How to Develop a Custom eLearning Platform l Functionality, Tech Stack, & Costs
Learning online is facing unprecedented growth.
As of 2020, COVID-19 has shut down schools all over the world, leaving 1.2 billion children without access to traditional education. A few years ago, a situation like this would have seemed dramatic; today, schools and universities have seamlessly switched to online classrooms.
A lot of start-ups are pursuing the idea of custom eLearning development with the intent to make it profitable over a short time.
In this article, we are going to cover the following points:
- business perspectives of custom e-learning development
- main types of custom e-learning solutions
- how custom e-learning platforms work
- strategies to make money with your e-learning solution
- step-by-step e-learning development process
- features for learners and teachers in custom e-learning solutions
- APIs, tech stack, and frameworks used in custom e-learning development
- e-learning development cost breakdown
Let’s dive right into the details to learn how to turn custom eLearning development into a successful business.
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
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 eLearning software:
Internal training software – used 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 training tools – this is the most popular type of e-learning software, as it is designed to be available to a huge number of students. Examples include platforms like online courses, language learning tools, etc.
Let’s now investigate these types of eLearning software with some vivid examples.
- Online education courses
The market of online courses is full of various solutions, with Coursera being one of the most famous.
Online courses are quite popular among students, with 49% of them having taken an online course. The main advantage of these solutions is the ability to study anywhere in the world and attend the classes of the best professionals, even in the rarest specialties.
- Language learning apps
Learning new languages has never been easier. With hundreds of applications on the market, you can easily study any language with native speakers for only a few dollars a month.
Apps like Duolingo can be used to build up a vocabulary, improve grammar, practice speaking, and much more.
- Memory training apps
This is another possible opportunity for custom eLearning development. These applications help train the flexibility of the brain and memory.
With regular training, users can improve their skills, reduce stress, and learn new techniques. Lumosity, offering a number of games for brain and memory training, is a good example.
- Preparation apps
This type of application is a hit among students. They aim to assist users with exam preparation with the help of exercises, training sessions, quizzes, etc. Popular examples include Pocket Aptitude, EduRev, Gradeup, etc.
- Supporting tools
Online dictionaries and libraries are the most popular examples of this type of custom e-learning development. These solutions provide users with interesting and useful information, help them look up new words, etc.
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.
|Solution||Platforms||Purpose||№ of Users||USP & Features|
|Coursera||Web, Android, iOS||Online courses from top professionals and universities||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 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 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 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.
Do you want to learn how much it will cost to create a custom eLearning platform?
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 eLearning Services
The main goal of custom eLearning 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.
- Freemium model
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, app subscription, a certain app or extension download, open free trials, etc.
Before beginning custom eLearning development, consider base your solution on this monetization strategy. Users can pay for monthly, quarterly, yearly, or lifetime subscriptions to get unlimited access to your digital educational product.
This business model is often combined with the previous one. You can earn money by integrating Google Ads into your online platform. You will get money for audience coverage and the number of clicks on ads. You can also provide a subscription that will allow users to block all advertisements.
You can find more information on how to utilize ads inside the official documentation by Google.
- In-app purchases
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: Custom 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. The company successfully sold 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 investing in custom eLearning development and launching a unique online education solution.
Custom E-Learning Platform Development Process
Custom eLearning development can consist of different stages – from market analysis to the app’s release to the market with ongoing support and development.
Let’s take a closer look at each phase of custom e-learning design and development.
1. Analyze the Market & Define Your Niche
A lot of stages precede the actual custom e-learning development, one of them is market analysis to find the right business niche. It is crucial to analyze the situation on the market, identify the best e-learning companies, and understand your main competitors.
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 custom eLearning development. This kind of strategy can be presented in the form of a Business Model Canvas.
This is a one-page summary that covers the high-strategy details of your business start-up.
