Introducing Signum University


The mission of Signum University is to offer dynamic online educational programs with exceptional live teaching while eschewing debt-accruing educational practices, generously supporting our workers, and fostering a globally accessible intellectual community..

Core Values

Signum’s mission is accomplished through the application of the University’s core values.

Education is interactive and informative.

Signum University believes a strong learning community is one in which students and instructors can grow together in a context of high-quality academics. The University’s virtual campus is designed to make that community a reality, delivering both the relational and academic components of a true liberal arts education.

Online education is valuable.

Signum University embraces the flexibility and richness of online education. Its learning environment incorporates both traditional and state-of-the-art educational models to provide a dynamic platform that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The University continuously invests in this campus to develop Signum’s innovative academic opportunities.

Excellent education is affordable.

Signum University offers affordable education. It believes everyone who desires to learn should be able to afford to invest in their education. With this belief in mind, the University matches its accessible platform with attainable tuition so that more people might benefit from continued, and even lifelong, education.

Rewarding education is accomplished through teamwork.

Signum University fosters an amicable and productive relationship between faculty and staff to the enrichment of all. Its philosophy requires that faculty and staff work together with students, using a team-oriented approach focusing on individual responsibility and gifts, to create an exceptional learning experience. Signum also believes that, given this approach, staff and faculty should be rewarded in full for the work they accomplish.

Lasting education is thorough.

Signum University helps its students pursue their chosen area of study through online education. As part of this vision, the University teaches students how to interact with academics, personalize their curricula, and communicate meaningfully with peers and colleagues, all with the goal of contributing to their fields of research now and in the future.


When he was working as a tenured literature professor, Dr. Corey Olsen decided to experiment with sharing his classroom lectures on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien through a podcast called The Tolkien Professor. The podcast quickly surpassed a million downloads, and its success prompted Dr. Olsen to experiment further by bringing in listeners to discuss Tolkien’s legendarium at length through a seminar-style series on The Silmarillion.

As The Tolkien Professor’s audience grew, Dr. Olsen discovered more and more people who had a desire to study speculative literature: fantasy, science fiction, mythology, fairy tales, and so forth. While some colleges and universities offered electives in such subjects, no dedicated programs existed to fulfill the demand. Thus, in 2011, Dr. Olsen offered his first online, graduate-level, for-credit course on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien while continuing to engage audiences through free programs such as “Riddles in the Dark” on The Tolkien Professor podcast and the Mythgard Academy lecture series.

To better accommodate the growing number of students seeking a Master of Arts in Language and Literature, Dr. Olsen created Signum University in 2012. Today, the Graduate School at Signum University continues to blaze a trail in online learning through innovative program design and digital campus technologies, with a focus on keeping costs extremely low compared to both traditional universities and other online learning programs. There are now four concentrations, a graduate diploma program, and auditing options in addition to the M.A. degree at the heart of Signum’s Graduate School. Meanwhile, Mythgard Institute remains a separate branch of the University focused on producing free, inventive educational programming for people of all ages through the ongoing Tolkien Professor podcast, Mythgard Academy book discussions, and forays into the virtual world of Middle-earth through Lord of the Rings Online.

Updated 9/24/2020

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