Planning for… coronavirus keeping us online into the fall term?

College and university leaders have plenty of items to deal with in good times. Now imagine what they are confronting as coronavirus retains its stubborn and deadly hold on the United States.

A host of institutions already have decided that their entire summer schedule will be taught online. Others are soon to follow. Face-to-face classes this summer appear to be a pipe dream.

That leaves open the question of what to do about the fall term. And Inside Higher Ed reports what should seem obvious: whispers of mandated online-only classes are being heard.

Delivering higher-quality online or virtual instruction by the fall will take a huge amount of planning and work — and it should start soon, if not now.

(Leaders at Miami of Ohio have started those talks.)

That statement about “higher quality” online instruction does not imply that what is taking place for the remainder of the spring semester is cheap. However, it does acknowledge that the rush to get this semester to the finish line cannot be on display down the line, if coronavirus continues to interfere with our lives.

Budget shortfalls are evident at colleges big and small; they would get worse — maybe much worse — if students and faculty cannot return to campus for the fall term.

Compounding the challenges is that decisions made at the gubernatorial level dictate what these leaders can do. Plan, yes; but those plans right now must include parallel tracks: what if we are allowed to return to campus, and what if we’re not? (And there might be a third: what if we have to start the semester online and then transition to face-to-face during the term?)