distance education or correspondence courses, notwithstanding requirements for students to complete on-campus or residential periods of 90 days or less.”

A big benefit would be protecting students if the institution decided to shutter all of its distance education programs. Students would be eligible for financial aid relief benefits as if the entire institution closed. The Department also said that the changes will allow them to collect more data on distance education program outcomes. We have long been an advocate for more data, but we do worry about simplistic research that focuses on modality as the cause of differences in outcomes without considering other underlying factors.

Next Steps

Watch for additional information from us in the coming weeks. The third and final week of negotiations will be March 4-7. We wonder how they will get through all the considerations because they have not yet started to review the work of the TRIO subcommittee.

There are ways to lend your voice to the conversation if you support or have concerns about the proposals. Briefly:

  • You can sign up to provide a public comment for week three by contacting Do so early in the week as they will be wrapping up issues. Slots are limited to only 9-10 commenters per day.
  • Here is a list of the negotiators. They deserve thanks for their hard work!!
  • Contact us with your questions, concerns, or support for proposals.
  • Finally, for some of the big issues, we may need to get your Senators or Representatives to start asking questions of the Department. Start talking to your government relations staff about this.
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Free WCET & SAN Webcast
Seismic Shifts in Distance Ed Regulations: Gauging Department of Ed Rulemaking

March 20 – 3:00 Eastern
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Continue to watch for more information from WCET and SAN. Some of it will be member-only information.

Finally, stay engaged! We are not kidding when we say that there are some major changes that are under consideration.


Top 12 WCET Frontiers Posts of 2023

painting of the numbers 2023

Happy 2024! I know you are probably a little sick of top 10 lists for things that went well, were trendy, or went poorly in 2023. So, I’ve made a top 12 list instead.

Today we’re looking at our readership and views for the WCET Frontiers blog over the past year.

In 2023, we published 61 blog posts with a total of 109,049 words (whoa!). We absolutely enjoyed not only sharing insights and discussions from the staff here at WCET and more importantly, highlighting and showcasing our amazing member institutions and organizations with our guest authors who shared about projects, plans, experiences, and more. We had 201,515 views in 2023 from 95,656 visitors. Thank you for reading and learning with us.

Today I wanted to share the top blog posts from the year, with small summaries of each. I find this a helpful way to understand what topics our readers found important over the year, and help us explore the topics our readers want in the next year.

Without further ado, here are our top 12 posts based on your readership in 2023:

  1. Ed Department Shakes Up OPMs and Third-Party Servicers: This Is Huge.
  2. Regular and Substantive Interaction Refresh: Reviewing & Sharing Our Best Interpretation of Current Guidance and Requirements (2021)
  3. ED’s New Proposed Regulations: Part 1, State Authorization Reciprocity
  4. New Federal Regulations, Part 1: Addressing Programs Leading to a License or Certification
  5. ED’s New Proposed Regulations, Part II: Changes for Programs Leading to Professional Licensure
  6. Regular and Substantive Interaction Update: Where Do We Go from Here?
  7. Interpreting what is Required for “Regular and Substantive Interaction” (2016)
  8. Put Down the Shiny Object: The Overwhelming State of Higher Education Technology
  9. Proposed Federal Rules Affecting Programs Leading to a License & State Authorization Reciprocity Need a Delayed Effective Date
  10. Regular and Substantive Interaction: Resources to Support Learning, Neuroplasticity, and Regulations
  11. New Federal Regulations, Part 2: Addressing Compliance with State Closure Laws and the Impact on Interstate Reciprocity Agreements
  12. Is AI the New Homework Machine? Understanding AI and Its Impact on Higher Education

Ed Department Shakes Up OPMs and Third-Party Servicers: This Is Huge.

This year’s top billing goes to a post from our very own Cheryl Dowd and Russ Poulin, in their highlights of the Department of Education’s changes in guidance related to Online Program Management (OPM) companies and Third-party Servicers, which impacted contracts for a multitude of services and programs.

Regular and Substantive Interaction Refresh: Reviewing & Sharing Our Best Interpretation of Current Guidance and Requirements (2021)

Like many other years, we do have 2 posts from outside of 2023 that made it into the top most read list. This year, our refresher on Regular and Substantive Interaction, written by Kathryn Kerensky, is a wonderful and useful review of the final set of regulations stemming from the 2019 Negotiated Rulemaking on this topic. Kathryn reviews the related terms and issues and provides an overview of the new requirements.

ED’s New Proposed Regulations: Part 1, State Authorization Reciprocity

Returning for their second post included in the top list of WCET blog posts for 2023, Cheryl Dowd and Russ Poulin looked at newly proposed regulations regarding contracted services and companies helping institutions with online learning. The post, originally published I May of 2023, discusses the large impact the announcement had throughout the institution.

New Federal Regulations, Part 1: Addressing Programs Leading to a License or Certification

Not only a big year for federal regulation updates, but a big year of writing for Russ and Cheryl! This next post was part one of two posts on newly released federal regulations addressing programs leading to a license or certification (published in October 2023). This post reviews the new rules and includes discussion on the impact on institutions and state licensing agencies.

ED’s New Proposed Regulations, Part II: Changes for Programs Leading to Professional Licensure

This post is the second post in the series on newly proposed regulations published in May 2023.

This article brought attention to some topics within the proposed regulations that we felt needed more focus – “sub -issues related to reciprocity and programs leading to a license or certification that are found in the Negotiated Rulemaking Issues, Certification Procedures.” Cheryl and Russ wanted to call attention to the fact that the new proposed regulations went beyond Gainful Employment and provided information on the public comment timeframe and process.

Regular and Substantive Interaction Update: Where Do We Go from Here? (2022)

One of my favorite posts from 2022, and still a great overview of the topic, came from Kathryn Kerensky on regular and substantive interaction. This post included guidance from the Department that came in response to a letter sent to the Department from WCET, OLC, Quality Matters, and UPCEA.

Interpreting what is Required for “Regular and Substantive Interaction” (2016)

This post has consistently been included in our top blog lists each year since it was published (in 2016). Russ Poulin and Van Davis provided a phenomenal and pivotal overview of regular and substantive interaction based on Department of Education documents such as Dear Colleague Letters, audits, presentations, and previous sanctions against institutions. This post serves as a great early source for us and others when researching and writing about instructor and student interaction.

Put Down the Shiny Object: The Overwhelming State of Higher Education Technology

We were thrilled when the guest author of this post accepted our invitation to continue a conversation that started on Twitter (before it was X) during a session at the WCET Annual Meeting, with an article on Frontiers.

