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Fall 2021 Faculty Development Lunches and Resources

A reminder to join in two casual lunch meetup groups that came out of the Summer Faculty Development week! We also have asynchronous resources to support your faculty development needs during the semester and look forward to seeing you at faculty development sessions during the winter intersession.

Lunch Meetup Groups in the Newly Revamped Faculty Lounge:

Join with your colleagues for conversation and connection over lunch in the faculty lounge. Lunch will be provided from a variety of local restaurants throughout the semester. Please click here to RSVP for some or all of the lunch groups this semester. Note that because lunch is provided, this event is only open to vaccinated individuals.

  • Inclusive teaching. Join in conversation about general strategies from grading to open education resources to supporting individual students. Our last meeting is at 12:00 p.m. on Monday, December 6 (12/6).
  • Scholarship and writing. Come together to support and commiserate about any form of academic writing and think longingly of future writing retreats! Meets at 12:00 p.m. on the following Mondays: November 22, (11/2) and December 13, (12/13).

Thanks to those colleagues who suggested faculty meetup groups for two topics and who have joined us so far!

Asynchronous Resources:

Winter Intersession Development Opportunities:

The first week of January, we will enjoy a scholarship-focused week with a day focused on faculty scholarship resources followed by a multi-day on campus writing retreat to help you kick off the year strong. The second week of January, get ready for Winter Faculty Development Week with a focus on inclusive and innovative teaching strategies. Please click here for more information and to RSVP!

If you have other suggestions for faculty development opportunities, please do not hesitate to reach out to Jenn Lodi-Smith, assistant vice president for academic affairs, at

Submitted by: Jennifer Lodi-Smith, AVPAA and professor, Psychology


IRS Announces 2022 Contribution limits for 403(b) plans

The IRS has announced the new maximum contribution limits for 2022 for 403(b) plans. The annual maximum contribution limit for those under age 50 will increase to $20,500. Employees over age 50 may contribute an additional $6,500, increasing the annual maximum contribution limit to $27,000 for 2022.

To make a change to your contribution amount for 2022 go to .

  • Click on Enroll or Update under the Your Retirement Benefits heading
  • Log into your TIAA Account. If you have never registered for your online account, you can do so from this screen.
  • Click on Manage Contributions
  • Enter the percentage you would like to contribute. This amount does not include the college’s contributions.
  • Select Future Date and enter the date you would like your new contribution to begin.
  • Click on Next
  • Acknowledge the Terms & Conditions and then click Confirm


For faculty and staff, a change must be entered before midnight of December 19 to be effective the first pay in 2022.  For Public Safety and SEIU employees, the change must be entered before midnight on Monday January 10 for the first pay in 2022.

TIAA will notify Human Resources of the change request. Human Resources will update the contribution amount.

If you have any questions, please contact Human Resources at Extension 2240.

Submitted by: Dawn Rotterman, Benefit Manager, Human Resources


Join Your Asynchronous Discussions

Many faculty use asynchronous or message-board discussions in their courses. These are usually in the D2L discussions space and toolset, but discussions may qualify as asynchronous discussions, too.

Either way, you can achieve a much greater presence and influence in your students’ perception of the course by participating in these discussions. Often, instructors build discussions around great prompts, set deadlines for student participation, and then do not add anything to the discussions. Professors may worry that if they did, they would be intruding on a space for students. Or, they might get in the way of a student making a similar comment or insight. Other instructors may just feel that it is too much effort, on top of other instructor responsibilities.

But there are several relatively low-effort ways you can contribute to discussions, so that they are richer and more instructive for students. Your contribution might transform an asynchronous discussion from a writing assignment to an actual conversation.

Here are some suggested instructor posts or replies to asynchronous discussions:

Model Post

Early on in a semester write a discussion post that represents a high-quality contribution to an asynchronous discussion. Message board participation requirements can vary widely from course to course, so your model post helps students know what your particular requirements are for this activity.

Steer a Thread Back on Track

If a discussion generates enthusiasm, students may veer off topic. You may tolerate that, if it satisfies learning objectives. For example, as a historian, I want students to analyze sources. If three students turn to critically discussing a source they read for another class, I may permit it despite their having drifted from the source I assigned that week.

On the other hand, off-topic conversation can be time-consuming and counterproductive. A well-placed follow up question by the professor might get students back to the topic at hand. For example: “The use of shipping containers by militaries is interesting but returning to the article, what are the business implications of container-freight for the Suez, Panama, Kiel and Corinth canals?”

Encourage a Student to Say More

Occasionally students simply do not say enough, or are vague. You may not be sure of the point they are making. Or, you may or may not sense that they didn’t do the weekly reading. Either way, you can give a student a second opportunity to respond in greater depth or detail, and your prompt for this indirectly illustrates your requirements to the other students as well.

