Of the many things that are uncertain about how American higher education will look in fall 2020, one thing is not: Online learning is here to stay. That doesn’t mean that there will be no in-person instruction Whether or not they are offering some in-person instruction, colleges will need to enable students to participate remotely. This is true despite the announcements by multiple colleges of plans to resume on-campus classes in the fall.

Why? Because splashy “we’re going to re-open!” announcements by some institutions notwithstanding, many—if not most—colleges will decide to keep all of their fall 2020 instruction online. And even for those that do manage to welcome students back to campus, new social distancing rules will greatly reduce classroom capacity. Since classroom space was at a premium even before the pandemic, once social distancing constraints are in place there is simply no way to deliver in-person instruction to all students. In addition, some students will be unwilling or unable to return to campus. The upshot is that for the foreseeable future the old way of doing business—in which colleges could tell students that they are required to be physically present on campus and in the classroom—isn’t coming back any time soon.

As a result, in fall 2020 and likely well beyond, there will be two categories of courses: 1) courses in which some of the students are in a classroom and others are online, and 2) courses offered exclusively online. Both formats raise major challenges for the higher education ecosystem.

Read the full article on the Brookings Institute.