I really appreciate Brandon Karcher from Bucknell University taking the time to consider the vast amount of technology available and in use in higher education today, and how we can best serve our students in what could be an overwhelming technological landscape.

Proposed Federal Rules Affecting Programs Leading to a License & State Authorization Reciprocity Need a Delayed Effective Date

The top posts this year have a theme for sure, and we’re back with Cheryl and Russ to discuss the need at the time for an extension of the effective date of then proposed regulations on state authorization reciprocity and programs learning to licensure.

Regular and Substantive Interaction: Resources to Support Learning, Neuroplasticity, and Regulations

Similar topic, but new insight provided by guest authors Kristen Betts of Drexel University and Karyn Holt with INTERACT123 on regular and substantive interaction. Regulations and polices are some of our favorite topics here at WCET, and this year they were definitely a big focus. This post took that discussion of regular and substantive interaction and contextualized it within the science of learning, course design, and teaching practice.

New Federal Regulations, Part 2: Addressing Compliance with State Closure Laws and the Impact on Interstate Reciprocity Agreements

While lower in the list, part two of this series actually wasn’t that far behind in views. Part two of this series looked at closure requirements in each state and the impact of the new rules on institutions that participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). These and the rules discussed in part one of the series go into effect July 1, 2024.

Is AI the New Homework Machine? Understanding AI and Its Impact on Higher Education

list of years with a thumb tack stuck in the year 2023

One of my favorite articles from 2023 was an early one! Remember when the topic of Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education was still a bit new?

I really enjoyed working on this post from Van Davis on the impact and importance of the new release of ChatGPT from OpenAI. This was back when ChatGPT was in version 3.5 and our community was just starting to grapple with AI and how it relates to academic integrity, digital literacy, equity, and more.

Thank you again to all of our readers for helping us make 2023 a great year here at WCET Frontier!.

Here’s to a new year full of opportunities to learn new things and highlight promising practices from our community. If you are interested in sharing your experiences with us, let me know!


Scaffolding Virtual Simulations in Higher Education for Career-Readiness

Post-secondary education serves as a cornerstone for personal development and plays a large role in shaping an individual’s career path. Such an education provides the opportunity to increase a student’s understanding of their chosen field and to develop important skills for their daily personal and work life. Experiential and practical experiences associated with a course or program helps keep students engaged, connects learning objectives to their real-world.

I’m excited today to welcome guest authors Meg Barnes and Sital Sigh from the University of Mississippi to discuss an opportunity their students have “preview the real world of work” in a virtual way.

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

How can educators prepare students for meaningful and rigorous work?

As educators, we encourage students to engage in a spectrum of experiences to test drive real-life roles and build resilient and transferable skills that are needed in the workplace. These experiences can include:

  • experiential education,
  • work-integrated learning,
  • collaborative problem-solving,
  • critical thinking in the classroom, and,
  • relevant learning materials with real-world applications and practical problems.

This case study offers an innovative educational method and a glimpse into digital learning by students previewing the world of work.

Partnering for Real World Experience: University of Mississippi + Forage

Forage is a technology startup that connects students with Fortune 500 companies and other organizations. The connection between students and those companies is a completely virtual experience. Students have the chance to see behind the curtain of the best companies around the world through free and self-paced virtual job simulations. With over 125+ employers and 290+ job simulations, Forage helps highlight the growing global desire to embrace flexible work arrangements and a shift in how in-field and relevant experiences are offered, and how companies attract, train, and hire the best talent.


With the profound shifts in how employers and employees approach working environments, educators must continually consider ways to prepare college students in more meaningful and practical ways.

Employers seek resilient hires

Research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that college students hoping to attract the attention of employers should emphasize problem-solving skills, followed closely by teamwork (Gray & Koncz, 2023).

Reprinted from Job Outlook 2023 with the permission of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

“Increasingly, employers are more concerned about competencies and skills. So, candidates who can demonstrate experience, knowledge, and ability through their resume and applications will have the competitive edge.”

– NACE President & Chief Executive Officer Shawn VanDerziel

Real-world relevance boosts student confidence

Research shows that relevant education and job experiences influence students’ perceptions of their competence and potential. In particular, relevant or in-field work experience may enhance or bolster a student’s perceptions of self-confidence (Knouse, 1994).

Work experiences spur deeper, more engaged student learning

After students gain work experience, critical reflection is often optimized. Growing research promotes the approach that students need to develop, articulate, and showcase their skills, competencies, and capabilities (Jackson & Edgar, 2019).

The optimum engagement point is after students have had some work experiences, providing students with specific experiences to share, compare, reconcile, and critically consider how their educational goals help them achieve knowledge and skills for work. These educational experiences after a work experience promote career readiness and self-direction (Billett, 2015).

Instead of just being taught, students receive post-experience feedback and guidance from educators as an opportunity to personalize and invest in their education and its application in the real world. This approach also enhances employability upon graduation (Billett et al., 2018).

After reviewing the research, we asked those who are the most impacted by this topic on a daily basis – our students. Here’s what they said:

“After completing the Forage experience, I have identified several skills that need development to prepare me f“The Forage virtual experience helped me understand that I thrive in a fast-paced, challenging environment.”or success in the workforce during my time at UM. I aim to enhance my analytical skills, ensuring I can assess the environmental and social implications of business decisions. “I recognize the importance of effective communication in conveying the value of sustainable practices to various stakeholders. I also intend to actively seek opportunities for hands-on experiences, such as internships or research projects, where I can apply theoretical knowledge to real-world sustainability challenges.”

– Seth Walz-Jones, Student at the University of Mississippi, Second Year Student in Business 101 course, December 2023

The intersection of campus and industry

Gaining momentum in test-driving careers and empowering students to explore their career trajectories, university partners have collaborated with educators to promote “preskilling” (Monfared, 2022, para 7). Industries and organizations may develop the opportunities and intersect with campuses in offering workplace-specific training for college students relevant to a specific field or industry. These collaborative partnerships focus on building and strengthening learning through:

  • On-campus employment,
  • Internships,
  • Micro-internships,
  • Practicums,
  • Preceptorships,
  • Project-based studies,
  • Simulations.

As an emerging innovative method, online projects and digital platforms have grown as a trend, with students and industries communicating online while geographically dispersed (Kay et al., 2019)

Work-integrated learning through simulations is “focused on the student completing authentic, relevant actual tasks for an organization through a remote connection to the workplace/community” (Wood et al., 2020, p. 333).

“The Forage virtual experience helped me understand that I thrive in a fast-paced, challenging environment.”