For example: “I think your comment refers to Dom’s insistence on discipline, but what do you think he means by discipline, specifically as it relates to his Jewish partisan comrades?”

Highlight an Excellent Contribution

Occasionally a student writes the perfect post that meets the assignment requirements exactly. Point it out! This helps this student know they are on track, and others to see what you want them to do. You might also link it to something else in the course, or in the wider discipline, just to emphasize the importance of good work.

Example: “This is a great observation concerning bankruptcies, because you’ve highlighted exactly why infrastructure receiverships can be so expensive and time-consuming. Years ago I researched Pittsburgh Railways Company’s bankruptcy in the mid-Twentieth Century. It took twelve years! While accounting is much quicker now, the legal back-and-forth can still last years.”

Correct a Falsehood

You might read where a student is, to be plain, wrong about something. They are in the process of learning and appropriately you can reply with a correction, for their and their classmates’ benefit. Obviously, consider how to do this with tact and constructive grace.

A student may make an incorrect generalization beyond the course content, but if they missed something available in course content, direct them to revisit it.

For Example: “The term ‘nun’ is not directly synonymous with ‘sister’ in the Catholic faith tradition. But the two terms are commonly, if not accurately, used interchangeably in everyday conversation and even a lot of Catholics are not aware of the distinction. Take a look at the article by Van Eindhoven, that we read back in Week 3; how are nuns set apart from other orders of Catholic sisters?”

Reply Selectively

Do not attempt to reply to teach students in each asynchronous discussion. You probably cannot (or should not) spare that kind of time. Moreover, you may find that you are stepping in front of students who might ask constructive questions of each other. You might choose one or two posts a week, for which one of the above reply options works best. This is more than enough to establish a supportive instructor presence in the class, without becoming a distraction.

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Submitted by: Tyler J. Kron-Piatek, academic technologist, COLI

Regular and Substantive Interaction Online

In a recent revision to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the U.S. Department of Education has elaborated a requirement for instructed online courses offered by colleges and universities participating in Title IV funding. This includes regular and substantive interaction (already an acronym! RSI). This means courses where the professor proactively engages with students during the course, and students must regularly participate in course activity and meet course deadlines. Canisius College online courses must exhibit RSI, in order for Canisius students to be eligible for federal financial aid.

It is helpful to understand RSI by describing an alternative: correspondence courses that are self-paced and in which an instructor – or “subject matter expert,” “facilitator,” or really caretaker takes a passive role. Correspondence courses are not eligible for federal financial aid. Subject matter experts may develop such courses and star in recorded lectures. Possibly, someone grades student work, or grading may be automated. In correspondence courses, someone may answer occasional student questions if and as they come in.

At Canisius College, our online classes are not correspondence courses, but instead are properly instructed or taught by active faculty. RSI requirements are great practices for any online teaching, and are familiar to anyone teaching online courses at Canisius.

You can read more about RSI requirements, and suggestions to meet them, at this link.

No list is complete, as there are many fantastic ways to interact with your students using technology available on the internet. That said, here are some quick basics, with tips on how to promptly align your course with RSI:

All courses require Regular interaction.  This includes

  1. Good course design: repetitive and well-documented organization of content and activities.
  2. Frequent (ex. weekly) instructor-initiated communications, starting with a course orientation and including weekly orientations.
  3. Frequent assignments, with individual feedback to students.
  4. Use of the D2L gradebook to monitor and help students monitor their own progress.
  5. Course pace enforced with start dates on content and regular deadlines for assignments.
  6. Regular office hours (via Zoom or D2L chat) posted on your syllabus.
  7. If a student has not logged in or participated in the course in over a week, email them.

All courses require at least two forms of Substantive Interaction.  This means

  • Direct instruction: Synchronous teaching via Zoom, live chat, or similar realtime remote technology.
  • Assessing or providing feedback on student’s work.  See the third and fourth points above; frequent, helpful and actionable feedback to students beyond just numerical grade scores.  An instructor should monitor student engagement through assessments and participation in course activities.
  • Providing information or responding to questions regarding the content of a course or competency.  Scheduled office hours (via Zoom), Course FAQs, prompt replies to student emails, course and weekly orientations, and excellent course documentation all contribute to this.
  • Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency.  Assign regular asynchronous discussions, and participate in them yourself.

Substantive interaction may involve many other options than just those above.  What the DoE seeks is proactive participation by the instructor during the course, rather than just course-building, caretaking, and answering student questions.  In synchronous courses, discussion meetings via Zoom can help satisfy RSI although exclusively lecturing via Zoom is insufficient.

We discuss these at greater length in our Online Faculty Development Course, Online Updates workshops, weekly emails and newsletters, and other faculty development. More importantly, we offer a greater variety of tools and options so you are not just limited to the above. As always, you can email us with specific questions about online teaching methods and technology.

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Submitted by: Tyler J. Kron-Piatek, academic technologist, COLI