Distance Learning Around the World: Results of a brief survey conducted in April 2020

11 May, 2020


The global pandemic, COVID-19 has forced academia to reconsider how to deliver course content, exams and maintain connections with their students. This document presents the results of an informal survey on online delivery methods, technology, examination and grading systems.

Survey respondents represent faculty members from universities in Europe, America and Asia:

M. Arroyo, UPC, Barcelona

L. Laloui, EPFL, Lausanne

G. Combe, UG Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble

N. Espinoza, UT, Austin

P. Arduino, UW, Seattle

D. Frost, GT, Atlanta

C. O’Sullivan, IC, London

J. Cartwright, UO, Oxford

R. Terzariol, UNC, Cordoba

GC. Cho, KAIST, Daejeon

C. Santamarina, KAUST, Thuwal


What best practices are you using for distance learning?

Respondents use a variety of online platforms to deliver both lectures, tutorials and office hours for their students. KAIST was unique in that teaching is online for undergraduate students and in the classroom for graduate students (using face masks and social distancing). The two UK universities have yet to make the complete transition to distance education. The following table presents a summary of current lecture delivery platforms.


Lecture delivery system University
Google Meet UPC
Moodle UNC, UPC
Weblearn UO
Microsoft Teams & Canvas UW, IC
Discord UG (small groups)
YouTube UT
BlueJeans, Kaltura & Canvas GT


Note: At GT, classes are pre-recorded and uploaded to avoid bandwidth limitations.

What is the degree of satisfaction with the web based delivery system?

Some universities are still transitioning to the new form of delivery and are assessing best practicesThree respondents highlighted Moodle and Zoom for their functionality.

  • Moodle: Open source and functional, with students able to interact during the class with the teacher.
  • Zoom: Faculty at both KAIST and UW remarked on the flexibility of Zoom and features that include screen sharing, chat and the ability to see and interact with students. Two additional functions include a whiteboard tool “using a tablet and stylus”, attendance checks and participation rates.

Student satisfaction: In general, there is high student satisfaction with online content focused on case studies. Student reports suggest fatigue after about 4 hours of remote teaching per day.


Special tools used for on-line delivery


  • Respondents use a combination of PC, tablet, webcam & whiteboard, and microphone to deliver online content. Three faculty members use a tablet with a pencil to write notes and figures and share files with students.


Recommended Hardware

  • A graphic designer quality tablet (Wacom series, recommended by two faculty)

  • Apple iPad Pro 13 and stylus

  • Microsoft SurfacePro


Recommended Software and Apps

  • Microsoft OneNote

  • Apps: GoodNotes, InkSpace, OpenBoard


Running labs/experimental courses (GT, UW, UG)

  • Video demonstrations of experiments

  • Students use lab kits to conduct experiments at home

  • Students receive files with experimental data

  • Associate each lab (and experimental results) with mini projects using real life case studies and create videos that relate to the case histories in each topic

  • Students work together using the online platform, Discord with the lecturer available via Zoom for questions

What method is used for exams?

Most universities are still developing best practices for examinations. The table below presents alternative suggestions currently under consideration.

Alternative method to formal exam University
Cancel exam and provide more homework and individual projects KAIST
Reschedule exam to later in the year UPC
Provide a shorter remote exam UPC
Interviews UPC
Multiple choice questions UG
More frequent quizzes UPC
Fixed time to sign in and out GT, KAUST


  • UW uses more midterms/more quizzes.
  • Canvas and Blackboard have been used for testing by some faculty.


 What grading system is used?

  • All universities continue with their standard grading system (letter grade at KAIST, KAUST, GT; numeric grade at EPFL, UG, UPC)
  • UW uses a letter grade and for special cases (this quarter) may allow P/F
  • UT & KAUST permit students to request P/F grading.


Acknowledgements: G. Abelskamp compiled answers and prepared this summary.