How to Develop a Custom eLearning Platform: Functionality, Tech Stack, & Costs

Learning online is facing unprecedented growth.

The online education market is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. Education apps are the third most popular app category on the App Store, right after games and business apps.

A lot of start-ups are pursuing the idea of eLearning development with the intent to make it profitable over a short time.

Let’s dive right into the details.

Market Potential for Developing a Custom eLearning Platform

With over 200,000 apps for education on the App Store, the situation on the market is quite challenging. Nonetheless, there is a lot of room for new solutions and market growth. Let’s take a look at the most popular trends on the market and some of the top e-learning companies.

Types & Examples of eLearning Apps

In general, there are two key divisions of eLearning software:

  • Internal training software
  • External training tools

Let’s now investigate these types of eLearning software with some vivid examples.

  • Online education courses
  • Language learning apps
  • Memory training apps
  • Preparation apps
  • Supporting tools

Below you’ll find a table with the best solutions from each of the above categories so that you can evaluate their popularity and check out their unique selling points.

Monetization Strategy for eLearning Services

The main goal is to launch a successful solution that will turn into a profitable business. Of course, you need to choose the right monetization strategy.

  • Freemium model
  • Subscription
  • Advertising
  • In-app purchases
  • personal consultations with mentors
  • buying courses
  • purchasing additional materials
  • certifications
  • LinkedIn badges

Extra info: E-learning design and development is just the first step in turning your app idea into a profitable business. The process takes time and monetary resources.

As an example, let’s take a look at Coursera. In 2018, the annual revenue of this platform was estimated at $140 million dollars.

Coursera reached this level of profitability in under six years. The platform started in 2012 as a free online education platform and changed its business model to certificate-based payments. In 2013, Coursera’s annual revenue was estimated at $1 million dollars.

Custom E-Learning Platform Development Process

The app development process can consist of different stages — from market analysis to the app’s release to the market with ongoing support and development.

1. Analyze the Market & Define Your Niche

You can use a solution such as that of Edsurge, an online directory of eLearning solutions with customer reviews, to identify the main players.

Based on the collected data, you need to document your strategy for app development. This kind of strategy can be presented in the form of a Business Model Canvas.

You should cover nine aspects and list:

  1. key partner
  2. key activities
  3. key resources
  4. value proposition
  5. customer relationships
  6. customer segments
  7. channels
  8. cost structure
  9. revenue streams

Take a look below at the Business Model Canvas which lists the key stages of the e-learning course development process.

2. Compose Your Unique Value Proposition

Key idea: Even though it might seem like a good idea to create a clone of Coursera or Udemy, you won’t be able to win the market over with that kind of solution.

3. Work on the Platform Content

However great your e-learning concept is, it won’t be successful without unique and valuable content.

For example, the flagship features of Coursera and Edx are courses from world-famous universities like Harvard, Cambridge, Berkeley, MIT, and other flagship educational institutions.

4. Find a Professional Software Development Vendor

After you have successfully decided on the type of product you are going to develop, it’s time to move to the next stage — finding a reliable IT vendor.

Eastern Europe stands out, with Ukraine being a very attractive outsourcing destination.The average price for e-learning app design and development is about $40 per hour. Combined with high technical education, a long history of successful IT outsourcing, and a favorable taxation system, you can hire the best e-learning developers while saving up to 60% of your budget.

When you are looking for a development company, pay attention to the following factors:

  • number of years on the market
  • portfolio with similar projects
  • availability of senior developers
  • great references from former clients
  • level of commitment to, and involvement with, your project idea
  • provided ongoing product development and support

5. E-Learning App Design & Development

Development is a complex process consisting of two major stages: Discovery and Development.

Tips for E-Learning Design

When creating a design for your e-learning app, you need to concentrate on a few pillars of a successful user experience (UX) and user interface (UI):

  • develop an interface to actively involve users in the learning process with the help of different exercises
  • engage them with learning materials and by providing feedback and motivation in the form of grades
  • provide meaningful exercises from simple to complex, from generic to specific
  • interact with them and provide support without distracting from learning

eLearning App Development

This phase can be approached in different ways. Some companies decide to first create an MDP (minimum desirable product).

You also need to decide how many platforms you will target in the first stage — iOS, Android, web, or all of them.

6. Market your eLearning Product

Here is a short overview of a possible plan for marketing promotion:

  • Paid ads
  • SMM
  • Partners
  • Influencer marketing
  • Content marketing

Features for Custom eLearning Platform Development

Below you’ll find a list of the most popular features for students and teachers.

Main Features for the Learner

Let’s investigate the key features that you should consider:

  • Registration
  • Profile
  • Learning materials
  • Video courses and lectures
  • Search
  • Additional resources and links
  • Groups
  • Chats and feedback forms
  • Q&A section
  • Assignments and tasks
  • Quizzes and tests
  • Calendar
  • Payment
  • Push notifications
  • Report and progress tracking

Advanced Functionality

If you want to go even further with app development, you can include a few extra features.

  • Offline mode
  • Social aspects
  • Built-in feedback forms

Functionality for Teachers and Course Managers

Before e-learning design and development, you need to think through all the possible features designed for teachers and course managers.

  • Registration
  • Profile
  • Giving assignments
  • Assessment tools
  • Marking tools
  • CRUD courses and their content
  • Library of content
  • Feedback forms and communication tools

Gamification Elements in eLearning Apps

During e-learning app design and development, you might also need to include gamification elements.

The main goal of gamification in custom elearning solutions is to motivate customers to regularly use your product, submit tasks on time, and get the best results for tasks.

Here are a few possible gamification elements that you can include:

  • In-app currency
  • Experience and levels
  • Achievements badges
  • Motivation sounds
  • Leaderboard

Vital Considerations for Custom E-Learning Solutions

Let’s take a look at the main influential factors

  • Course content creation

Nothing will help you retain users if you don’t provide students with interesting and useful content. As they come to your platform to learn something new, you need to meet their requirements.

  • Use of emerging technologies

Consider including the use of innovative technologies:

  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality
  • Artificial intelligence

Tech Stack to Build a Custom eLearning Platform

Let’s take a look at the main integrations and the technology stack that your future solutions might need to have.

Third-party Integrations

  • Mailing services: Gmail, SendGrid, ZeroBounce, MailGun, TempMail, FastMail, Firebase Cloud Messaging
  • Push notifications: Twilio, Nexmo, Plivo, Sinch, Apple Push Notifications Service (APN), Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM)
  • Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Viber
  • Payments: Stripe, Braintree, Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal’s SDK
  • Content management: Google Docs, Dropbox, OneDrive
  • Task management: Trello, Jira, Analytical toolsFlurry, Google Analytics, Firebase, MixPanel

eLearning Development Cost & Timeline

eLearning development costs can vary depending on the number of platforms you are going to target with the first version of your solution.

Usually, the basic version for each platform will cost you ~$60,000, with a timeline of 3 to 6 months. Please note, we used an average development rate of $40/hour with Ukraine as the outsourcing IT location.

The final cost depends on the following aspects that you should decide on:

  • the complexity of the design
  • the number of platforms
  • the number of features
  • functionality and its complexity
  • type of vendor, the location you choose

The cost of e-learning development also depends on the team set that you need to create the first version of your solution. In most cases, you will need the following specialists working on it:

Note: This is a summary of a guide.

Check out more details and recommendations to build an eCommerce website inside the complete article on the MLSDev blog.

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