– Matison Kerby, student at the University of Mississippi, Third Year Student in Business 101 course, December 2023

Insights from the University of Mississippi

The Forage adds to the toolbox of educational opportunities.

Forage embraces work-integrated learning with virtual and simulated experiences developed by employers and delivered to students through educational institutions (Cerimagic et al., 2022). These virtual experiences are designed to prepare students for actual work assignments and showcase the students’ capabilities and relevant industry skills. The modules can be delivered and packaged within a curriculum, as a supplemental activity for professional development, or as a micro-opportunity.

“As an instructor in business communication and a professional at the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, I’ve found The Forage virtual experience to be a transformative educational tool.  It bridges the gap between theoretical learning and real-world application, enriching students’ understanding of the business world. This platform not only complements academic learning but also equips students with essential problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills needed in today’s dynamic business environment.”

– Derek Stephens, Assistant State Director, Mississippi SBDC & Adjunct Instructor of Management

From Forage’s virtual simulated experiences, students build confidence, bolster career readiness, and strengthen practical skills:

  • 75% of students surveyed at the University of Mississippi reported being more confident in their understanding of the day-to-day realities of work,
  • 65% of students are more likely to apply for a role at that company, and,
  • 78% reported gaining practical skills through the experience.

These Forage virtual simulations and data reflect an encouraging inclination for students after completing relevant projects. The post-reflective movements of self-direction and career readiness in Billett’s research surfaced in the Forage simulations with post-experience reflections. Incorporating The Forage virtual simulations into student learning is an example of promising digital learning that can augment a student’s skillset, self-confidence, and career planning.

On the path to success. Insights from Forage and the University of Mississippi. Nearly 800 students answered questions about Forage. Key findings: Students are more confident (after Forage) in their understanding of work they would do in a job, students are more likely to apply for a role at a company, and 78% of students developed practical skills in the program.
Image creation: Sigh, Bellassai, & Barnes


Billett, S. (2015). Integrating practice-based experiences with higher education. Professional and Practice-Based Learning, 13, 1-26.

Billett, S., Cain, M., & Le, A. H. (2018). Augmenting higher education students’ work experiences: Preferred purposes and processes. Studies in Higher Education (Dorchester-on-Thames), 43(7), 1279-1294.

Cerimagic, S., Arthars, N., Eden, D., and Grunfeld, J. (2022). Bridging education to employment through virtual experience placement. Ascilite Publications. E22215.

Gray, K. and Koncz, A. (2023, April 27). The job market for the class of 2023: Key skills/competencies employers are seeking and the impact of career center use. National Association of College and Employers.

Jackson, D. A., & Edgar, S. (2019). Encouraging students to draw on work experiences when articulating achievements and capabilities to enhance employability. Australian Journal of Career Development, 28(1), 39-50.

Kay, J., Ferns, S., Russell, L., Smith, J., & Winchester-Seeto, T. (2019). The Emerging Future: Innovative Models of Work-Integrated Learning. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 20(4), 401-413.

Knouse, S. B. (1994). Impressions on the resume: The effects of applicant education, experience, and impression management. Journal of Business and Psychology, 9(1), 33-45.

Monfared, Y. (2022, February 8). How you can solve the skills gap. The Forage Talent Resource Center.

Wood, Y. I., Zegwaard, K. E., & Fox-Turnbull. W. (2020). Conventional, remote, virtual and simulated work-integrated learning: A meta-analysis of existing practice. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(4), 331-354.


Fostering Inclusivity Through True Support for Female Faculty

While I feel that the pandemic brought the impact of mental and physical health on daily life more into focus, it’s still hard for us to balance wellness with work. I love my work, but this is a daily struggle for me. Throw some health challenges into the mix, and suddenly that juggling act gets way trickier. For those dealing with series health issues or some form of a disability, keeping up with job responsibilities plus family and other life responsibilities, is just a lot. I’m so thankful for the support my team has offered me during times of challenge, and appreciate hearing from our guest author today about some ideas for supporting others in the workplace. Thank you Jenny for sharing this insight and your lessons learned from supporting institutional staff.

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

Scenes from a Faculty Office

As I was sitting in her office discussing plans to sub for her upcoming classes, my friend and colleague paused a moment and said, “Hold on, I forgot I need to call my nurse back. She called while I was in my last class.”

a woman sitting at a table and talking on a cell phone
Image by Vinzent Weinbeer from Pixabay

Rachel (pseudonym) was having yet another surgery, and I was covering all her classes for her while she was in the early stages of recovery. Rachel was a full-time tenured professor, and I was a young part-time instructor, so I had not only the time but frankly also the need for some extra income, and I enjoyed subbing for my colleagues. As the “baby” of the department, I was by far the youngest and least experienced of all my colleagues, so subbing was a great resource to introduce me to fellow faculty and gain exposure to a wide range of teaching practices and content. Unfortunately, the need for a sub often meant that an instructor was sick, injured, or recovering from a health event.

Rachel got off the phone with the nurse and explained some more of the details of her upcoming surgery to me. When I had met her a few years ago, she had been recovering from a different kind of surgery: I vividly remember her trying to navigate corridors and elevators with her foot in a boot on one of those motorized vehicles that keep your leg extended out behind you like a superhero in a permanent dash in a comic book square.

As Rachel continued, she paused again and said she needed to call and cancel her physical therapy appointment. Then she needed to call and schedule a hydrotherapy appointment for her chronic pain. Then she called her therapist to make an appointment because, frankly, this was a lot. Still, Rachel acted like this was just another day in her life. Because that’s exactly what it was.

Disability Unmasked

Rachel is far from the only woman with disabilities teaching at a college or university. Women suffer from more disabilities than men in a variety of ways. According to the National Institutes of Health, women surpass men for invisible disabilities of all kinds: “Many common chronic conditions are not female-specific but occur at substantially higher rates in women compared to men. Women constitute nearly 80% of the population affected by autoimmune disease and bear a disproportionately high morbidity associated with this spectrum of conditions. Other disorders, such as depression, are thought to be disproportionately high among women for a combination of innate factors (e.g., fluctuations in hormones), as well as social factors (e.g., high rates of exposure to intimate partner violence).”

As if hormones, domestic violence, autoimmune, and chronic issues were not enough to contend with as invisible barriers, neurodivergent women also present differently than men. This means that while some facets of invisibility are unintentional, some women engage in “masking” or the “unconscious or conscious effort to hide and cover one’s own self from the world, as an attempt to accommodate others and coexist” (Nurenberg 8). Thus, women often must navigate not only their own disabilities but also decisions about their visibility within the workplace.

