From 0 to 100 in two weeks – ETH Zürich, Covid-19 and Zoom

On 16 March 2020, ETH Zurich was switched over to emergency operation. The school was extensively closed to students, lecturers, researchers and staff. As a result, all lectures were switched to remote teaching in no time at all, a great challenge for all those involved. ITS Multimedia Services (ITS-MMS) has made its contribution to mastering this challenge.

Zoom Meetings in numbers

In the first half of March, there was an initial dramatic increase in the number of lecture recordings, with the help of which the occupancy of the lecture halls was to be reduced to a level suitable for the requirements of the time. At the peak of this, about 250 instead of the usual 80 weekly lecture recordings were planned. However, with the shutdown of ETH Zurich in mid-March, a majority of the teaching staff decided to do without the recordings that were still possible and most of them turned to zoom.

As a result, the use of the web conferencing solution literally exploded in the course of March, as the following figures show.

Month New users Number of meetings Number of participants Meetings in minutes
04/19 1 83 269 7’896
05/19 9 114 444 25’215
   …  …  …  …
01/20 55 364 1’236 50’569
02/20 147 529 3’061 133’923
03/20 8’150 49’597 283’664 11’889’281
Zoom meetings of the last month
Zoom meetings of the last month
Zoom Meetings of the last weeks
Zoom Meetings of the last weeks


What’s especially remarkable in the aftermath, however, is the fact that there were never any noteworthy technical problems with Zoom at any time. For Dave Ryffel of MMS VC, the effort associated with scaling consisted instead of three more organizational or communicative tasks:

  • Channeling the requests for Zoom licenses: This could be achieved very well by mid-March with the help of the Services Desk. To date there are 11,000 registered users at ETH (half “Basic” and half “Licenced”).
  • Documentation: Continual development of the website according to the evolving needs of the customers.
  • In the second half of March, the focus lied particularly on legal questions and those concerning data privacy, which were answered in consultation with the Legal Service.

As a result, remote learning at ETH today is based mainly on Zoom, supplemented by some lecture recordings and other solutions.

Further Information

Contact: Olaf Schulte, Armin Brunner und Dave Ryffel, ITS Multimedia Services, IT Services

PS: Figures continued to rise in April with up to 9,000 daily meetings.

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