(CNN)When Kim Reeder started teaching in Parker, Colorado, 14 years ago, she found that managing the classroom environment took way more time and energy than actually teaching kids, and she couldn't reach as many of them as she wanted.
This is what distance learning should look like in the fall
"I knew there were kids being left behind or not being pushed hard enough, because due to time constraints and class sizes, I had to teach the middle," she said.
Then Reeder discovered virtual school. As a middle school social studies teacher at Colorado Connections Academy for the past 13 years, she found "there's really no classroom management." Online teaching at the academy, a public K through 12 school, gives her time, freedom and energy to "give every student what they need."
Many schools around the world abruptly transitioned to distance learning in March, when Covid-19 forced brick-and-mortar schools to shutter. But much of what students experienced didn't represent real online school, in which teachers are trained to teach remotely and online.
Online education done deliberately isn't as simple as sending home packets or directing students toward which YouTube videos to watch.
And when done right, it's just as rewarding as in-person teaching, said Eric Sheninger, a distance learning expert and associate partner with the International Center for Leadership in Education, which provides professional development services for educators. "It really is about using technology in meaningful ways that engage kids to think and apply their thinking in relevant ways."
Online teaching requires a different set of skills, not just from teachers and school administrators, but from students and their families, too.
Remote or distance education refers to learning outside of school, which doesn't have to be online (think correspondence courses). Starting in the spring, most US students were trying to learn remotely and online, and that requires technology.
Yet some 18.1% of US households don't have internet access, and over 10% don't have a computer at home. Some families must park outside restaurants or