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.

General Information

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.

OLAP (Online Learning & Academic Programs) has merged with Digital Learning at UT and is fully integrated with the Digital Learning team. OLAP was created in 2020 as a first step on this journey, primarily providing instructional design services and support to faculty on the UTK campus. It 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).

Various approaches to help build capability and scale were considered, including potential acquisitions such as those undertaken by other public universities. Ultimately, it was decided that we must make this capability internally to truly advance our standing and be consistent with the UT culture, quality, and governance structures.

However, recognizing that building this capability internally would be challenging and time-consuming, we began conversations with Arizona State University. This public institution, like ours, is committed to maintaining high standards of excellence and oversight. Moreover, it has a significant online presence. We can benefit and accelerate our progress by sharing their expertise and collaborating on innovative ways to scale education and programs.

This cooperation will accelerate our progress and allow academic units at UT more opportunities to offer programs in their fields of study. This means that our faculty and staff will have the chance to contribute even more to our academic offerings, enhancing our reputation and impact. 

This relationship is not about relying on ASU to develop and/or operate UT programs. These crucial tasks will remain 100% under the control of our dedicated University of Tennessee faculty, staff, and professionals. As a campus, we will have the opportunity to lean in further and faster while maintaining our autonomy and control.

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 online programs. 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 in place to prioritize this critical initiative without straining previously existing teams and departments.

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

The campus will ensure that the financial model supporting these programs allows academic units to pay faculty and other related college costs, making 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 that 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 primarily additive 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 most 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.

ASU/UT Course Exchange

You will register for an ASU course using the same process you use to register for a UT course. UT will send your registration request to ASU and provide additional information once your registration is confirmed.

You will receive an email from ASU with the subject line “ASU Account Activation” with instructions on how to use My ASU, their central student portal. You must first activate your My ASU account before accessing your course(s). If you have problems activating your account, please get in touch with ASU at 855-278-5080. Here is a quick guide to My ASU. Your course(s) will be located in ASU’s Canvas. You can either go to and log in with your ASUrite ID and password OR log in to My ASU and click on the Canvas tab towards the top of the page.

Courses will typically be available 3 days before the first day of class.

My ASU provides information about ASU policies, procedures, and resources, including the Library, ASU Tutoring, Writing Center, Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services (SAILS), and Experience Center (855-ASU-5080).

Check the ASU Calendar for start, enrollment, drop, tuition reimbursement, and end-of-session dates. NOTE: ASU’s academic calendar is different from UT’s.

Your UT Success Coach is your primary contact to navigate your program experience. Your Success Coach is here to guide and mentor you, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. You can log in to Vol Connect to find your Success Coach and Academic Advisor.


The UT One Stop Team will continue to help you with any financial aid questions. You do not need to add ASU to your 2024-2025 FAFSA.

When you register for an ASU class through UT, you will not owe any additional tuition or fees to ASU. Your ASU course will be charged as UT tuition and processed just like your other UT courses. However, required course materials for ASU courses will be charged separately.

You will be considered a Visiting university student at ASU, so you can enroll in no more than:

  • Eight credit hours during Fall and Spring semesters. 
  • Seven credit hours for each six-week summer session
  • Nine credit hours for the eight-week summer session.

Yes! ASU courses are asynchronous, meaning there is no set day or time to meet, but there are due dates for assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc. Log in multiple times each week and view your syllabi to stay on track. You should be prepared to spend about 6 hours a week on coursework per credit hour. Ex. For a 3-credit hour class, you should plan to dedicate about 18 hours per week in this class studying and completing coursework.

When registering for an ASU class, it is highly recommended you speak with your UT Academic Advisor first. Your Advisor will ensure the class aligns with your program/degree requirements.

While enrolled in an ASU course, you are still a UT student. Your Academic Advisor and Student Success Coach will remain the same and will continue to be your primary points of contact. You will not be assigned any additional coaches or advisors from ASU.

Currently, only UT students enrolled in fully online programs are eligible to take these courses. 

Any course taken through ASU will count as transfer credit and, therefore, will not have an effect on your UT semester or cumulative GPA. 

ASU courses are compressed into two, 7.5-week sessions during the Fall and Spring semesters and 6-week sessions during Summer. To see how this differs from UT, please visit UT’s Academic Calendars.

No, Total Access only covers all course materials for classes taught by UTK faculty. ASU course materials are charged separately. UT students can elect to opt-out of the UT Total Access program if the cost of purchasing course materials/books is less than the $249 assessed fee.

The Vols Online Student Experience Scholarship is a one-time, non-renewable scholarship available for Fall ‘24 for a limited number of students enrolled in at least one ASU course offered through UT. The scholarship covers the tuition for one course. Scholarship award recipients must provide feedback on their experience with the course exchange upon completion of the course to receive the scholarship.


The university uses the definitions below to denote the differences between online, hybrid, and flipped courses, and asynchronous and synchronous instruction.

In an online class, 100% of the course content, activities, and assessments are delivered online asynchronously or synchronously, and there is regular and substantive interaction between the instructor and students throughout the semester.

In a hybrid class, 33-99% of the course content, activities and assessments are delivered online asynchronously or synchronously, in-class seat time is reduced and replaced with online instruction and engagement, and there is regular and substantive interaction between the instructor and students throughout the semester.

