Educational content, pervasively embedded in objects, is all around the learner, who may not even be conscious of the learning process: students may not have to do anything in order to learn, they just have to be there.
It encompasses several domains, including learning theory, computer-based training, online learning, and, where mobile technologies are used, m-learning.
Richey defined educational technology as "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources." The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) denoted instructional technology as "the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning." As such, educational technology refers to all valid and reliable applied education sciences, such as equipment, as well as processes and procedures that are derived from scientific research, and in a given context may refer to theoretical, algorithmic or heuristic processes: it does not necessarily imply physical technology.
Given this definition, educational technology is an inclusive term for both the material tools and the theoretical foundations for supporting learning and teaching.
Educational technology is not restricted to high technology.
Educational technology encompasses e-learning, instructional technology, information and communication technology (ICT) in education, Ed Tech, learning technology, multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning (TEL), computer-based instruction (CBI), computer managed instruction, computer-based training (CBT), computer-assisted instruction or computer-aided instruction (CAI), internet-based training (IBT), flexible learning, web-based training (WBT), online education, digital educational collaboration, distributed learning, computer-mediated communication, cyber-learning, and multi-modal instruction, virtual education, personal learning environments, networked learning, virtual learning environments (VLE) (which are also called learning platforms), m-learning, ubiquitous learning and digital education.
Each of these numerous terms has had its advocates, who point up potential distinctive features.
However, many terms and concepts in educational technology have been defined nebulously; for example, Fiedler's review of the literature found a complete lack agreement of the components of a personal learning environment.
Moreover, Moore saw these terminologies as emphasizing particular features such as digitization approaches, components or delivery methods rather than being fundamentally dissimilar in concept or principle.
In practice, a "virtual education course" refers to any instructional course in which all, or at least a significant portion, is delivered by the Internet.