Teachers at professional education institutions in a challenging situation – the transition from conventional teaching to distance learning

Busy woman relaxing
A nationwide ban was imposed in Switzerland on face-to-face teaching at tertiary level in spring 2020 and autumn/winter 2020/2021. We evaluated the opportunities and risks of this transition and the shift towards digitalisation required in a study last year. Based on this study, we are currently conducting another study on experiences during the second phase of distance learning. This study looks at whether and how the initial experience of digital forms of teaching was used during the second phase of distance learning and then incorporated into the post-coronavirus teaching setting. The knowledge obtained about the opportunities and risks of digital forms of teaching will support teachers with the tasks of reforming teaching to make it fit for the future and optimally preparing students for the digitised world of work.

We focus on two key aspects in this study. Firstly we are examining how teachers have incorporated the experiences of digital teaching from the first phase of remote learning into the second phase during autumn/winter 2020/21. Secondly we are assessing the impact of the experience of remote teaching and distance learning on ‘normal’ teaching in the post-coronavirus period. In the first study, the majority of teachers indicated that they intended to increasingly supplement ‘normal’ teaching with digital technologies and other innovative forms of learning (e.g. blended learning) in future. We are now looking at how teachers adapted their teaching after the end of distance learning and what impact this is having on (different) students.

The study therefore focuses on the following questions:

1. How did teachers incorporate the experiences of digital teaching and learning gained during the first phase of distance learning into the second phase?

  • Which forms of digital learning and teaching were newly introduced, which were reused and which were completely abandoned? For which reasons? (strategies)
  • What were the reasons for (successful) adaptation in the second phase?

2. What impact will the experience of distance learning gained have on teaching in the post-coronavirus period? What effect will this have on students?

  • To what extent have teachers incorporated the (digital) skills and experience of distance learning acquired into their conventional teaching?
  • Which teachers adapted the forms of teaching after the end of distance learning and in what ways?
  • Which teachers have undertaken further training and how?
  • Which opportunities and risks are presented for the various students and types of learning?

3. Will the mandatory transition to distance learning increase digitisation at professional education institutions long-term?

The results of our study will be used to develop tailored educational programmes to improve the digital skills of teachers long-term. However, we will also look at the progressive increase in digitisation at professional education institutions. Insights into teachers’ experience of distance learning can help schools to develop their programmes. The study therefore also aims to address the need for further development and to identify best practices for teaching at professional education institutions.


In the first study, the database was provided by an online survey of teachers at professional education institutions. 187 teachers from around 20 professional education institutions in German-speaking Switzerland took part in the survey in autumn 2020.

In the second study, we are now currently conducting qualitative guided interviews with teachers from various professional education institutions and disciplines to extend the findings obtained in the first study.

This mixed qualitative/quantitative approach enables challenges and potential in the change processes in teaching caused by the coronavirus pandemic to be identified and specific recommendations on teaching at professional education institutions to be defined.


The complete transition to distance learning was due to a crisis situation and may only happen in exceptional cases in future. The descriptive evaluation of the first study showed that teachers generally deemed the teaching experience to have been positive and saw the transition as an opportunity to learn how to use new digital tools. However, there were also clear disadvantages to distance learning compared with face-to-face teaching. Teachers at professional education institutions found the lack of (personal) contact as well as insufficient opportunity to supervise and support students, to use adequate teaching methods and to carry out assessments particularly challenging. The teachers also gave a critical assessment of the learning success of students.

More information on the first study’s evaluations can be found here (in German).

The results of the second study will be published in 2022.

Format: 2022
In progress
1.8.2020 to 31.8.2022

Prof. Dr. Elena Makarova, Institute for Educational Sciences, University of Basel (Project University of Basel)