The fundamentals of e-learning app development

A step-by-step guide to creating an e-learning app – including the required features and monetisation strategies

Technologies bring various experiences to users – especially in the education industry. And education technology is increasingly big business, with the e-learning market, for example, expected to exceed US$243 billion by 2022.

As the e-learning field grows in popularity, companies will increasingly choose to invest in educational solutions, so there’s no better time than now for you to understand the building blocks of e-learning app development.

You can find the fundamentals – like must-have features, application types, and monetisation strategies in this useful guide.

e-learning app

Types of e-learning apps

Before starting the development process, you need to decide what kind of website you’d like to create. It’s common to divide educational platforms by learning method and target audience. But of course, these categories also have sub-types. 

Apps by learning methods

This allows students to choose their most preferred means of education. For instance, there are interactive platforms with games, video lessons, and more. Also, some services provide group education if learners want to study with their friends or make new pals.

  • Computer-managed learning (CML) and computer-assisted instruction (CAI):
    CML means using computers to manage and access learning. Such systems have databases that include the materials students need for their studies. As for CAI, this method uses software in combination with traditional teaching, including multimedia like video, graphics and text to improve the learning process.
  • Synchronous online learning and asynchronous online learning: 
    synchronous online learning allows a group of learners to study together even if they live in different countries. Real-time education tends to include video calls and online chats, commonly making use of platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. On the other hand, asynchronous learning stands for individual education at different times and locations, after which learners convene on their achievements and results. This education style leads to more flexibility and the chance to create a comfortable, personalised timetable.
  • Fixed and adaptive e-learning:
    fixed education means that the platform doesn’t offer individualised learning paths to students – all studying resources are prepared beforehand. As you can tell from the name, adaptive e-learning adapts and redesigns materials depending on the users’ preferences. 
  • Interactive online learning:
    interactive online education provides two-way communication between students and tutors, so it’s easy to make changes to the learning plans and teaching methods.
e-learning app

Apps by target audience

Of course, it’s also possible to classify educational websites by the demographic they have been designed to serve. The most popular types are:

  • College/university students (e.g. Coursera, Udemy)
  • Kids and tutors (e.g. Poptropia, Fish School)
  • Language learners and teachers (e.g. DuoLingo, Memrise)
  • Specialists in a specific field (e.g. DataCamp, Codecademy)

App development steps to consider

To create a successful e-learning app, you need to follow several key steps. To help you kick-start the process, I’ve listed the details below:

Step #1: validate your idea

It’s best to ensure that your idea is unique and in-demand before starting the development process. You can begin by analysing your competitors’ solutions. Have a read of their product reviews to find out what features users expect and need. 

For this process, you can perform a SWOT analysis:

  • S for Strengths (strong sides of your tech solution)
  • W for Weaknesses (lacking elements of your application)
  • O for Opportunities (possible ways you could improve your project)
  • T for Threats (external threats that may negatively impact your idea)

Step #2: consider your target audience

It’s crucial that you clearly define your target audience. Pay attention to their age, income level, hobbies, lifestyle, and other key factors that could feed into their tech usage habits. 

To determine your target audience, you should seek answers to the following questions:

  • What are the goals of your e-learning application?
  • What are the learners’ needs and pains?
  • What features can solve their problems?
  • How can you monetise your solution?

Step #3: create an attractive UI/UX design

Your e-learning solution should be attractive and user-friendly. It’s also crucial you consider your target audience when creating a UI/UX design. For example, if you develop an education app for kids, you should add more animations and bright colours. Adults, however, prefer more straightforward, user-friendly solutions. 

Throughout this process, it’s better to cooperate with an experienced and qualified design team with up-to-date industry knowledge.

Step #4: create a list of required features

Features can be divided into two groups — MVP and advanced. 

MVP stands for a minimum viable product, which simply translates to: the basic version of your solution with only ‘must-have’ features. 

An MVP can be used as almost a ‘soft’ launch of your app. After releasing this version, you can get users’ feedback and add more advanced features. Additionally, investors are more likely to trust in solutions that already have a market presence. 

