How to Create E-Learning Website l Functionality, Tech Stack, & Costs
Online learning is facing unprecedented growth.
COVID-19 has shut down schools worldwide, leaving 1.2 billion children without access to traditional education and learning process. A few years ago, a situation like this would have seemed dramatic; today, schools and universities have seamlessly switched to online classrooms.
A few years ago, a situation like this would have seemed dramatic; today, schools and universities have seamlessly switched to online classrooms with the assistance of online learning platforms via mobile devices.
Online learning platforms the third most popular app category on the App Store, right after games and business applications. In addition, the online education market is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025.
Thus, many thought of building e-learning websites with the intent to make them profitable over a short time.
Interested in how to make an online learning website to win over the market?
In this article, we shed light on the topic and cover the following points:
- Business perspectives of custom eLearning websites
- Main types of e-learning websites
- How online learning and online education works
- Strategies to make money with your e-learning website
- Step-by-step process to create educational website
- Key features for students and teachers in online learning platforms
- APIs, tech stack, and frameworks used in learning management systems
- E-learning development cost breakdown
Let’s dive right into the details to learn how to turn custom software development for a successful learning platform.
Market Potential for for Building an E-Learning Website
E-learning market size accounts for over 200,000 apps for education on the App Store, meaning the situation is quite challenging.
Nonetheless, there is much room for new solutions, growth, and innovations. Next, we look at what the market offers with online learning platforms.
Examples & Types of E-Learning Platforms
If you are interested in customer eLearning development but aren’t sure how to start, take a look at the main solution types.
In general, there are two key divisions of educational platforms for internal and external purposes:
Internal online training software – offers free courses inside a business or organization for internal training purposes. These solutions can be used for onboarding, employee training, etc. Just imagine - between 2001 and 2017, the popularity of corporate e-learning development grew by 900%!
External app and web-based training platforms – these platforms are designed to be available to many students. Examples include platforms like online courses, language learning tools, etc.
Let’s now investigate this software with some vivid examples for mobile learning.
1. Online education courses
The market is full of various solutions, with Coursera being one of the most famous.
Online learning platform like Coursera is quite popular among students, with 49% taking an online course. The main advantage of e-learning solutions is the ability to study anywhere in the world and attend the classes of the best professionals, even in the rarest specialties.
2. Language learning apps
Learning new languages has never been more accessible. With hundreds of applications on the market, you can easily study any language with native speakers for only a few dollars a month via computer assisted instruction.
Apps like Duolingo can be used to build up a vocabulary, improve grammar, practice speaking, and much more.
3. Memory training apps
This is another possible opportunity for educational platform development. These e-learning apps and web-based training platforms help form the brain's and memory's flexibility, improve skills, reduce stress, and learn new techniques.
Lumosity, offers many games for brain and memory training, is a good example.
4. Preparation apps
This application is a hit among students aimed at assisting them during exam preparation with the help of exercises, training sessions, quizzes, etc.
Popular examples include Pocket Aptitude, EduRev, Gradeup, etc.
5. Supporting tools
Online dictionaries and libraries are the most popular examples of this type of online learning platform. These solutions provide users with exciting and valuable information, help them look up new words, etc.
Below you’ll find a table with the best e-learning website from each of the above categories so that you can evaluate their popularity and check out their unique selling points.
