As with other areas of education, there are federal and state guidelines outlining how distance education courses are defined, delivered, and regulated.
Much of this has to do with federal financial aid and it is important to recognize that a course that does not meet specific guidelines and fails to meet the definition of distance education is not a course for which students can receive financial aid.
A course listed as distance education that is later found to be lacking in meeting this definition can create serious problems for students even after the course is completed.
Courses where instructors do not initiate robust and meaningful contact with students can be deemed as a "correspondence course" and financial aid is not available for such courses.
More discussion of what constitutes robust and meaningful contact will be covered in the section Regular Effective Contact Hours.