Student protests are a regular feature of the tertiary landscape. However, the disruptions and potential threat to the academic project at traditional universities can be partially mitigated by online teaching and learning. The purpose of this paper is to report on insights gained when the mode of instruction was changed at short notice from contact to online during student unrest at a South African university in 2016. A phenomenographic approach was used to generate a meta-reflection on experiences as reported by lecturers from 13 science departments during a pecha kucha event (very short PowerPoint presentations) at the beginning of 2017. Video data was analysed inductively to generate six themes/categories. The six themes/categories that emerged from the data encapsulated aspects of the challenges experienced by the participants, the insights they had and the actions they took to address these challenges. This paper exemplifies the resilience of lecturers and how they embraced the blended learning environment to support their students to complete the academic year, despite difficult circumstances. It offers useful pointers to affordances and weaknesses of the virtual learning environment when implemented at short notice to replace contact teaching.