You should cover nine aspects and list:
- key partner
- key activities
- key resources
- value proposition
- customer relationships
- customer segments
- cost structure
- revenue streams
This way, you will have a detailed business plan that you can stick to in your efforts.
Take a look below at the Business Model Canvas which lists the key stages of the e-learning course development process.
There, you can see the main ideas for your application, which work you should perform before custom eLearning development, and how to organize the business part of your future solution.
2. Compose Your Unique Value Proposition
Creating a unique value proposition is an essential stage for any company involved in custom e-learning development.
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.
Don’t try to clone a famous digital product. Try to devise something unique, something that will help your solution stand out among competitors. The best way to achieve this goal is by identifying users’ pain points and addressing them in your app.
3. Work on the Platform Content
However great your custom e-learning development idea 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.
Decide how you will find partners that will create content for your platform or how you will produce your own content.
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 for custom eLearning development.
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 custom e-learning design and development. All you need to do is narrow down the region to which you will outsource development.
Eastern Europe stands out, with Ukraine being a very attractive outsourcing destination.The average price for custom e-learning 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.
Another advantage of utilizing Ukraine as your custom eLearning 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 a custom e-learning 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. Custom E-Learning Design & Development
Development is a complex process consisting of two major stages: Discovery and Development.
During the Discovery stage, the e-learning 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.
Custom E-Learning Design
How do you design an e-learning app?
Provide a smooth user experience from the first step to the time they finish their first course. Start with a fast and simple onboarding, and continue with a user-friendly and uncluttered interface where users can instantly find anything they need.
When creating a custom e-learning design, 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
Custom eLearning Development
The next step is custom eLearning development itself. This phase can be approached in different ways. Some companies decide to first create an MDP (minimum desirable product).
This definition means the creation of the first version of your digital product with a basic set of features. The main goal of MDP 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 of them.
During the custom e-learning development phase, the top practices of quality assurance should be included. QA engineers will hunt down even the slightest bugs and return them to developers to be fixed. This step is very important to guarantee that users will enjoy a seamless user experience while interacting with your application or website.
6. Market your eLearning Product
Even the best company working on custom eLearning development cannot guarantee that your product will find users.
Here is a short overview of a possible plan for marketing promotion:
- 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 eLearning platform
- Influencer marketing – find leading influencers in your niche, get in touch with them, and negotiate the promotion of your digital product to their audience
- Content marketing - these efforts consist of creating and publishing consistent and valuable content to attract and retain users for your eLearning platform
As you can see, custom eLearning development is a complex process comprising different stages. Finding a reliable custom e-learning design and development company is essential since your technical partner will take on the biggest part of the work that needs to be done.
Do you want to create a custom eLearning platform?
Get in touch with our team to get a free consultation regarding custom e-learning solution development. Our Business Analyst and Software Architect will work on your project requirements to make sure the product fits market needs and is of top-notch quality.
Features for Custom eLearning Platform Development
Successful applications for online learning wow users with a lot of innovative features. During custom e-learning development of the first version of a product, you can implement both basic and more advanced features.
Below you’ll find a list of the most popular features for students and teachers.
Main 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 key features that you should consider for custom eLearning development.
Sign up and sign-in are two basic features that any e-learning solution should have. Implement this feature with user verification via email, phone number, or social media. 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 custom eLearning development 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. Make sure to include learning video courses in your solution and provide users with interesting 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. Thus, learners won’t have any problems finding the needed solutions.
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 will be able to 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.
Students will probably have some questions during the studying process. Help them quickly find answers by integrating a Q&A section. This feature can be implemented to allow both teachers and other users to answer questions.
- 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
This feature is useful for both users and educators. By taking quizzes and tests, users can check how well they know the learned materials and teachers can assess the knowledge of students. These quizzes and tests can be fully automated or require personal checks by teachers.
This is another important 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 gateways 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. 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 participants of a course.