So why are women faculty with disabilities of concern? According to Lauren Lindstrom, Assistant Professor and Senior Research Associate at the University of Oregon, Eugene, “Low expectations for individuals with disabilities, lack of family support, and disability discrimination may further limit employment options for women with disabilities preparing to either enter the workforce or make a career change. Thus the ‘choice’ of a job is by default a selection from a narrow range of options.”

One of the most viable options for women has been to teach at the college level. Tenured faculty not only benefited from job security and health benefits but also limited time requiring them to go into work: teach classes, hold office hours, attend meetings, and you’re set. A tenured teaching position is by no means a part-time job, but its requirements to be on campus might be very part-time, or even nonexistent given the advent of online teaching.

Lessons Learned and Key Takeaways

Five years ago, I moved from teaching into administration, specifically in faculty development. In supporting women faculty with disabilities during this time (including during a pandemic), their unique needs became clear to me in ways I had not considered before. Here are some suggestions for how you can support your female faculty working with disabilities at your institution.

Image by gomiche from Pixabay
  1. Choice: As stated earlier, choice is an important factor in a career, but once in a career, chosen profession, or position, choice remains integral. I have seen many administrators try to steer female faculty with disabilities into online teaching positions. Yes, teaching online only is a viable option for some, but for others, it is not their ideal. Some women faculty need the community and camaraderie of interacting with their students and colleagues in person. That engagement might be the highlight of their day. Having intentional conversations with your faculty about their options, their choices, and their needs is essential.
  2. Ongoing Support: After a major health event such as cancer, an automobile accident, or a high-risk pregnancy, it is unrealistic to expect things to go “back to normal.” People change. Physical trauma can leave permanent disabilities, and trauma, anxiety, and post-partum depression are all invisible disabilities affecting women in higher percentages than men. After one faculty friend and colleague of mine was in the hospital for life-threatening gynecological complications, she had to return to the classroom to teach multiple students who worked at the local hospital and had been part of her care team. Catching up on teaching and grading duties, navigating new permanent disabilities, and dealing with a source of environmental anxiety took an extreme toll on her. Ongoing support in the form of co-teachers, graduate assistants, counseling, routine check-ins, and flexibility in workload and workplace can go a long way to retaining valued faculty.

When supporting your female faculty with disabilities, remember that while you should do everything that you can to reasonably accommodate them and retain them at your institution, this might not always be possible. I have seen fantastic female faculty leave tenured positions because they could not access adequate healthcare for their disabilities near their institutions, forcing them to relocate to areas where there were more opportunities for accessible healthcare to meet their specific needs. A professor’s health situation might make any kind of employment unreasonable or untenable at any moment. However, supporting female faculty with disabilities in our institutions not only helps them achieve their personal and professional goals but also aids us in embracing diversity in all forms and retaining a stronger workforce.

Suggestions for Further Reading

  • Burke, Lilah. “A Difficult Pathway.” Inside Higher Ed. May 11, 2021.
  • Grandin, Temple.Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions. Riverhead Books, 2022.
  • Harkins, Elizabeth A. “Disability as a Valuable Form of Diversity, Not a Deficit.” Faculty Focus. December 5, 2022.
  • Heumann, Judith. Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. Beacon Press, 2020.
  • Nerenberg, Jenara. Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You. HarperOne, 2020.
  • O’Toole, Jennifer Cooke. Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum. Skyhorse, 2018.

Major Changes to Distance Ed Proposed: Department of Education Back to Rulemaking Table

Here we go again! Significant changes to postsecondary distance education operations emerged from the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Winter 2024 negotiated rulemaking discussion. The proposed changes could be huge and we suggest you read or scroll through this post to see what might affect you and your students. For example, state authorization reciprocity could be greatly limited, distance education programs could be required to take attendance in every course, and all “inclusive access” programs from publishers could be eliminated.

In early January, the Department convened a set of “negotiators” to consider regulatory changes as authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Negotiated rulemaking is a multi-step process that the Department may use to develop regulations to implement federal law. For our purposes, the Department is developing regulations to address process and compliance for institutions to participate in Title IV HEA Programs.

Today, we will share an overview of the Department’s rulemaking process and provide analysis of the issues in this new rulemaking that affect institutions serving students through digital technologies and interstate distance education. We will also share next steps for you to participate in this process and how to follow the progress of this rulemaking.

Below, we’ve listed the six issue areas for this rulemaking plus the sub-issues being discussed, which we are watching closely. We have also added links to “Issue Papers,” including red-lined proposed regulatory changes that emerged during week one of the three week negotiated rulemaking process. The issue papers were publicly released by the Department to frame the discussions by the negotiators. Those who have followed rulemaking over the last ten or so years may find a bit of déjà vu in some of these proposals.

  • Issue # 1 – Cash Management
    • Eliminate the Inclusion of Books and Resources in Tuition and Fees
  • Issue # 2 – State Authorization
    • Complaint Process for a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement
    • Governance Structure for a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement
    • Removal of State Exemptions from State Authorization Based Upon Accreditation or Being in Operation for at Least 20 Years
  • Issue # 3 – Distance Education
    • Create a “Virtual Location” for Distance Education
    • Clock Hour (distance education asynchronous programs)
  • Issue # 4 – Return to Title IV Funds (R2T4)
    • Distance Education Withdrawals (taking attendance)
    • Modules (eliminate withdrawal exemption for programs offered in modules)
  • Issue # 5 – Accreditation and Red-Lined Document
    • Public representation on agency decision-making bodies
    • Substantive Changes and other reporting requirements
    • Recognition of State Agencies for the Approval of Nursing Programs
  • Issue # 6 – Federal TRIO Programs – being reviewed first by the Department designated subcommittee.

You may be asking, weren’t several final regulations from a rulemaking just released by the Department? If so, yes, you are correct, the Department released important final regulations on such issues as Financial Value Transparency and Gainful Employment and Certification Procedures that include regulations affecting the institution’s ability to serve students in programs leading to a license or certification. Those regulations, plus more, will be effective July 1, 2024.

Rulemaking Process Overview

The Department must follow the many steps in the federal rulemaking process directed by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The process takes considerable time. The soonest a rule from this rulemaking could be effective would be July 1, 2025. To be effective in 2025, the Department must complete several steps. Some of these steps have already been completed.


  • Federal Register announcement of intent to hold the rulemaking on designated issues and opportunity for public comment.
  • Nominations to create a rulemaking committee for which the Department chooses the negotiators to represent constituencies affected by designated issues.