|Solution||Platforms||Purpose||№ of Users||USP & Features|
|Coursera||Web, Android, iOS||Online courses from top universities and educational institutions||47 million||Courses from top professionals and universities
On-demand video and audio lectures
Online quizzes and task assessment
Integrated payment system
|KhanAcademy||Web, Android, iOS||Online courses for school students||100 million subscribers||Short video lessons on math, history, and other school subjects
|TED||Web, Android, iOS||Online talks from top professionals||1.5 million views a day||Talks in 100+ languages
Recommendations and playlists
Podcasts and books
|Open University||Web||Online university for distance learning||1.8 million students||5,000+ tutors
Open Learn – provides free online video tutorials and courses
YouTube and iTunes channels
Open Research Online – student research publication directory
|Duolingo||Web, Android, iOS||Learning languages app||300 million active users||36 languages
7 billion exercises completed monthly
Language video lessons and tests
LinkedIn certificate of completion
Mobile applications for different platforms
|Wolfram Alpha||Web, Android, iOS, Windows phone||Computational knowledge engine||690,000 visits per day||Huge database of different data
Ability to ask a question and get automatically computed answers
Online calculation formulas
|Lumosity||Web, Android, iOS||Online platform of games to improve memory, attention, speed of processing, and problem-solving abilities||75 million users||Daily exercises in the form of games
All games are made by over 100 researchers and scientists
Automatic evaluation of cognitive abilities
|Brainscape||Web, Android, iOS||Flashcard app||Millions||Game based on cognitive science
Ready-to-use and customizable flashcards
Over 14 spheres of knowledge
|GradeUp||Web, Android||Preparation platform for 100+ exams||10 million installs on Google Play||Support for 100+ exams
Live online courses
Unlimited questions and quizzes
|Oxford Dictionary||Web, Android, iOS||Historical dictionary of the English language by Oxford University||Text||Word semantics
Multi-language translation feature
Word use examples
|Cambridge Dictionary||Web, Android, iOS||Dictionary of the English language by Cambridge University||198.73 million monthly visitors||Word meanings
Word use examples
Custom eLearning development is a very promising area today wherein education and innovation are weaving their paths. With billions of potential users, you can turn this sort of application or website into a profitable business while providing value to users from all over the world.
Want to learn how much it will cost to build an e-learning website?
Get in touch with our team to get an initial estimation of your future solution and a detailed project timeline. Receive professional feedback from both business and technical perspectives.
Monetization Strategy for App and Web-Based Training Platforms
The main goal of online learning platform development is to launch a successful solution that will turn into a profitable business.
Of course, you need to choose the right monetization strategy to reach your business goals.
This model allows users to access some part of the provided functionality for free. To get full functionality access, for example, you can ask for a payment for each additional lesson, monthly or yearly subscription, a certain app or extension download, open free trials, etc.
Before beginning your new courses with core features, consider basing your solution on this monetization strategy. Users can pay monthly, quarterly, yearly, or lifetime subscriptions to get unlimited access to your online course platform.
You can earn money by integrating Google Ads into your online platform or e-learning website. You will get money for audience coverage and the number of clicks on ads. You can also provide a subscription allowing users to block all advertisements.
You can find more information on how to utilize ads inside the official documentation by Google.
Another possible approach is the integration of in-app purchases, where you can provide users with the following options:
- Personal consultations with mentors
- Buying courses
- Purchasing additional materials
- LinkedIn badges
Extra info: Building an online education business takes time and monetary resources.
For instance, let’s take a look at Coursera. In 2018, the annual revenue of this platform was estimated at $140 million dollars, reached in under six years.
The platform started as a free online education platform and changed business models to certificate-based payments.
Coursera’s annual revenue was estimated at $1 million dollars by selling over 25,000 verified certificates to 4.7 million users. Five months later, the platform reached $4 million in revenue.
It’s possible to repeat the success of Coursera by building an online learning platform and launching a unique online course platform.
How to Create an Online Learning Platform from Scratch
Development of an online course platform can consist of many phases – from market analysis to the app’s release with ongoing support and development.
Let’s take a closer look at each stage of creating an e-learning website or an app.
1. Analyze the Market & Define Your Niche
A lot of stages precede the actual e learning website creation, one of them is market analysis to find the right business niche and target audience. It is crucial to analyze the situation on the market, identify the best companies, and understand your main competitors.
You can use a solution such as that of Edsurge, an online directory with customer reviews, to identify the leading players.
Based on the collected data, you need to document your strategy for educational content and user friendly learning experience.
This kind of strategy can be presented in the form of a Business Model Canvas - a one-page summary that covers the high-strategy details of your start-up and its business models.
See below the canvas with a business model, which lists the key stages of setting up online learning platform. Here, you can see the main ideas for your application, which work you should perform before building an online education business, and how to organize the business part of the product.
2. Compose Your Unique Value Proposition
Creating a unique value proposition is essential for any business.