To help you out, here’s a list of some must-have characteristics of e-learning apps, which tend to have three user roles — student, tutor and admin. As a result, you need to divide features depending on the user role.

User role Features
  • Signup and login
  • Course catalogue and search bar
  • User profile 
  • Course page
  • Payments
  • Signup and login
  • Student management
  • Test management
  • Course management
  • Payment management
  • Progress dashboard
  • Student management
  • Tutor management
  • Reviews

To make the management more comfortable, you can create an LMS, or learning management system, which supports the creation, sharing and management of various training courses.

Here, you can add several advanced features to make your solution more unique and exciting for users, including:

  • Gamification
  • AI-powered recommendations
  • Push notifications

Step #5: choose the monetisation model

To make the e-learning app profitable, you need to consider your monetisation strategy. There are three widely used approaches to examine for your application:

  • Freemium: your solution may offer free and premium features – like DuoLingo and Memrise. To use premium features, users have to subscribe. For this, you can provide a monthly or annual subscription plan. For instance, you could offer premium features like offline access, unlimited lesson time, and more. 
  • Advertisements: ads remain the most widespread monetisation model. It allows customers to use your e-learning app for free, but they have to watch a short ad before each lesson. For example, DuoLingo provides free access to the course, but users must view the ads before they can participate.
  • Paid ads: the idea is simple – to download the app from the App Store or Play Market, customers have to pay. However, this often means losing out on users. It’s better to add a free trial period so users can experience the advantages of your solution before committing to the purchase.

How much does it cost to develop an e-learning app?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to calculate the final price of your solution. Every app is unique, so you need to consult with the development team to get a more concrete figure. 

However, several factors can completely change the e-learning app development cost:

  • Platform: there are three widespread platforms for software development — Web, Android and iOS. If you want to create Android and iOS applications at once, you need to double the price since they require various programming languages. 
  • Design: creating a user-friendly and attractive design tends to take a lot of time and money. But the design is the crucial factor for your app’s success since users prefer intuitive tech solutions. To create a UI/UX design, designers need at least 120 hours for one platform — iOS and Android. 
  • Development team: developers from different regions will have different hourly rates. Software engineers from North America have the highest rates, while their colleagues from Asia have the lowest. You must bear in mind the quality of the final product. The developers’ rates also vary depending on their qualifications; there are three qualification levels — junior, middle and senior, and junior software engineers will have the lowest rates.

Average hourly rates by specialist and region:

North America Australia Western Europe Eastern Europe  Asia  South America
Front-end developers US$130–150 US$100–110 US$61–80 US$50–60 US$35–55 US$45–80
Back-end developers US$130–150 US$100–110 US$61–80 US$50–60 US$35–55 US$45–80
iOS developers US$130–250 US$80–150 US$120–175 US$50–80 US$30–75 US$80–120
Android developers US$150–170 US$110 US$120–175 US$45–75 US$30–75 US$80–120
UI/UX designers US$50–150 US$50–150 US$50–100 US$25–50 US$20–49 US$50–150
QA engineers US$150 US$50–150 US$50–99 US$25–50 US$20–49 US$50–99
DevOps engineers US$100–149 US$100–149 US$100–149 US$25–49 US$25 US$50–99
  • Testing: to ensure your e-learning app works properly and follows all your requirements, you need to rigorously test the solution. Quality assurance engineers test your app to find bugs during the development process. Software engineers can then fix bugs to ensure a user-friendly experience.

The bottom line

As you can see, e-learning app development can be a time-consuming and complicated process. You should consider every aspect before starting the development.

It’s a good idea to hire a qualified development team – especially if you don’t have experience in the field. Two popular cooperation options here are to hire in-house personnel, or outsource to a software development company.

The first option tends to be more expensive since there are a bunch of additional expenses like hardware, software, office rent, and more. When hiring an outsourcing company, on the other hand, you can choose the region, which can change the price significantly. Clutch and GoodFirms offer reviews for various outsourcing companies to help you can pick the right one for you.

And that’s it – a step-by-step guide to e-learning app development. Wishing you the best of luck as you enter the exciting edtech space.

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