You may already be aware of the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) Rules and Regulations Federal Register/Vol. 85, No.171, released September 2, 2020. Together with the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), these federal mandates and relief measures will contribute to the changing educational landscape; which abruptly started in March 2020. The DoE has provided clear guidelines for defining distance education, substantive interaction, academic engagement , clock hours, credit hours, and success for public and private non-profit educational institutions.

The obvious need to identify, track, and record these measures became critical at the start of the pandemic, and will continue as online options grow. Educational institutions must be aware of these regulations – and know that the CARES Act and CRRSA funding can contribute to addressing the growing need to “carry out student support activities,” including the DoE regulated activities that increase student retention and facilitate distance learning.

We’ve provided a summary of some of the highlights for DoE 34 CFR § 600.2 that take into effect on July 1, 2021, included reporting visuals that can address the updated regulations as well as conclude with information about how to implement an extended free trial of IntelliBoard.

DoE Distance Education Defined

Education that uses one of the following technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from their instructor(s) and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor(s), either synchronously or asynchronously using:

  • The internet;
  • One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; 
  • Audio conference; or
  • Other media used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies  listed above.

DoE Regular Interaction Defined

Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and

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.

DoE Substantive Interaction Defined

Engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least TWO of the following:

  • Providing direct instruction;
  • Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s course work;
  • Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency;
  • Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency.

DoE Academic Engagement Defined

Academic Engagement is defined as active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student’s course of study.

DoE Clock Hours in Distance Education  Revised Definition

…[a]n institution must be capable of monitoring a student’s attendance in 50 out of 60 minutes for each clock hour under this definition” and must meet all accrediting agency and State requirements for clock hours.

According to  85 FR 54752 (September 2, 2020) – some, but not all, clock hours would need to involve substantive interaction between students and instructors.

DoE Credit Hours in Distance Education Revised Definition

One hour of student work

  • reasonably approximates not less than… one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week…” or “at least an equivalent amount of work… for other academic activities as established by the institution…” and
  • permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels
  • includes asynchronous coursework as part of instructional time.

IntelliBoard Reports and Metrics

With these new mandates comes the necessary focus for tracking student engagement, participation and time spent, metrics that IntelliBoard has been providing our institutions for more than 5 years.

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CARES Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) Funding

Funds from the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act can be applied to IntelliBoard’s reporting and analytics platform for Blackboard Learn, Brightspace | D2L, Canvas, Google Classroom, and Moodle-based LMSs.

Educational institutions can utilize their allocation under section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to facilitate distance learning. An institution may use funds from the Institutional Portion of its section 18004(a)(1) allocation to purchase software reasonably related to “significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

The ability to report quickly and easily on the multiple facets of the recent DoE regulations has been invaluable for institutions already utilizing IntelliBoard. The plug-and-play ease of the platform as well as the point-and-click sharing of data and dashboards has enabled institutions globally to share learning information for the benefit of students, instructors/teachers, and administrators. Consistently, research shows that engaged learners perform better. Understanding the engagement levels (or lack thereof) of your learners helps target areas of institutional improvement.

Using IntelliBoard, you can intervene in a multitude of ways: identifying patterns of behavior, monitoring and addressing learning progress for at-risk learners, comparing and analyzing course performance across time, specific learner, and/or instructor, notifying specific people (Student Success Advisors, Deans, Athletic Coaches, Course Owners) of course and assessment behavior, and tracking results of various implemented initiatives to improve learners and overall performance.

You are sitting on a goldmine of data to help you improve your online learning efforts. Let us help you bring it to light.

For more information, check out these helpful links:, section Uses of Institutional Portion Funds (CFDA 84.425F)