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. The best way is to identify target audience and users’ pain points and address them in your online learning platform.
3. Work on the E-Learning Platform Content & Online Courses
However great your educational website development idea is, it won’t be successful without unique and valuable content for the online course.
For example, the flagship features of Coursera and Edx are paid courses from world-famous universities like Harvard, Cambridge, Berkeley, MIT, and other flagship educational institutions.
So, decide how you will find partners that will create content for your online learning platform or how you will produce your own text and video content.
4. Find a Professional Software Development Vendor
Now, it’s time to move to the next stage – finding a reliable IT vendor for creating an elearning website.
Fortunately, the variety of companies available for this is diverse. On one hand, this creates the freedom of choice and, on the other hand, you might get lost.
There are a lot of locations to which you can outsource software development. But, in this regard, Eastern Europe stands out, with Ukraine being a very attractive outsourcing destination to create an e-learning project.
The average price for building online learning application 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.
Another advantage of utilizing Ukraine as your e-learning platform development outsourcing region is the great time zone. While your developers sleep, you can set new tasks and get results at the beginning of the next day. There is enough overlap so that you have enough time for direct communication and collaboration on your project.
When you are looking for an e-learning website 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
During initial project discussions, ask all the questions that you want to get a better picture of the company and to make the right choice.
Intrigued to know how to make the right choice among e-learning vendors?
Check our article How to Hire a Development Team to discover the main steps in finding a reliable technical partner and how to avoid costly mistakes.
5. eLearning Website Development & Design
Custom mobile app development is a complex process consisting of two major stages: Discovery and Development.
During the Discovery stage, the vendor will concentrate on finalization of your business idea, its analysis, as well as the preparation of complete functional specification, product backlog, as well as UX/UI design research and creation.
eLearning Website Design
When creating an e-learning website, 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 environment and 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
Custom eLearning Platforms
How do you create an eLearning web conferencing software?
The next step is custom eLearning development itself. This phase can be approached in different ways. Some companies decide to first create an MVP (minimum viable product).
This definition means creating of the first version of your digital product with essential features. The main goal of MVP is to test and verify your idea, with advanced features added in later stages of development.
You also need to decide how many platforms you will target in the first stage - iOS, Android, web, or all.
During the development phase, the top quality assurance practices should be included. QA engineers will hunt down even the slightest bugs and return them to developers to be fixed.
6. Market your Own E-Learning Platform
Even the best company working on building an alearning platform cannot guarantee that your product will find users.
Here is a short overview of a possible plan for promoting online platforms:
- Paid ads – create and launch Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other ads at the time you launch your application on the market
- SMM – social marketing is a very effective way to connect with potential and current customers, which directly influences customer retention
- Partners – if you don’t create courses yourself, you can ask your partners to promote their courses along with your platform
- Influencer marketing – find leading influencers in your niche, get in touch with them, and negotiate the promotion of your learning platform to their audience
- Content marketing - these efforts consist of creating and publishing consistent and valuable content to attract and retain users for your online course
Do you want to create an online learning platform from scratch?
Get in touch with our dedicated dev team to get a free consultation regarding custom software development. Our Business Analyst and Software Architect will work on your project requirements to make sure the product fits target audience's needs and is of top-notch quality.
Features for Custom eLearning Platform Development
Functionality for the end-user should allow controlling the app, its appearance, and set up personal preferences. When you create your own e-learning website for the first version of a product, you can implement must-have features.
Below you’ll find a list of the most popular features for students and teachers.
Core Features for the Learner
Functionality for the end-user should provide them with an ability to control the app, its appearance, and set up personal preferences.
Let’s investigate the essential features that you should consider for an e-learning website creation.
Sign-up and sign-in are two primary features that any e-learning solution should have. Implement this feature via email, phone number, or social media user verification. The option to register with Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc, is the most user-friendly and the fastest.
Allow users to create a profile in your eLearning platform. You should implement features such as the ability to configure personal data, change the information provided during registration, set up notification settings, personal learning schedules, etc.
- Learning materials
The main goal of any online course creation is to provide users with access to educational materials. Make sure you know how to create this content or have an idea of who will be interested in working with your platform.
