From 0 to 90 in a matter of days – ETH Zurich and Covid-19

When ETH Zürich published their “Options for remote teaching” early in March with the spring semester on its way, they were supposed to reduce the number of students on campus in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These options covered the full range of what was already being used, from webconferencing with Zoom to lecture recording with Opencast and Opencast Studio to Moodle for sharing documents, discussion forums, and collaborative wikis. Before these measures could actually unfold, the campus was closed for students on March 16th – with the rector asking for an instant switch to remote teaching.

So with the exception of lecturers recording in empty lecture halls, ETH had to become an online university in no time, with Zoom turning out to be the central pillar to support this mind-boggling transition. We had almost 15,000 meetings during the first week and when we thought that many of these were only getting their feet wet with Zoom, we were corrected by the next set of figures. With almost 9,000 users and 4,000 licences, 3,000 daily meetings are the new routine. Remarkably, there were almost no technical issues in scaling the service so we could focus on managing the large amounts of requests we encountered, for licences mainly, plus documentation work to support users. After two weeks, we’re returning to a more regular schedule – with a volume more than centupled in comparison to a time just four weeks ago.