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How to Build E-learning Platform

The e-learning industry is booming. According to Orbis Research, by 2022 this market will reach $ 275 billion ($ 165 billion in 2015). Forbes predicts growth to $ 325 billion in 2025 ($ 107 billion in 2015). This impressive growth is due to several key...

Table of Contents

#1. # 1. Platform type
#2. # 2. Niche and Target Audience
#3. # 3. E-Learning Platform Features
#4. # 4. Efficient UX / UI Design
#5. # 5. Monetization Model
#6. Development Approaches and Costs

The e-learning industry is booming. According to Orbis Research, by 2022 this market will reach $ 275 billion ($ 165 billion in 2015). Forbes predicts growth to $ 325 billion in 2025 ($ 107 billion in 2015). This impressive growth is due to several key benefits that e-learning offers over traditional learning:

  1. Availability. The Internet provides access to online courses from any device (computer, laptop, tablet, phone), so people can learn anything anytime, anywhere.
  2. Profitability. Online training is more cost effective because there is no need for buildings, a large bureaucratic and teaching staff, or other typical overhead costs; everything happens on the internet.
  3. Learning flexibility. E-learning allows you to create personalized courses of any complexity, specialization and for any audience. You no longer need to match everyone indiscriminately. In addition, online courses, unlike studying at schools and universities, are not tied to a specific time and schedule, so people can study at their own pace.
  4. Audience Reach. Online learning is available to anyone with an internet connection. This is 50% of the total population of the Earth.
In addition, anyone can enter this market, the main thing is to offer people high-quality educational content and interest users. This can be done even with a small starting capital. So if you want to create an e-learning platform like Udemy or Coursera, now is the time to do it, while the market is in a phase of rapid growth and there is no saturation of demand.

# 1. Platform type

To create your own e-learning platform, you first need to decide on its type. Depending on the services offered, such sites are conditionally divided into six groups:

MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). They offer many courses from various suppliers: teachers, professors, universities, states, public organizations, etc. This model is most reminiscent of marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, where anyone can sell their product (training course) to anyone who is ready to buy it. Examples of MOOCs are Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Udemy. Many industries also have niche sites.

LMS (Learning Management System). They offer basic functionality for creating courses, storing them, managing training profiles, and compiling reports on academic performance and achievements. According to recent estimates, there are now more than 700 LMS sites on the market, most of which specialize in corporate training. Some of them have advanced features that make it easier to repurpose content for an external audience.

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Open source LMS platforms. Same as regular LMS, but such sites are developed on the basis of open source software. That is, anyone can create their own platform on their basis or adapt one of its courses to their content and needs. Examples: Moodle, Sakai, Sakai, Litmos, Claroline, DotLRN, BrainCert, and Open edX.

MLMS (Modern Learning Management Solutions). They focus on the experience of students using such algorithms for creating online courses and learning management tools that ensure maximum efficiency of this process (in theory). Some modern LMS sites rely on specific pedagogies. Examples: Motivis, Docebo, NovoEd and Totara.

LMS Ecosystem или Learning Management Ecosystems. Such projects strive to use the best "point" solutions in the field of distance learning, combining them into a single ecosystem. Example: University of Notre Dame NeXus platform, powered by Open edX.

Custom Built Learning Platform. Educational platforms, fully adapted to specific solutions (courses, training programs). A good example is Harvard Business School Online (HBX) — a dedicated platform created for Harvard Business School to provide very high-end business certificates.

# 2. Niche and Target Audience

E-learning Platform Niche

Key Trends in E-Learning

Your online learning platform can be either universal (any courses on any topic for any audience) or specialized. Specialization can be in two areas: niche (industry, agriculture, art, teaching, etc.) and target audience (students, businessmen, mothers, pilots, immigrants who speak Spanish, etc.). The narrower the niche and target audience, the easier the promotion, but the less audience coverage.

When starting a new project, it is better to make it specialized. This will increase the effectiveness of start-up investments and provide more tools to increase user engagement. As Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and many other Fortune Global 500 companies have done, starting in a niche and then expanding to a global scale.

  1. Niche specialization is selected based on demand, distance learning opportunities and purchasing power of users (if it is a commercial project). For example, Udacity specializes in business and technology, ExchangeCME in continuing medical education, Oilennium in the oil and gas industry.
  2. Specialization by target audience can make your project even more highly specialized. For example, if the platform is focused on business training, then you can focus on courses for students, teachers or senior management. In addition, there are courses designed to increase the economic literacy of prisoners, immigrants and adolescents.