Advanced Functionality for Custom eLearning Development
If you want to go even further with custom eLearning development, 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 constantly improve online sources and add new materials. You can allow users to share their thoughts on each lecture, course, assignment, etc.
Feedback forms will provide you with valuable information about learning materials and will help identify user pain points that you can address in further app versions.
Functionality for Teachers and Course Managers
Before custom e-learning design and development, 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 a bigger 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 content management. Teachers and course managers should be able to create, review, update, and delete courses, lectures, and tasks.
- Library of content
Teachers might use different types of content to help users better remember the material.
This is why during customer eLearning development, 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 dedicated section, where they will view feedback and communicate with students.
Gamification Elements in eLearning Apps
During custom e-learning 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 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. By creating a student’s leadership board, you will motivate users to be actively involved in the educational process.
Vital Considerations for Custom E-Learning Solutions
Depending on the approaches and technologies you choose during custom eLearning development, your solution will either win users over or send them away.
Let’s take a look at the main influential factors of custom e-learning design and development.
- 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.
If after custom eLearning development you decide to only create exclusive content yourself, you will need to spend a lot of time creating course materials, recording videos, composing tasks, etc.
A business model like that of Coursera or Udemy is easier to maintain since you don’t have to create anything yourself and simply collect commission for each sale. However, you need to partner up with famous universities and professors who will upload content to your platform. Coursera and Udemy have hundreds of these kinds of partners, which makes it extremely popular.
- Use of emerging technologies
Students are oversaturated with different eLearning platforms and are looking for something fresh and interesting.
Consider including the use of innovative technologies in your custom eLearning development.
- Augmented reality - enhance the learning experience by adding the ability to visit a museum, some locations or a remote environment, and even other worlds.
- Virtual reality - help students immerse themselves in the learning process by diving right into biological processes, space galaxies, the human body, etc.
- Artificial intelligence - or neural technologies can be applied to create an individual learning plan and pace for students based on how well they learn materials and perform tasks.
Tech Stack to Build a Custom eLearning Platform
Custom eLearning development requires the use of different technologies, programming languages, and tools.
Let’s take a look at the main integrations and the technology stack that your future solutions might need to have.
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.)|
Above is a list of some basic integrations and the tech stack that you might need during custom e-learning development and can vary based on the type of platform, whether you are going to build a mobile app, website, or both.
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 a custom eLearning 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 for custom e-learning design and development 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 custom 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:
|Position||№ of specialists||Purpose|
|iOS developer||1||work on the version of your product for the iOS operating system|
|Android developer||1||work on the platform version for Android|
|Back-end developer||2||work on the back-end and server-side of the client apps (either for mobile or web platforms)|
|QA engineers||2||work to eliminate every bug and report any to developers for fixing|
|Business analyst||1||participate in a project starting from the discovery stage to identify business needs, market potential, project scope, and functionality|
|Project manager||1||supervise custom eLearning development at every stage, controls SDLC, sets up deadlines. PM is a liaison between the client and development team|
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 custom eLearning development, how to calculate an e-learning development timeline, and the main hidden cost drivers.
Final Word on Custom eLearning Platform Development
Custom e-learning development, especially if you build a platform with live courses, can be turned into a lucrative business in the years to come.
According to statistics, the self-paced eLearning market will fall by 6.1% per year to 33.5 billion by 2021. Therefore, you need to make sure that your solution has both self-paced and live courses.
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 custom e-learning design and development, it is necessary to follow the steps below:
- Study the market, identify competition, and set goals.
- Come up with a unique features list.
- Decide on the platforms to which you want to launch your solution.
- Find the proper eLearning developers.
- Create detailed functional specifications with your custom eLearning development team.
- Conduct polls and research within the target audience to validate your idea.
- Design an intuitive and attractive custom e-learning design.
- Develop eLearning platform functionality
- Consider adding a touch of uniqueness with innovative technologies (AR, VR, 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 custom eLearning development?
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 market. Just reach out to our team.