The cost of building an e-learning platform
Create an e-learning platform to meet the growing demand for online education.
Online learning has been around for a long time, but the outbreak of Covid19 caused it to become prevalent. When schools and colleges were told to adopt distance learning, many doubted the quality of education. Yet, with time, people realized the true value of online learning and started using it more often despite the eventual easing of quarantine restrictions.
As you know, demand begets supply. Therefore, the number of online courses has increased dramatically over the past two years. E-learning platforms successfully serve clients worldwide and bring good income to their owners. If you want to develop such a platform but don’t know where to start, we can help. In this post, we’ll review the main types of e-learning platforms, advise how to create a minimal viable product (MVP), and calculate the e-learning development price.
E-learning platforms: types and purposes
Before you start building an e-learning platform, you must understand the end product and target audience. In the Internet space, there are many educational resources designed for different purposes. Choosing a software type compatible with your business needs is the first step towards successful online course platform development. Here are the criteria to pay attention to:
External: developed for anyone who wants to take online courses.
Internal: designed for a limited number of users, such as enterprise employees or students of a particular school.
Example: Bridge Learn.
Traditional: providing lecture series, studying materials, passing tests.
Game: passing levels, gaining points, opening new tasks.
Direct: charging for original courses located on the e-learning platform.
Indirect: charging for connecting tutors with students, i.e., acting as a middleman.
Example: Khan Academy.
Where to start: idea, PoC, and estimates
The main reasons that startups fail are a lack of research and the wrong target market. Therefore, when launching a new product, before entering the development phase, it’s necessary to ensure your idea is valid. If you want to create an e-learning app, but don’t know how to start the project, follow the scheme below. It is designed to help you avoid unnecessary costs, determine a successful business model, and implement an in-demand product.
Steps to develop an online course platform
Generate ideas. Brainstorm who you will be teaching, and how, and the method you will use to monetize the product. Also, consider how the learning process will fit into the users’ daily routine and what unique value your app will bring. For example, if you want to launch a learning management system (LMS) development for enterprise purposes, decide how to manage the education process so that the employees’ productivity during business hours is not compromised.
Filter ideas. You may have many more ideas than a company can use. Therefore, it is necessary to develop criteria and procedures to screen ideas and abandon unsuitable ones. For example, hiring qualified teachers is not an option if you design online language courses at an affordable price. Experienced tutors have high salary expectations. So, if you position your platform as accessible learning, consider hiring native-speaking students to give lessons for a small salary.
Conduct a business analysis. The business analysis (BA) assesses e-learning development cost, expected sales, and project ROI. In addition, it studies markets and competitors and shows potential niches that a company may occupy. For example, if you are a startup that wants to create an app like Coursera or Udemy, targeting a worldwide audience may be a bad idea because of strong competition and high customer expectations. Instead, you can enter local markets with a similar product, where your advantage will be teaching a target audience in their native language.
Test Proof of Concept (PoC). PoC demonstrates the practical feasibility of a product idea. As a rule, PoC is tested on one feature, which is the most difficult from a technical point of view. For example, let’s say you want to launch an online courses platform to teach foreign languages. During development, you need to connect an AI element to recognize the user’s speech and correct wrong pronunciation. To implement such a feature, you need to collect big data and create training, validation, and test datasets for your ML model. This task will require several data science engineers, advanced development tools, and several months of work. But if you have a limited budget and strict requirements for time to market you may choose ready libraries for speech recognition.
Launch MVP. When the idea is validated, launch the MVP to test user demand for your product. At this stage, it is crucial to stick to the Lean Startup methodology and not overwhelm your e-learning platform with too many features. Instead, release a product with essential functionality. If you receive positive feedback from customers, proceed to extending the app by incorporating more advanced features. Below, we’ll review what features you can start with during the e-learning development process.
Eight ‘must-have’ features for an e-learning platform (MVP)
Next, we will review the features of an e-learning course platform similar to Coursera. The development process for such an app includes building functionality for teachers, students, and admins. Here are the features you would want to implement first:
Authorization and profile creation
This should be an essential step for teachers but optional for students who might want to audit the courses without registration. In any case, it is necessary to let users register with their email/password or authorize via Google or their social media account.
For both teachers and users, add:
- bio page
- settings page
- payment settings
For teachers, implement the functionality of adding and editing courses.
For students, add information for courses currently taken and completed and the page with certificates and achievements.