To be completed:

  • Meeting of the rulemaking committee over several months to negotiate language to develop or modify regulations on the designated issues.
  • Consensus-seeking meeting among the negotiators. Consensus is defined as no dissent from any committee members on the regulatory language. If there is no consensus, the Department is free to write the regulatory language.
  • Proposed regulations must be released either from consensus language or written by the Department and subject to public comment.
  • The Department must review and respond to public comments to inform them of the development of final regulations.
  • The Department must release final regulations by November 1, for the regulations to be effective the following July 1.
  • Failure to meet the November 1 deadline will cause the effective date of the regulations to be delayed until the next year to align with the next financial aid year.

The rulemaking committee will complete its meetings in March 2024. The Department has expressed its desire to release final language prior to November 1, 2024, in order for the new regulations to be effective July 1, 2025.

Issue Analysis

Issue #1 – Cash Management

Proposal: Eliminate Including Books and Supplies in Tuition and Fees.

Department Issue Paper 1, Cash Management.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

textbox: Would end “inclusive” and “equitable” access textbook programs from publishers.

Current regulations allow institutions to include (under certain conditions) the cost of books and/or supplies in tuition and fees. Career institutions use it to ensure everyone has the same tools. Publishers created “inclusive” and “equitable” access programs whereby the price of the textbook and resources are reduced for every student and it is ensured that every student has access to the textbook.

The Department allows for such contracts if the student is given a way to opt-out. Student, consumer, and OER groups have objected to the difficulty for students to remove themselves from these programs.

The Department is concerned that institutions have not been transparent about how a student can opt out so that they can assess if less expensive options are available elsewhere.

What Is Proposed by the Department?

The Department proposes to eliminate the provision allowing institutions to include the cost of books and supplies as part of tuition and fees in most cases. The practice would still be allowed if an institution could demonstrate a “compelling health or safety reason, or if the institution is the only option for students to access the books or supplies.”

Our Analysis

Inclusive access has grown as the publishers have found it to be an attractive solution that lowers textbook costs and increases their revenues. We agree there have been abuses, but let’s address them. If the Department is worried about institutions not properly notifying students (which are required by regulation), could this be resolved by addressing those infractions or strengthening those provisions?

Some institutions charge a student fee (a fraction of the price of one textbook) to cover the cost of creating, supporting, and maintaining low-cost textbooks. Kansas State University’s Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative is an example. We worry the proposed language could unintentionally harm these beneficial programs. The Department should ensure that fees to support such programs are acceptable.

Finally, if adopted, institutions will need a substantial amount of time to implement this proposal. They will need to consider new textbook alternatives in every course, adjust business processes, and address contractual obligations.

Issue #2 – State Authorization  

Proposal A: Complaint Process for a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

Department Issue Paper 2, State Authorization.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department expressed concern that states are not informed of complaints subject to a reciprocity agreement from students located in their state about institutions located in another state.

The Department indicates that without this information the state where a student is located cannot monitor if their students are protected by the reciprocity agreement.

Additionally, they maintain that information must be reported publicly and at least annually about the number and type of complaints that occur from participating institutions in member states.

This reporting is expressed by the Department as necessary for the state to receive information that could affect the state’s decision about renewing its state’s membership in the reciprocity agreement.

What is Proposed by the Department?

The Department proposes that a state authorization reciprocity agreement must include a process for communicating information received on student complaints subject to the reciprocity agreement to the State where the student is located at the time of initial enrollment. Additionally, the reciprocity agreement must require that complaints including the number and type of complaints received by States subject to the reciprocity agreement must be made public at least annually.

Our Analysis

textbox: State authorization reciprocity boards should mainly consist of state representation.

It is important to first note that the Department is developing regulations to address reciprocity agreements for state authorization more broadly, should more agreements be available in the future. The Department is not only addressing SARA, which is the only currently active reciprocity agreement for state authorization.

That being said, the proposal by the Department appears to affirm processes already in place by SARA. The exceptions include, first, reporting of “type” of complaint which we are aware is being currently developed by SARA. Second, the Department proposed language about informing the state where the student is “located at the time of initial enrollment.” We believe that this language is very limiting because it is possible that a student may no longer be located in the state of initial enrollment.

The responsibility of the determination of location in the event of a change reported by the student is already required in federal regulation. Finally, because reciprocity is a state-to-state agreement, we question the ability of the Department to dictate the terms of such an agreement.

Proposal B: Governance for a state authorization reciprocity agreement

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department expressed that the governing board for a state authorization reciprocity agreement that includes members who are not state representatives could stifle the states from the ability to improve consumer protections for participating institutions.

What is Proposed by the Department?

The initial proposed language by the Department indicated that the governing board must consist of “solely” of state representatives. However, while the preceding sentence indicated “solely” representatives of states, the Department proposed a lengthy list of who may not be a public member of the governing board, including current or former employees of institutions, trade associations/member organizations, accrediting agencies, or the Department.

The Department expressed the need for consideration of a minimum number or percentage of representatives from non-state representatives to the governing board.

Our Analysis

We concur with the idea that the vast majority of members of a board governing reciprocity should be state representatives tasked with administering the implementation of a state-to-state agreement. However, we disagree that a federal agency has the authority to regulate the composition of a board of an organization for which states are members.

Additionally, we maintain that the proposed language about groups that may not serve is unnecessarily prescriptive. The long list of barred groups includes stakeholders who are appropriate for the development of sound policy. Further, the language indicates “former employee” without a time frame or context. Implementation of this language would allow very few members of the public with any expertise in higher education, distance education, or institutional oversight to serve as members to the board.

Proposal C: State exemptions from state authorization based upon accreditation or being in operation for at least 20 years.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department is questioning whether a state’s determination of state authorization of an institution where the institution is located is adequate for purposes of Title IV if the state minimally considers accreditation as sufficient or waives institutional approval for institutions in operation for more than 20 years.

The Department considers that state exemptions are weakening the program integrity triad, making students and taxpayers vulnerable.

What is Proposed by the Department?

The Department has not offered proposed language, yet, but is interested in developing language based upon the review and discussion focused on three questions:

  1. How can the Department ensure that state authorization is serving its intended purpose in the regulatory triad?
  2. In what instances are exemptions from the state approval requirement appropriate or warranted? Is accreditation and/or length of time in operation sufficient for an exemption from the state approval requirement?
  3. What factors should the Department consider as necessary for state authorization?

Our Analysis

textbox: For in-state institutional authorizations, should some institutions still benefit from “exemptions”?

States have various structures and reasoning for the oversight of activities in their state. The Department and groups of states may want to consider collaborating to address any suggested changes. We recommend the Department start by reaching out to NASASPS (a national organization of state regulators). Determinations of state oversight requirements are an issue of state authority.

