On this page, SIRA provides resources and experiences about distance teaching/learning, which, unfortunately, has to be applied at all Swiss universities now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We invite the readers of this page to share their experiences with the community.


Interactive distance teaching

Tools listed alphabetically. Find experiences with sone tools in the experience reports below.

Here is a spreadsheet created by Matthias Hauswirth (USI) comparing the features offered by various remote video teaching solutions.

Distance lecturing (podcasts, live streaming)

Online learning platforms

Here is an article (by a course vendor) with an overview of learning management systems that you might find useful.

Immediacy vs. Bandwidth

Here is an interesting blog post by Daniel Stanford (Director of Faculty Development and Technology Innovation at DePaul University’s Center for Teaching and Learning). He classifies distance teaching/learning techniques with respect to their immediacy and required bandwidth. The main conclusion is that there are viable alternatives to videoconferencing.


Share your experience

Please enter YOUR experience into this Google Docs document and share it with your colleagues!


Experience reports

BFH (reported 2020-03-16 by Eric Dubuis)

At BFH, we started with first experiments with MS Teams and jit.si last week. Everything went smooth by then.
Today, the first full day of “synchronous” distance learning took place. First experiences include:

  • open.meet.switch.ch worked for the first hour. It didn’t work after that
  • Similar to meet.jit.si
  • Moderate to good experiences with MS Teams
  • Other tools (GNU Mumble) or the hosting of a jit.si instance on our premises are under investigation.

In general, the following compliance rules for participants seem to apply:

  • Mics and video of participants/students turned off
  • Mic turned on only to raise a question
  • Teacher gives allowance to raise a question (may not work for large groups of participants)
  • Ideally: Teacher has a second device to share, say, slides
  • Ideally: Teacher can annotate the slides

No reports for asynchronous teaching (e.g., video recording) available so far.

EPFL (reported 2020-03-16 by Jim Larus)

EPFL has decided to use Zoom for online interaction. From what I’ve heard from my faculty members, people were pleasantly surprised by how well it works. I used it to record two video lectures and it worked well for that purpose also. The big issues so far has been inadequate internet connectivity in peoples’ home and a difficulty for faculty members who lecture using black/whiteboards (EPFL will supply tablets, but you all know how attached some professors are to chalk and blackboards…).

UniSG (reported 2020-03-16 by Siegfried Handschuh)

UniSG Informatics professors mainly use Zoom. Lectures are recorded directly.

USI (reported 2020-03-16 by Matthias Hauswirth)

At USI we switched to 100% online teaching last Thursday. Different faculty members use different setups.

  • Panopto (which some instructors already used previously for lecture recording and asynchronous viewing) with live-streaming
  • MS Teams
  • YouTube live streaming

In my own course with 50 students I use Panopto for live-streaming and recording (has a ~1 minute lag) and Teams for feedback from students (via chat messages, no audio or video, where they sometimes paste figures/marked up screenshots of what they have a question about). I stop every few minutes to read questions and address them. I use this hybrid setup because Panopto provides really helpful lecture recordings, and some of my students now follow the course asynchronously.

I held a lab session on Friday, where my four TAs spent the morning having MS Teams chats for formative assessments with pairs of students (we used my home-made course platform to allow students to queue for such sessions, and the TAs then called the pairs on Teams).

We use different approaches to communicate visually: we use shared online whiteboards (e.g., Explain Everything), and shared online code pads, instructors use tablets (e.g., I use an iPad Pro + Apple Pencil + Reflector to mirror my iPad screen onto my Mac, where my screen and webcam is recorded and broadcast), document cameras, or they draw on top of Keynote or PowerPoint slides (Keynote is better: you can draw on the slides on your iPad and concurrently display/broadcast the slides with the minimal-lag real-time drawing on your computer).