Filters simplify site navigation and provide a seamless user experience. Your online learning platform should include filters by:
- course subject
- course duration
- difficulty level
- teaching language
- teacher experience
- course price
Also, do not forget to implement a search bar and recommend the most popular courses to the website visitors.
A dashboard is a smart operation panel that displays real-time data in a convenient and easy-to-read format. It is useful for both teachers and students as it gives quick insights into their current tasks and achievements. To create a user-friendly e-learning dashboard, you need to apply a custom design that focuses on catchy visual forms that quickly reflect the necessary information. Here is the information you might want to display:
- enrolled courses
- active courses
- completed courses
- learning progress
- money spent/earned
- active students
- course rating
Course information page
Course information should be brief but informative. It must contain:
- a block with a short course description: topic, subtopics, passing stages
- information about the course mentors: qualifications, work experience, e-learning platform rating
- information about the certificate: how to obtain it, how long it is valid, and where it can be applied
- start date
- finish date
Course editing page
This functionality will help teachers add, edit, or remove courses on your platform. Here, e-learning developers should implement an intuitive interface to quickly upload files (text, video, audio), organize the course information by sections or periods, and make the course available to users.
You need to connect a payment gateway to allow customers to pay online without leaving your learning platform. On-site payment development involves partnering with a payment provider and implementing their payment mechanism at your end. The most popular providers are PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, Dwolla, Square, and Authorize.net. By adding them to your platform, you can enable payments by credit cards, debit cards, and digital wallets.
The admin panel is an essential instrument to solve any problems encountered by e-learning platform users. It is designed for administrators and support specialists who can:
- add or remove teachers
- edit course settings
- view payment histories
- update on-site information
- moderate comments
- and much more
Notifications remind users about important events and help to ensure that they:
- submit work on time
- connect to the online lesson on time
- make a payment or, vice versa, stop subscribing
- evaluate the course/teacher/student
- generate certificates
- get discounts
While notifications are an important app feature, e-learning developers should allow users to switch them off in the account settings.
‘Nice-to-have’ features for e-learning platforms
After launching the MVP and understanding your product is in demand, you can develop extra functionality and fill your e-learning app with ‘nice-to-have’ features. Here are some ideas to consider:
Simple gamification elements such as reward points or unique avatars entertain users and add fun to learning. You can also encourage users to study (and pay) more by offering special bonuses and discounts. For example, you can allow some courses free of charge to the most active students or provide free advanced teaching tools to highly-rated tutors.
As part of gamification, the leaderboard creates healthy competition and motivates students to learn more and better. It also makes the learning process less tedious and adds a social element to education. In addition to listing the best students, you can also enable users to follow each other. This way, they will be able to watch each other’s progress and put more effort into gaining awards.
This feature allows you to provide more effective learning through convenient communication right on the platform. In the chat, users can exchange files and links, ask questions, discuss various topics, and quickly resolve emerging issues. For a better user experience, you can also think about chatbot development on your e-learning website. Robotic assistants will immediately answer arising questions and instantly solve standard tasks.
The initial version of your e-learning app may contain video-recorded courses. But further, you may want to add virtual classrooms where a teacher can conduct lessons in real-time. Virtual class development is a complex feature; however, it can add value to your e-learning software. For example, it will allow you to conduct corporate lessons for companies from anywhere in the world.
As your application grows, you may need more resources to manage content, analyze user behavior, and build a marketing strategy. In order not to reinvent the wheel, your e-learning development team can connect third-party CRM and CMS systems to deal with big data volumes and quickly receive valuable insights.
The fast pace of life encourages people to use every spare moment with maximum efficiency. A mobile app enables students to study while in the bus, traffic jam, queue, etc. However, e-learning app development is a complex process and may require new investors and funding. Therefore, we recommend starting it after your web product grows its customer base and takes a stable position in the market.
How much does it cost to build an e-learning platform?
Companies that want to launch an online courses platform are interested in development prices. If we take the MVP described above, the approximate time required for e-learning development will vary from 1800 to 2500 hours. Given that the average developers’ rate in Ukraine is $40, it is easy to calculate a final price of $72,000-$100,000.
Note the above figures are approximate and can vary depending on the complexity of the features, chosen tech stack, developers’ seniority, and team location. If you want to save on development costs and get a high-quality product, consider outsourcing e-learning platform development to Ukraine. This country is known for skilled and reliable IT specialists who can produce a top-notch product at an affordable price.