The Department should consider that mandating new state requirements in federal regulation for state authorization of institutions where the institutions are located would be time-consuming for states to undertake and could require state legislation to make changes to existing state structure. Note the federal regulation released as final in October 2010 that required a state to have a process to review and appropriately act on complaints was delayed by the Department in its enforcement date for 4 ½ years finally becoming enforceable July 1, 2015, to allow time for states to develop their complaint processes.

Negotiator Submitted Proposal: Modification of the Definition of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

What is the Problem Identified by the Negotiator?

In week 1, a negotiator submitted what the Department referred to as the Fast Proposal. This proposal identifies the perceived problem that the federal definition of a state authorization reciprocity agreement prevents student consumer protection from the state where the student is located, as that state is a member to the reciprocity agreement and is subject to the policies of the agreement. The problem expressed is that although the state where the student is located may enforce laws of general applicability such as those related to fraud, misrepresentation, and criminal activity, the state cannot enforce education-specific consumer protection laws on participating institutions for complaints subject to the reciprocity agreement. The proposer maintains that the few states with strong consumer protection laws should retain their authority to enforce that state’s consumer protection laws.

History of the Definition

The federal definition of a state authorization reciprocity agreement has an interesting history. The language was written by the Department and did not come from consensus language of a negotiated rulemaking. The regulation, along with several state authorization-related regulations, were released as final in mid-December 2016, which missed the November 1 deadline to be effective the following July. Therefore, it was not effective until July 1, 2018.

In early 2017, Department officials communicated with Russ Poulin about their intent to clarify widespread “misconceptions.” Poulin and others had indicated an ambiguity or limitation to reciprocity related to the enforceability of education-specific state laws when an institution participates in reciprocity. The Department sought to dispel that misconception which was then affirmed in a letter by then Under-Secretary to the U.S. Department of Education, Ted Mitchell. The Trump administration began just a few days later and delayed this regulation before it became effective. The regulation eventually became effective on May 26, 2019, after a U.S. District Court ruling vacated the delay. On October 31, 2023 new final regulations were released including the currently effective definition of state authorization reciprocity agreement that clarified the language of the definition and was subject to immediate implementation at the discretion of the institution.

What is Proposed by the Negotiator?

The negotiator proposes modifying the definition of a state authorization reciprocity agreement to directly indicate that a state subject to a reciprocity agreement is not prohibited from enforcing its own education-specific state laws in addition to general purpose laws for which states may already enforce. It is suggested that reciprocity could still exist for the purpose of a single application and fee.

Our Analysis

Frankly, this proposal dismantles reciprocity. There would no longer be a coherent structure to protect students nationwide with uniform student protections regardless of where the student is located. Neither would there be consistent oversight of institutions in the states where they are located and hold a legal obligation to meet any requirements of that state to be authorized. Nor would institutions be part of an organized structure to facilitate their uniform compliance management to implement requirements to support students.

The proposal fails to share that only a few states maintain strong consumer protection laws and chose to join the current reciprocity agreement. The proposal does not share that many states have none or little oversight of out-of-state institutions with no physical presence in the state.

Finally, dismantling of these elements of reciprocity will leave more students without protections than providing protections in those few states with stronger consumer protections. The data of the institutions overseen in each state and numbers serving students in other states is available on the NC-SARA website:

Issue #3 – Distance Education

Proposal A: Create a “Virtual Location” for Distance Education

Department Issue Paper 3, Distance Education.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department identifies two problems that they are addressing with this proposal:

  • Collecting data on distance education. They wish to collect more data on distance education to inform students with program-level data in the College Scorecard and to compare the outcomes of students in similar programs using different modalities.
  • Program Closure. The Department would be enabled to protect students if an institution closes its entire distance education operations.

What Is Proposed by the Department?

Currently, the Department defines three types of locations: the main campus, a branch campus, and an “additional location.” The latter is currently a place where 1) more than 50% of a program is offered or 2) a place of incarceration. The Department proposes a third version of “additional location:”

“(3) A virtual location through which the institution offers 100 percent of an educational program through distance education or correspondence courses, notwithstanding requirements for students to complete on-campus or residential periods of 90 days or less.

Our Analysis

textbox: New “virtual location” would gather distance education data and assist students in closing programs. Definitional details need to be addressed.

The Department will be able to assist students if an institution closes all its distance learning programs. We support students being able to avail themselves of the benefits as if the entire institution closed.

We have long supported collecting more distance education data. However, definitions are important or statistical comparisons will be compromised due to institutions unwittingly classifying the same programs differently. As we wrote last year, the Department has FOUR different definitions of distance education and this could add a fifth. We are interested in consolidating these definitions. Additionally, guidance will be needed on what programs are in or out of whatever definition they use.

Just last week, Inside Higher Ed published “Online Education Completion Lags Behind Face-to-Face Instruction.” Missing from the article was this important statement in the report (p. 25): “A disproportionate share of exclusively online students face time- or location-based constraints that can make them less likely to graduate from college—regardless of medium of instruction. This suggests that readers should exercise caution when interpreting our results, as some of the observed effects outlined in the present study may be due to selection.”

Proposal B: Clock Hour (Programs and Asynchronous Distance Education)

Institutions Using the “Clock Hour” Method of Financial Aid Would No Longer Be Able to Offer Asynchronous Programs.
Credit Hour Institutions Left Unaffected.

A quick background is needed.

Most institutions disburse financial aid based on credit hours. Some institutions (mostly those in career programs) disburse aid based upon the actual time the student spends in instruction. This proposal does not apply to credit hour programs.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department voiced no issue with synchronous clock hour programs, but has concerns about asynchronous distance education courses.

In those courses, students are to interact “with technology that can monitor and document the amount of time that the student participates in the activity.”

The Department has had trouble tracking asynchronous programs and is aware of non-compliance with the monitoring requirements.

What Is Proposed by the Department?

The Department proposes removing “the allowance for clock-hour programs provided via distance education to be offered through asynchronous learning.”

Our Analysis

We have asked members for input on this one and contacted the American Association of Community Colleges. Thus far we have not heard opposition to the change. Let us know if you have specific successful examples that would be affected. We are concerned that this is the second issue in which the Department merely removes an option for which the accounting is difficult.

Issue #4 – Return of Title IV funds (R2T4)

Proposal A: Distance Education Withdrawals

Department Issue Paper 4, Withdrawals and Return of Title IV Funds

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department seeks to “increase the accuracy of R2T4 calculations for (distance) students, simplify the Department’s requirements by using available information already collected by an institution, and limit instances of inaccurate calculations and the gaming of R2T4 provisions by schools. Taking action and/or working with a student who has not been attending during a scheduled period for 14 days promotes good stewardship of Federal dollars as well as potentially assisting students during hardships.”