- Video courses and lectures
The best way to educate someone about something is to combine audio and video materials. Ensure to include learning video courses in your solution and give users exciting lectures.
Interested in knowing more about video streaming functionality?
Our team has prepared a detailed guide - How to Create a Video Streaming Website: 10-Step Guide with Business & Technical Parts. Check it out to learn how to start a streaming service like Netflix and turn it into a successful business.
A robust search system is the best way for users to find the needed materials. Create a library with all of the available courses and lectures. You can group them by industries, topics, the authors who created them, and other filtering options.
You can include the recommended options to increase the number of course sales.
- Additional resources and links
If students should need access to additional resources, provide them with links to access them. Even if you need to include a link to an external resource for users to get a fuller picture of a topic, provide links to them.
By creating user groups, you will allow content managers to distribute educational materials among users. On the other hand, users can communicate with other students in their groups, collaborate on tasks, help each other, and just have fun discussing your courses.
- Chats and feedback forms
This functionality is a must-have if you want to provide teacher-student, teacher-class, or student-student communication. Integrate chats for instant messaging exchange and video conferencing for live webinars and lectures.
- Assignments and tasks
Homework is an integral part of online education, therefore it’s important to include a dedicated section where users can find their assignments and tasks. You also need to include the ability to submit assignments for review or set up an automatic assessment system.
- Quizzes and tests
By taking quizzes and tests, users can check how well they know the learned materials, and teachers can assess students' knowledge. These quizzes and tests can be fully automated or require personal checks by teachers.
This is another essential feature, especially if students are enrolled in a course with set deadlines. A calendar will provide them with all the important dates, remind them about the need to submit assignments, and even book individual consultations with teachers.
Add the ability to pay for courses and lectures right inside your application. Make sure to integrate the most popular payment systems at your location, like credit cards, PayPal, Payoneer, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.
- Push notifications
Consider this feature a must-have if you want your application to have a high level of user engagement. You can add different logic to push notifications and use them to remind users about planned live lectures, pending assignments, deadlines, etc.
- Report and progress tracking
Automated reports allow users to track their productivity and progress inside the learning management system. You can show these reports and tracking results inside a user’s profile in the form of charts, and send the data to users via email. You can also provide them with a comparison of their productivity among other course participants.
Advanced Functionality for e-Learning Website Development
If you want to go even further with creating an e-learning platform, you can include a few extra features.
- Offline mode
If you want to create a mobile application, include the ability to use it and take courses offline. This functionality can be implemented by allowing users to download educational materials for further offline use.
- Social aspects
Allow users to communicate with each other. You can use the Disqus solution to create a community to discuss your courses and share knowledge.
Another possible solution is to integrate social media and allow users to share their progress with friends on their social media pages.
- Built-in feedback forms
One of the best ways to ensure high user engagement and retention is to improve online sources and add new materials constantly. You can allow users to share their thoughts on each lecture, course, assignment, etc.
Feedback forms will provide valuable information about learning materials and help identify user pain points you can address in further app versions.
Functionality for Teachers and Course Managers
Before you create an e-learning website and app, you need to think through all the possible features designed for teachers and course managers.
If you decide to create a platform where teachers will be able to add their own courses, you won’t be able to go without this feature. Provide different solutions for sign up and sign in, including user verification with Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
This is where teachers should be able to change data used during registration, update personal information, and set up personal in-app preferences, etc.
- Giving assignments
This feature is a part of more extensive functionality for course management. The main goal of this feature is to help teachers send out assignments in bulk and view which students have submitted tasks for review.
- Assessment tools
In the event of live courses with personal assessments by teachers, they should have an easy-to-use dashboard that allows them to view submitted tasks and assess them. This feature can be combined with another one that will allow teachers to comment on tasks.
- Marking tools
These tools can be used to highlight areas in tasks where users may have made some mistakes. This tool is very useful for tasks that are submitted in text form.
- CRUD courses and their content
This is the key functionality of the content management system. Teachers and course managers should be able to create, review, update, and delete courses, lectures, and tasks in the learning management system.
- Library of content
Teachers might use different types of content to help users better remember the material. So, once you decide to create your own eLearning platform, you need to make sure that your solution supports all types of content, including text files, PDFs, audio, and video files.