# 3. E-Learning Platform Features

Platforms of this type should have three user roles: administrator - manages the site and solves problems, instructor (teacher, tutor) - creates courses and manages the learning, student - learns, receives grades and a certificate confirming the course. To make this possible, when creating an online platform, you must implement the following functions:

E-learning Platform Gamification

Gamification. It's about creating a learning system that stimulates dopamine reward systems in the student's brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of pleasure and anticipation of pleasure in learning, gaining new knowledge, achieving goals and many other actions. To achieve maximum learning efficiency (dopamine reaction), you need to build training in the form of a game, as was done in the  Duolingo application. The listed functions are enough for your site to fulfill its main tasks. But if you want to stand out among competitors and get closer to market leaders, you will also need a unique custom offer, which can be implemented using the following functions:

How dopamine reward systems work can be found in the book “Biology of Good and Evil. How science explains our actions” by Robert Sapolsky, how to use it, is described in the book “Willpower. How to develop and strengthen” by Kelly McGonigal.

Artificial Intelligence. In addition to gamification, Duolingo also uses deep neural networks to optimize learning. And they are not the only ones. So, the other day in China was launched a large experiment, that will help to understand how AI can improve teaching and learning. Initially, Chinese AI will test students and offer them learning models in accordance with their current knowledge. Next, scientists want to set AI to develop personalized courses.

VR and AR technologies. Virtual and / or additional reality is the best way to show how mechanisms work, buildings are built, what is inside the human body, etc. In addition, these technologies allow you to create muscle memory, which is very important for many professions - from the military to the medical profession.

# 4. Efficient UX / UI Design

E-learning Platform Example

Example of correct and incorrect website design

The design of the e-learning platform should be simple and contain colors that motivate students to study, keep them focused and not distract for anything (advertising, other courses, pop-ups, etc.). It’s best to hire a specialized agency to develop the design, but if you want to do everything yourself, remember the following things:

Hick’s law: the more options, the more time it takes to make a decision. Good designers remember this, and therefore do not give the user many options for choosing something. When you can’t do without it, the choice comes down to several stages with 5-7 options.

E-learning Platform Hick’s law

Miller’s law: a person can store in memory up to 7 informational entities. Following this law, designers began to group lists into groups of 5-7 units.

E-learning Platform Miller’s law

Gestalе theory: the human brain is inclined to recognize the structure, logic and patterns in what it sees, and seeks to combine many small objects into a large group. This helps to process information, create a visual hierarchy and increases the ability to crawl content. The main features by which the brain groups objects are as follows:

E-learning Platform Gestalе theory:

Voт Restorff Effect / Isolation Effect: if there are several similar objects, it is more likely to remember one that differs from the others. In UX design, this effect is useful to emphasize important information, as well as to encourage users to take a specific action.

E-learning Platform Isolation Effect

Color psychology: people tend to associate colors with certain emotions and actions. So, blue is associated with trust, red - with aggression and importance, green - with harmony and nature, orange - with friendliness and kindness, pink - with sensitivity and hope, purple - with power and superiority. White and black have many meanings, depending on the context.

# 5. Monetization Model

Paid content. You can divide the courses into primary (free) and advanced (paid). In addition, you can create special tools that can only be accessed by making a one-time or monthly installment.

Sales commissions. If your site allows people to sell training courses and other services, then you can take a commission from these transactions. To do this, create the ability to pay for such services on your website by connecting some of the most popular payment gateways.

Advertising and its blocking. You can earn money by promoting web services and / or courses of your site, as well as the possibility of disabling advertising. Refusal of advertising can be done on Duolingo, in the form of a subscription: 10 dollars, and for a month the advertisement will be turned off.

Coupons. Many e-learning platforms allow many instructors, professors, tutors and teachers to promote their courses with special coupons that entitle them to a discount or bonus on their account.

Development Approaches and Costs

E-learning Platform Costs

Coursera Technological Stack:

  1. Programming languages: Scala, Javascript.
  2. Database: Amazon Relational Database Service.
  3. Search engine: Amazon CloudSearch.
  4. Storage: Amazon S3.
  5. Web server: Nginx.
  6. Other.
Udemy Technological Stack:
  1. Programming languages: PHP, Python.
  2. Search engine: Elasticsearch.
  3. Database: MySQL.
  4. Web server: Nginx.

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