What Is Proposed by the Department?

In order to “increase the accuracy of calculations in distance education programs, the Department proposes to require institutions to take attendance in such education programs for R2T4 purposes, which would require schools to use actual attendance data to determine a student’s withdrawal date for students enrolled entirely in online programs.” In brief,institutions would need to take attendance in all courses in distance education programs. Additionally, this also triggers a requirement that students be dropped from a class if they have not attended for 14 days.

Our Analysis

The Department says, “students in distance education programs may not formally withdraw since they are not on campus.” But, on-campus students also withdraw without notice.

For students who withdraw from distance programs, the current practice is to capture the “last day of attendance.” A mere login is not sufficient, as evidence of an academically-related activity (e.g., exam taken, paper submitted, participation in a discussion) is required. For details, see the Federal Student Aid Handbook, Volume 5 on withdrawals, p. 52.

The 14 day drop requirement poses new challenges. When we posted this question to WCET members, some said that they have adult students (some in the military) who necessarily stop out for a few weeks, yet they successfully complete the course.

The Department says taking attendance will “Increase accuracy and simplicity of performing R2T4 calculations.” If the Department seeks to simplify, then forcing additional work on every faculty member is not simplifying. Currently, institutions track the last academically-related activity for the few students who drop without notice. The Department’s proposal would require additional attendance records for every student. Adding to the complexity is the need for new procedures for collecting attendance for asynchronous programs. How would that be done? Again, far from simple.

We object to this proposal.

Proposal B: Modules (Course Shorter than a Full Term)

Modules are courses shorter than a full semester or quarter. Problems arise in calculating the amount of aid to return when a student withdraws when enrolled in a module. Financial aid rules typically assume the student is enrolled in a course that spans the entire term.

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

The Department says that as “part of the 2019 negotiated rulemaking, the Department adopted a withdrawal exemption for programs offered in modules…Unfortunately, the module exemption has added complexity and confusion…It has also required significant guidance to explain how to determine whether a student qualifies for the exemption.”

What Is Proposed by the Department?

The Department says that to “simplify the calculations, the Department proposes to eliminate the withdrawal exemption…Under the proposed regulations those students would now be considered withdrawn unless they meet another withdrawal exemption, resulting in more money being returned to the Department and students not exhausting their aid eligibility as quickly.”

Our Analysis

It appears that the Department tried one approach and it proved to be more complicated than beneficial for aid officers and students. The change appears to be beneficial to both. If your institution makes extensive use of modules, it may be worth reviewing the proposed change with your financial aid officer.

Issue # 3- Accreditation and Red-line Document

Proposal A – Public representation on agency decision-making bodies

Department Issue Paper 5 – Accreditation and Red-Lined Document

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

Similar to the governance proposal for a state authorization reciprocity agreement, the Department wishes to exclude certain entities from participation as a public member to an “agency decision-making body” for accrediting agencies.

The Department believes that these exclusions will reduce potential conflicts of interest and ensure that the public members are independent of the entities that the agency has accredited.

What is Proposed by the Department?

Like for the governance of a board for a reciprocity agreement, the Department is very specific as to who should be considered as a representative of the public. Former employees are added to the currently effective regulations barring institution and trade association current employees.

For accrediting agencies, the Department is very prescriptive as to who can serve on their governance boards.

Our Analysis

The structure offered by the Department in the proposed language regarding representatives of the public is overly prescriptive. Like the previous discussion about the board for a reciprocity agreement, the language indicates “former employee” without a time frame or context. We are concerned about the ability to find appropriate representatives under this highly prescriptive structure.

Proposal B Substantive Changes and other reporting requirements

What Is the Problem Identified by the Department?

In order to ensure consistency and quality, the Department maintains that there is a need to revise substantive change requirements that focus on changes of greatest risk that may impact an institution’s resources and capacity in order to protect students.

What is Proposed by the Department?

This is a lengthy regulation with many subsections. Here are the three items that we believe SAN and WCET members will want to be aware of, and includes the following in regard to a substantive change:

  1. Requiring agencies to visit and approve all “additional locations” of an institution.
  2. Institutions would be required to seek a substantive change approval for their first distance education as well as at the 50 percent threshold. Additionally, an institution would need approval for additional programs at any level by an institution that has not previously offered programs at that level.
  3. Elimination of exceptions for the agencies to delegate certain substantive change approval decisions to agency staff.

Our Analysis

Regarding the expansion of agency visits, we do believe that the Department must clarify the intention to include all locations defined in federal regulation as “additional locations.”

textbox: Accreditation “substantive change” proposals include return to old standard for when a distance education program is required to be reviewed.

Note that there is also new proposed language addressed in Issue #3, Distance Education to include “virtual location” among the list of “additional locations.” If the Department truly means to include all “additional locations,” this could be a significant burden to accreditation agencies. If the “virtual location” provision is added, we are not sure what a visit to such a location would entail.

We concur with the new regulations to approve distance education on an institution’s first offering and at the threshold where 50% of the program is offered at a distance. This is a great improvement over the current standard of reviewing every program that is offered “in whole or in part” at a distance.” It appears that with the continued development of more offerings by distance education, the current standard through guidance is unnecessarily broad and could include nearly every program at an institution. We welcome the proposal.

The Department appears to seek the determinations of the agency decision-making body in all matters of substantive change rather than to delegate certain decisions to agency staff, as is the current practice. We do not see a rationale by the Department specific to this concern. The current regulation was developed through rulemaking that came to a consensus. One wonders why we need to revise a regulation that came from consensus and became effective July 1, 2020. One could consider that the currently effective regulation that allows agency staff to approve some requests is prudent as it provides for the accreditation agency to act more swiftly to address certain substantive changes.

Proposal C: Recognition of State Agencies for the Approval of Nursing Programs

What is the Problem that the Department Has Identified?

The Department wishes to codify existing practices and recognition of procedures of state agencies that provide the approval of nurse education. Currently, these agencies are subject to the Department.

What is Proposed by the Department?

The Department wishes to provide into Federal regulations, at proposed Part 604, the framework for oversight and accountability for the Secretary’s recognition of State agencies for the approval of nurse education.