Content should be organized into a library with a robust filtering system to help teachers easily find the needed content. These libraries should store both basic content and supplemental content that students might need.
- Feedback forms and communication tools
Communication is a very important aspect of the educational process. Don’t forget about this factor during custom e-learning development. Provide teachers with a management system, where they will view feedback and communicate with students.
Gamification Elements for Online Learning Platforms
When you create a new educational project, you might also need to include elements to motivate students.
The main goal of gamification in an online e-learning platform 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 custom eLearning development.
- In-app currency
The ability to get in-app currency and exchange it for additional lectures, course materials, or use it to buy courses is the best motivator. You can create your own currency and devise the logic behind its work.
- Experience and levels
As students proceed through courses, you can assign different titles and knowledge levels to them.
- Achievements badges
These badges can be given for certain achievements, like 14 days of uninterrupted learning, timely submission of all tasks throughout the course, etc.
- Motivation sounds
When a user achieves some milestone, you can congratulate them on the achievement with the help of fanfares, a supportive mascot, and other cheering sounds.
Competition is the best motivation. This feature is especially useful for group online courses and learning management system. By creating a student’s leadership board, you will motivate users to be actively involved in the educational process.
Tech Stack to Build an eLearning Website
Let’s look at the main integrations and the technology stack to create your own e-learning website.
Let’s look at the main integrations and the technology stack to create your own e learning platform.
Firebase Cloud Messaging
Apple Push Notifications Service (APN)
Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM)
|Content management||Google Docs
|Technology stack (app development)|
|Programming languages||Java, Kotlin||Swift, Objective-C|
|Toolkit||Android Studio, Android Developer Tools||Apple Xcode|
|SDK||Android SDK||iOS SDK, Cocoa Touch|
|Technology stack (web front-end development)|
|Markup languages||HTML5, CSS3|
|Technology stack (web back-end development)|
|Programming languages||Ruby (recommended), Elixir, Python, PHP, Java, etc.|
|Web frameworks||Ruby on Rails (recommended), Phoenix|
|Database servers||PostgreSQL (preferred), MySQL|
|Web servers||Nginx (preferred), Apache|
|Cloud server platforms||Amazon Web Services (AWS, EC2, S3, etc.)|
E-Learning Development Costs & 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 an e-learning platform development 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 of development of e-learning depends on the following aspects that you should decide on:
- Design complexity
- Number of platforms
- Number of features
- Functionality and its complexity
- Type of IT vendor, the location you choose
The cost of eLearning websites also depends on the team set that you need to create the first version of your online learning platform.
Interested in knowing how we calculate app development costs?
Check out the article App Development Cost: Understand Your Budget To Build Powerful Apps. You will learn about factors influencing e-learning platform development, how to calculate a timeline, and the main hidden cost drivers.
Final Word on Developing Educational Websites
Creating an e-learning website, especially if you build a platform with live courses, can be turned into a lucrative business in the years to come.
Coronavirus has impacted almost 98.5 percent of the world’s current student population – around 1.6 billion children and young people. All of these students need to have a way to continue with their education regardless of the situation.
To start with course creation with core features, it is necessary to follow the steps below:
- Study the market, identify competition, and set goals
- Come up with a unique features list for your online educational platform
- Decide on the platforms to which you want to launch your solution
- Find the proper e-learning developers
- Create detailed functional specifications with your development team
- Conduct polls and research within the target audience to validate your idea
- Design an intuitive and attractive custom e-learning platform design
- Develop e-learning platform functionality
- Consider adding a touch of uniqueness with innovative technologies (AR, VR - virtual learning, Artificial Intelligence)
- Launch your solution on the market, analyze user behavior, and plan for further improvements
The eLearning industry is prone to innovation and change. Make sure to always analyze the market, come up with new features for your custom e-learning solution, and ensure ongoing custom e-learning development and support.
Do you want to know the cost and timeline for developing a project in digital education?
Get a project estimation with an approximate budget for custom e-learning design and development. We have experience in developing digital products for the eLearning industry. Just reach out to our team.