Taking Higher Education Virtual Fast: A Coronavirus Primer

Rebecca Rozakis
Updated March 10 2020
virtual classrooms for higher education during coronavirus quarantine
Rebecca Rozakis
Updated March 10 2020

Schools around the world are shutting down their physical facilities is response to COVID-19, starting with higher ed institutions in Asia more than a month ago and rolling around the globe. Most schools are now looking into going fully virtual, at least for the rest of this semester. How will your higher education institution get everyone online and save the rest of the academic year in the face of the Coronavirus threat?

Fortunately, you actually have a lot of different options available. From VOD to live lecture capture to fully virtual classrooms, there are a lot of ways to get classes online fast. Here are some options, and some tips for each.

college student learning remotely on laptop at home

On Demand Classes

The easiest solution, which is already being embraced some of our locked-down clients in Italy’s Coronavirus containment regions, is to make classes on-demand through the learning management system. Lecturers record their lectures in advance and upload them to the LMS or VLE. Students submit assignments through the LMS, gradebooks work as normal. Questions to the professor can be submitted through the LMS or by email. Class discussion is limited to the discussion boards for the class, but it’s better than nothing.


  • Lecture capture hardware that’s already installed in lecture halls or classrooms can be used even if there’s no class. Just the instructor comes in, delivers the lecture to an empty room, and then uploads the recording.
  • If lecture capture hardware is limited or quarantine is so strict that instructors can’t get to campus, they can still record from home. Is it as professional as a full lecture hall? No. But in an emergency situation, most students will be understanding, even if a lecture gets delivered to a laptop in a living room.
  • Ideally, set the lecture captures to automatically upload to the LMS. Otherwise, add the recordings to the class. The recording needs to be available by the time the class scheduled to occur; that way, students can just log in when they would expect to go to class. Make it as easy as possible for students to find their class.

Live Lecture Capture

On-demand is still not the same experience as a live class, however. For classes already using lecture capture, broadcasting the lecture live is an option. (For those long-standing Kaltura fans, this is a new capability we’ve just released!) This works whether you’re lecturing to a hybrid of half in-person students, half remote, or if you’re giving a live lecture to an empty classroom.


  • Scheduled recordings should automatically attach video broadcasts to the course in the LMS. This will help your students stay on top of things.
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Virtual Classrooms

Lecture capture is great taking large lectures virtual. But what about small classes and seminars, where live discussion is most of the point? That’s when virtual classrooms become critical. A virtual classroom does nearly everything an in-person experience does. The instructor shares video of themselves as well as any supplemental materials they want, including presentations, screen shares, videos, and even whiteboards. Participants also share their cameras, and can chat, ask questions, raise their hands, and be called on by the instructor to talk. More sophisticated platforms also allow classes to be divided up into breakout sessions for small group discussions before reconvening with the main class, collaboratively draw on the whiteboard, share group notes, and more.

  • While it’s tempting to just use a video conference service like Zoom or Skype, keep in mind that these were originally designed for business and do not support a lot of the features that a solution designed with education in mind can offer.
  • If you do use video conferencing, make sure you have a plan for how to manage your recordings. Can you attach them to courses? If students miss a class, how can they find the recording?
  • A service that uses persistent rooms is the most convenient for educators; it allows instructors to set up the virtual classroom once for the course. There’s no need to get everyone the correct link every time for today’s class—there’s just one link that can be easily attached to the course in the LMS. Then every time students log in, they find themselves automatically in a customized room for that course, including the recordings and notes from the previous sessions.
  • If you do use persistent rooms, make sure you attach each room to a specific course, not a specific educator. If an instructor has more than one course but just one classroom, things will get confusing fast.

Other School Communications During the Coronavirus Crisis

Classes are obviously the most urgent need, but it’s not the only type of gathering or communication on campus. As school closures drag out for weeks or months, make sure to plan for alternate communications. Webcasting is a way for administrations to communicate quickly with faculty and staff at large. Video emails allow more personal communications, even when in-person meetings become impossible. And while no one wants to think about an entirely virtual commencement, the chances that live broadcast will be necessary at this point because of the travel restrictions surrounding Coronavirus are high. (See how one university handles livestreaming commencement.) Better to start planning now than to scramble at the last minute.


The time between now and the end of this academic year has never felt longer, or shorter. And Coronavirus news is changing daily. But it’s never been easier to get a campus online than it is now. We’ll get through this together. Stay healthy!

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