Companies are increasingly aware of how important it is to keep their workforce up to date with the most innovative tools, best practices, and methodologies. To make training more accessible, they often opt for tailormade e-learning platforms that can be used by employees from wherever and whichever device. The e-learning market is booming — according to Statista, it’s going to exceed $243 billion in 2022.
Are you considering building an e-learning platform for your business? You’re in the right place. In this article, we zoom in on the process of building an e-learning platform to show you how to create a solution that matches the unique needs of your company.
But first, here’s a recap of the key advantages businesses get when they decide to build their own e-learning solution.
Benefits of custom e-learning platforms
- Tracking employee performance and scores — an e-learning solution can feature a powerful analytics engine that allows employers to understand the progress of their teams in particular areas. A custom solution can be easily integrated with a company’s existing performance management systems.
- Cost-effectiveness — instead of organizing costly offline courses with trainers or paying subscription fees for using off-the-shelf solutions, companies can invest just once and create a targeted e-learning solution for employees. Custom software brings higher ROI in the long term.
- Centralized learning resources — e-learning solutions come with databases where you can safely store all of the information about courses, training programs, and even student data. Finding learning materials is easier than ever, thanks to search engines and filtering features.
How to build an e-learning platform for your business
1. Start with audience research
For any software development project to be successful, you need to have a clear idea about its target audience — the needs, preferences, pain points, and goals of the people who will be using the solution.
First, consider your business goals:
- How will training your employees help your business?
- In which areas training could bring the best ROI?
- What are the skill gaps in your workforce?
- Do you lack skills for launching a new project? Or do you need to educate your workforce about your current processes, workflows, and procedures?
Next, think about the employees who will be using your solution:
- Who is your target audience?
- Are your learners tech-savvy or might need simpler navigation?
- Will you be training people with different levels of experience and knowledge, or dedicate your tool just to beginners?
- Do your learners prefer using mobile devices for learning purposes?
- What are the learning formats your target audience prefers?
To get answers to those questions, conduct interviews with all of the relevant stakeholders and a representative sample of learners.
2. Define your monetization strategy for external users
If your target audience isn’t internal users, such as employees or partners, you’ll need to make sure that your solution can realize various monetization options. It’s best to make this decision before developing the site architecture and designing your solution’s features.
Here are the most common monetization models in e-learning:
- Subscription — this is the most popular option where you charge customers a fee on a regular basis, sometimes covering a specific amount of content under various levels of subscription.
- Advertising — when starting a course, learners will share some of their personal data with you. Such a well-targeted audience offers another great monetization opportunity: advertising.
- Sponsorships — depending on your course offer, you can provide sponsorship opportunities for companies and sell them an accurate and perfectly targeted audience.
3. Identify the key features of your platform
E-learning courses are meant to provide students with opportunities for expanding their knowledge and gaining new skills. To help them achieve this, your solution needs to include all of the necessary features.
Here are the must-have features of an e-learning platform:
- Separate dashboards for learners and instructors — A learner dashboard is an absolute must for your solution. This is where users can choose courses and access learning materials. If your e-learning solution makes use of live classes delivered via videoconferencing or engages instructors in any other way, you need to provide them with a dashboard as well.
- Authentication — e-learning systems store the personal data of students, as well as their performance scores. That’s why it’s essential that you include a battle-tested authentication method in your solution — you can even choose more than one!
- Search engine and filtering system — these features help users find the courses and learning materials they need.
- Payment systems — if you’re looking to build an e-learning solution for external users, it’s a good idea to include a payment gateway (for example, if you offer the option of purchasing extra materials). When building a custom solution, a development team can use various already existing third-party integrations to accomplish that.
- Course pages — every course needs to have its homepage where you include all of the course details, materials, and schedule.
- Admin panel and course adding page — these two features offer access to platform settings and course optimization options.
- Video and chat systems — depending on the needs of your users, you can add video conferencing features, as well as live chat or a forum to increase the collaboration between course participants and facilitate their communication with instructors.
- Ability to schedule appointments with instructors — preferably with the option to add a meeting into an integrated calendar.
- A system supporting multiple languages and currencies — again, this feature will come in handy to companies looking to launch e-learning platforms for external users and wish to expand it across various regions in the world.
4. Create a prototype
Once you have a clear grasp of your idea and strategy, it’s time to visualize it by means of UX/UI design. At this stage, the UX/UI designer will carry out research among the target audience of your solution and sketch the initial user flows to build wireframes.
When the product layout is mapped out, designers can create a high-fidelity, clickable prototype. This is where you can start testing your prototype on real users to identify and address any design flaws before creating the final product. Your prototype might need to go through several rounds of testing before the design is ready.
5. Develop your solution
Finally, it’s time to build your solution! What happens at this stage largely depends on who you hire to create your e-learning platform.
You can choose from three different options:
- Building an in-house development team — this variant gives you a lot of control over the work on your solution and access to a practically unlimited number of corrections. However, this option is the most expensive one, since you’ll be paying not only for the salaries of the software developers but also their perks, benefits, vacations, sick leaves, etc.
- Hiring a freelance software developer — the main advantage of this variant is the price. But a single freelancer might not have enough experience and skills to help you build an impeccable e-learning solution. Moreover, you’ll have to closely supervise the work of the developer to ensure timely delivery.
- Outsourcing development to a software development company — this option offers the best balance between quality and cost. It’s far more flexible than building an in-house development team and more secure than hiring a freelancer. Moreover, a software development company has the experience in building apps and all kinds of talents on board to facilitate the process: from project managers and business analysts to UX/UI designers and Quality Assurance specialists. You could even team up with a software house with experience in building e-learning systems!
Bonus: How to control the costs of e-learning development
The price of building an e-learning platform will vary greatly depending on the number and complexity of its features, as well as on who you hire for the job (and where).
However, you can gain more control over your spendings if you start out by building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). At the MVP stage, your platform will include only the most basic functions that are key to delivering the kind of learning experience you want.
The idea here is to use the MVP to examine the customer journey, essential platform features, and the purchase funnel. By testing your solution with initial users, you will learn what works and what doesn’t work before investing a lot of resources to developing the full version of your platform.
That’s why adding user analytics to your final solution is so important. That way, you’ll be able to grow your platform in accordance with user needs.
The full version of your platform needs a well-developed content delivery system too. With time, your platform might support course presentation materials, videos, online events and webinars, ratings and reviews, and many other options.
Building an e-learning platform for your business is a complex project. But the value e-learning brings to organizations makes every investment worth it. If you’d like to build an amazing e-learning product or create an internal learning tool for your employees, it’s best to team up with a technology partner who has experience in this area of software development.
At UNL Solutions, we have supported clients from various industries in crafting their custom e-learning platforms. We know what it takes to build e-learning software that delivers a great experience to learners and brings tangible results. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and benefit from our experience in this exciting field.