For example, if you teach a course that is normally scheduled to meet on campus on M-W-F from 10-10:50am and decide to deliver that course as a hybrid, you can choose to have students come to the in-class session on one or two of those days instead of all three. The in-person meeting requirements are scaled back and replaced with online instructional activities that help students move toward achieving the course objectives.

Flipped is another term often used in conjunction with technology supported teaching and learning. According to Educause (2012), a flipped class is a “pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

Online asynchronous instruction occurs when the faculty member and the students are in different places and participating at different times.

There are numerous options available to instructors who wish to deliver content and communicate with students asynchronously, including discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and email. UTK’s learning management system, Canvas, provides access to many of these tools, including Panopto, a way for instructors and students to actively collaborate in an asynchronous setting through multimedia.


  • Learners complete their coursework and assignments throughout the week and within the parameters of the course syllabus and instructor-established deadlines.
  • More flexible for students, allowing them to communicate with the instructor and their classmates anytime, anywhere. This can mitigate many of the access issues learners may face, including the need to fulfill job or family commitments, lack of a strong internet connection, or absence of WiFi-enabled devices at home.

Online synchronous instruction occurs when the faculty member and the students are in different places, but participating at the same time.

Synchronous teaching allows an instructor to more closely replicate the in-person experience of lecture and seminar courses with real-time discussion and engagement with students. However, this option requires more technology and is less accessible to learners who may live in areas with limited access to high-speed internet, in time zones other than Eastern Standard, or in houses with multiple people all trying to access the network at similar times. Instructors are encouraged to consider this when determining how portions of an online course will be delivered.


  • Students participate during specified days and times each week throughout the term.
  • Primary delivered through Zoom, the university-supported audio-video conferencing tool.
  • Additional tools for synchronous communication include Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams, and the chat features in Zoom and Canvas.

Academic Policies

All classes follow similar rules, including standards for difficulty, how much work is expected from students, and the speed at which teaching happens. This page is designed to help you understand how these essential rules and standards work in online classes. The policies below come from both government and university guidelines. They are there to make sure your students get a fair and high-quality education in your online classes. By following these policies, you’re not just meeting important requirements but also on your way to creating a top-notch online course!

It is a violation of copyright law for a student to upload instructional materials to a third-party aggregator website, such as CourseHero or StudyBlue, without the instructor’s permission. Consult the University of Tennessee policies to learn more about the university’s policies around copyright and steps you can take to deter students from violating the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources.

All virtual classroom sessions that include course content or student information are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Consult tips for maintaining student privacy from the Office of the University Registrar.

At UT, we are committed to maintaining academic integrity as we teach online and hybrid classes. Online privacy is a concern for many students and one we take seriously. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects personally identifiable information from students’ educational records from unauthorized disclosure. During the upcoming semester, FERPA compliance is still in effect.

Instructors may require students to record their activities during an online exam using the software, Proctorio. This act does not violate FERPA, nor does it infringe on a student’s privacy online. The instructor is the only individual with access to view the recording and the recording should not be shared with others.

FERPA compliance remains in effect when teaching online and hybrid courses. This is important when communicating to students or third parties via phone, email, or other online services, including recorded class sessions. You should always use email with the amount of caution appropriate to:

  • the level of sensitivity of the information being disclosed,
  • the likelihood of inadvertent disclosure to someone other than the intended recipient, and
  • the consequences of inadvertent disclosure to someone other than the intended recipient.

As a general rule, communications should contain the least amount of FERPA-protected information as possible. For example, the subject line of an email should not include FERPA-protected information. The email, voicemail message, or online session should not contain highly sensitive FERPA-protected details, such as a student’s social security number. In addition, files containing FERPA information should only be stored in UT-approved FERPA solutions, such as UT OneDrive and UTK Google Drive. For more information related to FERPA and privacy of student information, please go to

Contact hour requirements must be met in online synchronous and asynchronous courses. Per the University’s Registrar, a minimum of 700 minutes is required per credit hour. A 3-credit hour course requires 2,100 contact minutes (150 mins a week x 14 weeks).

For an online class, this means that students should be engaged with course content and participating in activities that lead to the achievement of the learning outcomes for a minimum 2.5 hours per week (for a 3-credit hour class). This may include watching lecture videos, participating in an online asynchronous discussion, meeting synchronously in Zoom to collaborate on a project or paper, or some other instructional activity as determined or led by the instructor.

Class attendance and eligibility policies, including those pertaining to Federal Financial Aid programs, apply to students enrolled in online courses. Attendance in an online course is verified by having the student engage in or complete an academically related activity. Below is a nonexclusive list of activities that may be considered academic attendance in an online class, including:

  • Submitting an assignment
  • Taking an online exam or quiz
  • Participating in an online course discussion or group activity about academic issues
  • Physically attending a class where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students (this would include required virtual class meetings in Zoom)
  • Limited Adjustment to the Attendance Policy (LAAP)

A student logging into the course site does not suffice for meeting attendance requirements and should never be used as a means for verifying attendance in an online or hybrid course. Instead, students should complete and submit an assignment, engage in an online discussion or virtual class meeting (on a course discussion board, in a Zoom session), or take a quiz or other form of assessment.

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 continuously update this FAQ as questions or developments arise.