The basis of the rules are found in outdated statute found here:1969 Federal Register Notice (pgs. 58-59) here: FR-1969-01-16.pdf (

Our Analysis

This is an extensive new section to the CFR to oversee these state agencies. It is reported that only five states would be subject to these regulations as they have chosen to be subject to the approval of the Department. The alternate negotiator for this rulemaking indicated that in the next year only three states would be subject to the approval of the Department. This is an extensive new section to the CFR to oversee these state boards of nursing. There is more to learn about the intent and applicability of these proposed regulations to state boards of nursing.


textbox: Rules Will Have a Big Impact on Distance Education.
Follow What is Happening.

We know this is a lot to take in, especially on top of determining processes to implement new final regulations released last October that will become effective July 1, 2024.

However, it is important for you to know the potential impact of rules that could come from this new rulemaking, as these may affect your institutions and students.

Please stay tuned to WCET Frontiers for additional information and guidance, but you can also follow and participate in the process directly.

To follow the process:

To participate in the process:

  • Register to stream the committee meetings in February and March. (cvent registration link will be provided on the Department’s website shortly before the February 5-8 meeting week).
  • Provide public testimony – 3 minute statement opportunities are offered during the last 30 minutes of each committee meeting. The timeslots fill quickly. Email with your name and name of organization to reserve a spot.
  • Communicate with your senior leadership and government relations offices at your institution.
  • On accreditation topics, consider reaching out to your accreditor to seek information on the potential impact.
  • Communicate with your state legislators and/or Congressional Representatives or Senators depending on the issue area.
  • Share your concerns for your students and institutional processes with Cheryl Dowd ( and/or Russ Poulin ( We will compile your comments to address. Please use the word Rulemaking at the beginning of your email subject line to help us identify your input.

We fully support the need for safeguards for students and for protecting the integrity of Title IV HEA programs. We hope that this rulemaking process will provide balanced, rational, and long-lasting regulations that consider the impact on all constituencies and provide clear regulations that are narrowly tailored to address specifically identified concerns.

Look for more from SAN & WCET as the rulemaking progresses!

Policy Practice

Teaching in a Jetsons’ World: Or, What Would the Department of Education Do with Elroy’s Robotic Teacher?

In Hanna-Barbera’s 1962-63 space age cartoon, The Jetsons, Jetson’s son Elroy is enrolled in Little Dipper School with a robotic teacher, Miss Brainmocker. In this depiction, there is not a human teacher in sight, just robotic Miss Brainmocker.

It’s safe to say, that in the future there is either no Department of Education or a Department that has made its peace with the role of technology-assisted instruction, or at least the role of artificial intelligence. As more and more faculty are experimenting with AI in their classes, institutions need to be increasingly careful that they are in compliance with federal regulations governing regular and substantive interaction (RSI) and Title IV financial aid eligibility.

Background: What is RSI and why should you care?

WCET staff have written extensively on regular and substantive interaction and the Department of Education regulations governing RSI for a number of years now. For an in-depth dive into RSI, you should review two of WCET’s excellent blogs—New Regulations Review #1: Regular and Substantive Interaction published on April 3, 2020, and Regular and Substantive Interaction Update: Where Do We Go From Here? published on November 8, 2022.

In a nutshell, however, RSI is one of the key sets of requirements that institutions are required to meet if their students are going to be eligible to receive Title IV federal financial aid. Found in 34 CFR 600.2, regular and substantive interaction is a key component in the federal definition of distance education. This definition of distance education is quoted below:

Distance education: Education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1)(i) through (1)(iv) of this definition to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor or instructors, and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.

  1. The technologies that may be used to offer distance education 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. Audio conferencing; or
    4. Other media used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1)(i) through (1)(iii) of this definition.
  2. For purposes of this definition, an instructor is an individual responsible for delivering course content and who meets the qualifications for instruction established by the institution’s accrediting agency.
  3. For purposes of this definition, substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following—
    1. Providing direct instruction;
    2. Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework;
    3. Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;  
    4. Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or,
    5. Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency.
  4. An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency—
    1. Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a
      predictable and regular basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of
       content in the course or competency; and
    2. Monitoring the student’s academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed, on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.

Why is it important for institutions to adhere to this definition of distance education and include both regular and substantive interaction? Failure to do so comes with dire consequences like:

  • large fines from the Department of Education,
  • being required to refund federal financial aid dollars to the government, and,
  • (in egregious cases) the loss of Title IV financial aid eligibility.

What Does This Mean for Artificial Intelligence?

Keen observers will note that the first part of the definition of distance education references interactions between instructor(s) and students: “support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.”

A woman using a video conference platform.
Photo by Antoni Shkraba:

For our purposes, the modality (either synchronous or asynchronous) of the learning is inconsequential; what matters is who is primarily involved in the delivery of instruction. In the Supplementary Information accompanying the final regulations released by the Department of Education in 2020, the Department takes pains to address the role of artificial intelligence and other technology-mediated instruction. At the time, the Department wrote,

“Only individuals responsible for delivering course content and who meet the qualifications for instruction established by an institution’s accrediting agency can fulfill the requirements for regular and substantive interaction with students. The Department does not prohibit other forms of substantive interaction that do not involve qualified instructors, but under the statutory definition such interaction cannot meet the requirements in the definition of ‘distance education.’”

The Department went on to write (emphasis added),

“Interaction with artificial intelligence, adaptive learning systems, or other forms of interactive computer-assisted instructional tools quality as types of ‘academic engagement,’ but in this limited context those forms of engagement do not meet the statutory requirements for regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors… [T]he definition currently requires regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors; substantive interactions with machines or other forms of technology that do not involve in [an] instructor would, therefore, not qualify.”

Thus, as one can see, the Department is clear that it is not allowable for artificial intelligence to be used to supplant rather than augment an instructor for courses eligible for federal financial aid.

What should you do if you are worried about the use of AI in your courses?

First and foremost, you need to make sure that your institution has a clear RSI policy and that all distance education faculty receive training on that policy. Document that this training has been completed.

Second, you should review your existing RSI policy to make sure that you directly address the role of AI in your courses and take steps to ensure instructors understand how they can and can’t leverage AI in meeting the Department of Education’s definition of distance education and regular and substantive interaction. Institutions may need to be explicit that artificial intelligence cannot substitute for instructor interactions with students.

 In the release of those 2020 regulations, the Department was careful to not ban the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom and even suggested that such technologies might improve student-instructor interactions. But the Department has also been careful to clearly state that AI and related technologies can in no way substitute for the instructor.

One can’t help but wonder how a Jetson’s era Department of Education would interpret Little Dipper School’s reliance on Miss Brainmocker and whether or not Elroy and his classmates are receiving a quality education. Is anyone writing a Jetson’s spinoff show yet? Perhaps they will cover that story there.