Championing RSI for Online Success: How A Regulatory Requirement Can Be A Celebratory Achievement for Faculty Development & Student Learning

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

Discover how one institution’s innovative leadership initiative turned a regulatory requirement into a reason to celebrate. By leveraging faculty champions across academic disciplines to address the updated Department of Education's guidance surrounding regular and substantive interaction (RSI), a one-of-a-kind resource was customized to support online success and drive change.


Meredith Tumilty, M.Ed., is a passionate, forward-thinking innovator and educator with 20 years of experience in education. She currently is the inaugural Director of Online Student Success at College of Lake County. In this capacity, she provides leadership in identifying, developing, implementing, and evaluating student engagement functions for online learners at the college. This includes overseeing efforts related to online student access, success, and support by leading institution-wide, cross-functional teams that champion evidence-based practices to improve outcomes, meet diverse student needs, and drive equitable improvements. Prior to this position, Meredith served as the Manager of the Academic Success Center at Kendall College where, in addition to overseeing tutoring and academic support, she led college-wide student success strategic planning and programming. She also held the positions of Assistant Professor and Chair of Developmental Studies at Kendall College where she successfully pioneered a developmental co-requisite integrated support model to reduce barriers to student success. Meredith has been nominated for the OLC Excellence in Online and Blended Learning Innovation Award, Laureate Education’s Global Product Services Award in Contribution to Student Success, Kendall College’s Award for Outstanding Student Commitment, and Kendall College’s Excellence in Teaching Award, as well as was recently a recipient of the College of Lake County’s Value Award in Excellence.
Kari started teaching at the College of Lake County in 1999 as an adjunct in the Communication Department. Her Master’s degree in Communication: Organizational Communication and 10 years of experience in human resource training for Lake County corporations established her to be able to teach several different CLC Communication course offerings. Until 2008 when Kari became a full-time CLC faculty member, she built her skill sets in web-based technology through the development, design, and educational publicity for non-profit medical organizations. Her passion for curriculum design and instruction in web based environments led her to pursue her Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in Higher Education Adult Learning in 2018. With the completion of her degree, Kari began working closely with the Teaching, Learning and Educational Technology Center (TLETC). She co-facilitates the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) Effective Teaching cohorts, developing and implementing faculty learning opportunities for varied course delivery modalities and promoting the advancement of quality instruction in CLC offerings of online courses and academic programs.

Extended Abstract

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding online teaching and learning in higher education since the U.S. Department of Education's (DoE) Final Rules on Distance Education and Innovation went into effect in 2021. The new regulations update the definitions for what’s referred to as “correspondence education” and “distance education.” One of the primary elements for the distinction between what is deemed as “correspondence education” and what is defined as “distance education” is commonly referred to as Regular and Substantive Interaction, or RSI. 

Higher education institutions have a responsibility to make sure their distance education classes, or online classes, follow these guidelines outlined by the DoE. Distance education classes can qualify for federal financial aid; whereas, correspondence courses, on the other hand, are not eligible for financial aid. If an institution has been found to be out of compliance, they may be required to repay financial aid associated with the correspondence courses and students.

While these consequences can cause alarm, this also presents an incredible opportunity. In this session, you will learn how one institution’s innovative leadership initiative turned this regulatory requirement into a celebratory achievement for faculty professional development and online student success. An imaginative, collaborative plan was developed to communicate these new guidelines and assist faculty with implementing RSI evidence-based best practices in the online classroom. By leveraging faculty champions across academic disciplines and utilizing the OLC-endorsed, SUNY Online OSCQR 4.0 scorecard, a one-of-a kind faculty resource customized to institutional needs was created to support online success and drive change.

In this informative session, discover the steps you can take at your home institution to address the DoE requirements around RSI, develop and lead a strategic, forward-thinking action plan, advocate for faculty professional development, create an environment that fosters collaboration between administration and instructors, and promote online student success. Participant engagement through the use of polls will be interspersed throughout the session to hear how RSI has been addressed at other institutions. Ample opportunity for Q&A to provide you with the necessary insight for implementation in your own organization will be offered.