Frequently Asked Questions

As the higher education experience continues to change for on-campus and online students alike, we’re committed to answering questions about team, technology, and our approach to excellence in online learning.

The University has identified the growth and advancement of online programs as a strategic priority due to significant changes in student expectations and demands. Changes in the higher education experience, including an increasing desire for online and/or hybrid learning, will only grow quickly in the coming years.

As such, we have realigned personnel and resources, creating a new unit at the campus level, Digital Learning at UT, to support this priority. We have also begun adapting our campus financial and operational processes to ensure that academic and support units are strongly positioned to pursue this priority.

Digital Learning is a transformative campus unit at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, focused on advancing UT’s commitment to discovery, learning, and engagement, specifically for online learners.

Through collaborative partnerships with UT’s academic units, Digital Learning provides scalable solutions that increase student success and expand access for online learners in Tennessee, nationwide, and globally..

New education technologies, UT’s expert faculty, and a supportive virtual community enable students to achieve their goals and thrive professionally, personally, and academically.

Digital Learning at UT is the internal organization name; our online programs will continue to be known externally as Vols Online.

Learning – whether online or on-campus – is at the core of UT’s educational mission. The UT Knoxville vision has three major tenets:

  • Empower learners of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their dreams through accessible, affordable education and state-of-the-art research training opportunities.
  • Advance the prosperity, well-being, and vitality of communities across Tennessee and worldwide through our research, teaching, service, and engagement.
  • Commit to excellence, equity, and inclusion within the university, across the state, and in all our global activities.

Each of these speaks directly to the necessity for UT to offer a growing number of programs via an online modality, which has become a mainstream pathway to pursue education for some segments of learners. The number of students choosing to learn fully online will only continue to grow. We will only be successful in our vision with significant advancement in this area.

The Online Learning & Academic Programs (OLAP) organization was created in 2020 as a first step on this journey, primarily providing instructional design services and support to faculty on the UTK campus. OLAP also launched the campus’ first central website to bring awareness to existing online programs.

Digital Learning at UT will continue these activities. It will additionally be charged and resourced to provide more comprehensive services to academic units of instructional design, marketing, and student coaching (enrollment and student success).

OLAP  has merged with Digital Learning at UT and is fully integrated with the Digital Learning team. The Online Learning website continues highlighting the services and resources available to faculty to support the development of online courses.

Digital Learning at UT will closely partner with each college and academic unit to listen and understand their respective visions, offer market research perspective and support where helpful to advance decisions about program offerings, and provide support to academic units during program design and operation.

Academic units will continue to maintain governance around programs and curricula, house faculty, and shepherd programs.

Digital Learning at UT will offer instructional design support at the course and program levels, provide marketing and enrollment support, and partner with academic units and learners to maximize their success.

We intend to enter a period of significant campus growth in the number and size of programs offered through an online modality. If you are interested in supporting the development and/or delivery of programs or simply being part of the conversation, please inform your department head and the appropriate members of your college leadership or reach out to Digital Learning directly.

Interested UT faculty and staff members can also contact the Digital Learning team at or use the contact form.

First and foremost, our dedicated Digital Learning team–and budget–were put into place to ensure a priority focus on this critical initiative without straining previously existing teams and departments.

Additionally, we will need to grow our faculty base. Working in concert with the Provost’s office through normal channels, academic units will need to make decisions on faculty growth.

The campus will ensure that the financial model supporting these programs allows academic units to pay faculty and other related college costs to make the growth possible and sustainable.

To emphasize, Digital Learning at UT will not house faculty. They will rely on academic units to make these decisions. However, the expectation is that coursework delivered in an online modality will have the same quality and faculty qualification as coursework delivered to residential students.

We are not creating a “global campus” or separate faculty.

Prospective students typically choose modality first, followed by programs of study and institution. This means, most students will decide whether to learn on-campus or online before deciding upon a school and field of study.

This growth will allow UT to serve students across Tennessee and beyond who otherwise would be unable to enroll in a campus-based program because of other life obligations or because they cannot relocate to Knoxville for their studies.

While there will undoubtedly be some anecdotal examples of overlap, 70% of undergraduate students interested in an online modality are 25+ years old. UT will continue to encourage first-time freshmen to pursue residential study.

We currently turn away significant numbers of eligible learners, and these efforts may provide an interesting alternative for some. Our point of view remains that online modality’s growth is additive primarily to our prospective student population.

While the online education market has experienced some maturation, it is still expected to grow at 15%+ annually through 2030. While the market has begun to reject low-quality players, those institutions with strong quality, established brands, and motives for public good are experiencing growth.

Public institutions such as Oregon State, the University of Memphis, and the University of Arizona have significantly grown their online student populations. We are confident that the UT brand and capabilities will be in high demand.

We have heard this directly from Tennesseans via the 2022 Statewide Reputation Survey. 85% of households and 88% of businesses have a favorable opinion of UT, and the majority of respondents indicated that online learning is relevant to them and/or their households.

The plan is to immediately engage academic units and faculty about our online learning priority.

Digital Learning at UT has already begun establishing a dialogue with each unit to learn about priorities, interests, and concerns. The financial and operational models will be confirmed in the Fall 2023 semester to allow units to understand how they can support faculty growth.

Have more questions? 

Contact the Digital Learning team at so that we may provide additional information, both directly and within this page. We plan to to continuously update this FAQ as questions or developments arise.