The Covid-19 pandemic changed distance learning from a marginal phenomenon at Austrian higher education institutions to a system-wide practice. It became necessary to change teaching practices, adapt and expand technical equipment and IT infrastructures and adjust teaching to the new conditions in the short term. It could be shown that many Austrian higher education institutions, especially quite a few larger universities, already had technical and organizational structures and services or projects and planning that facilitated the implementation of full-scale distance learning. All higher education institutions, their affected service departments and lecturers had to expend enormous efforts and resources, especially in the first weeks and months, to create the legal, technical, and organizational framework conditions and to comprehensively implement higher education teaching in distance learning settings. The “emergency mode”, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, led to several rapid changes and developments in higher education including teaching and learning. This new situation was a driving force for new innovations in teaching and learning. The following contribution describes the different stages and innovation cycles from an emergent situation to institutional-wide solutions and the impact of unforeseen environmental changes, with a strong influence on the core missions and main activities, here education as one of the key functions of universities (higher education institutions), on innovation and innovative educational practices. Based on the review of over 250 publications and reports, our assessment provides detailed analysis regarding the shift from on-site to on-line teaching as well as dedicated recommendations including the importance of the digital and media-didactic competencies of the teachers and students as an essential and critical factor for the emergent adaption.
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