E-learning development is the leading educational industry right now.
With classes switched to Zoom, students and their professors learn to accept remote learning. It’s a momentous shift for many reasons.
Nobody could foresee how many things could go wrong during an online class – like that time, and students kicked a teacher out of the conference. Another thing we at Syndicode have learned was just how essential technology is for quality education – for schools and corporations alike.
Institutions and companies are only starting to bring the gap between real and virtual education – and not everybody is successful.
More than 75% of students don’t feel satisfied with the quality of their classes. A similar trend is relevant for corporate learning, where employees perceive activities as a waste of productive time.
This is where custom e learning development comes in to save the day.
E-learning, as a term, refers to any use of technology in educational purposes. Zoom, PowerPoints, shared documents, spreadsheets, and video tutorials – all these can be classified as e-learning.
E-learning systems are tools that allow integrating various forms of content (text, video, audio, interactive games) to increase learning efficiency, improve information retention, and provide learners and teachers with statistics.
Such systems are widely used in classrooms and companies to make education accessible to everybody.
Where are e-learning systems used?
E-learning systems can target a particular field or skill set and incorporate functionality that’s adapted to the demands of the discipline.
E-learning development methodologies allow learners to get access to practical education.
For instance, Stanford’s music professor used software that allowed music students to perform together and grade their performance via streaming. At New York University, a drama class was taught using VR. E-learning systems offer remote education for new possibilities.
Tasks that can be solved by eLearning development companies
- Cooperative tasks. When large groups of people need to interact, you need powerful collaboration features that will keep everybody involved.
- Hands-on-deck scenarios. Practical skills and high-precision skills cannot be taught via Zoom or Youtube video. They require a specialized tool where users can improve particular skills.
- Working with international teams. Some companies don’t have an office space that they can use for employee education. An e-learning system is a cost-efficient substitution.
- A high degree of digitization. Employees that work in digital fields would often prefer e-learning over personal interactions in the office.
- Better monitoring capacities. E-learning systems provide teams with insights on their efficiency, programs, curriculums, learned materials. They allow setting up a sustainable system.
Rapid eLearning development systems are also viable in crisis.
Be it a pandemic, power outage in the office, or any other disaster – participants will still have access to their learning materials and progress.
We’ve been taught a lesson – remote practices need to be established in all areas of life, including work and education. The eLearning development business is likely the future.
What is e-learning development: the main steps
If a company or educational institution is considering serious investments into e-learning, which is a booming market in 2020, they need a custom solution.
Tools on the market cannot satisfy the personalized needs of employees and students and deliver the highest quality of education. A process for eLearning development is a long-term investment: you only create the software once and use it for years.
That’s why Syndicode has prepared an eLearning development checklist. It’s going to be insightful and to-the-point – we’ll share the main eLearning development steps.
Step 1: Research
- Define which fields your e-learning system will be covering. This includes the industry that you are operating in and a particular niche.
- Identify the leading learning format. Ask your employees and target audience about their preferred educational forms and conduct marketing research. This will help create an informed eLearning development proposal.
- Research various learning styles. Some people learn best by listening to audio and podcasts. Others need a clear visualization to understand what’s going on. For another category of learners, active interaction is the key to grasping a concept.
Step 2: Define the complexity of the system
All systems can be divided into three elearning development levels.
- The first level – underlying representation of information. You’ve seen this one on Coursera. A lecturer has a presentation and talks over it. It’s the cheapest and most available e-learning format. Such a level works well for humanities, theoretical science lectures, and introductory courses.
- The second level – a basic level of interaction. Such courses include video, tests, animations, grading systems. It’s also frequently used on Coursera and Udemy. Such courses allow users to get feedback in points, participate in community discussions, make notes, and more. It’s excellent for learning STEM, literature, languages, as well as other disciplines.
- The third level – hands-on practice. Such e-learning development services incorporate games, simulations, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and innovations. Students can interact with each other in real-time, compete, get graded, and act in a fully interactive virtual environment. Suitable for complex fields with loads of practical work: surgery, performance arts, manufacturing, engineering, military.
Step 3: Choosing a learning format
Below, we list the most common e-learning formats, which also happen to be our favorite ones. Having an idea of your platform’s structure is essential for creating an eLearning development project plan.
What is elearning content development structure?
Lectures: a user has a video or text lecture. After each lesson, there’s a test and a community discussion (optional and depends on the platform’s complexity). Coursera and Udemy are great examples of such an approach.
Flashcard-based learning system. Users are presented with the list of cards and mnemonics for them. Often systems use space-based continuous repetition – like the one used in Anki software. An excellent example of such a tool is WaniKani – a gaming-based e-learning system for learning Japanese characters and vocabulary.
Classroom-based software. In the systems for universities and corporations, learners have direct access to their professors. Such systems incorporate group classrooms, VR, functionality for passing and checking home assignments, real-time testing, group quizzes, and more.
Gaming scenarios. In the gaming e-learning system, a user faces a situation that needs to be solved to master the lesson’s concept. It’s common for practical fields. FullCode is an application for medical students and residents to solve real emergency cases and diagnose a patient. A user selects an example, written by a professional physician, and starts treating and examining the patient. The end task is to administer the correct treatment and define the accurate diagnosis.
Step 4. Elearning design and development
- Choosing between a hierarchical and modular structure. Define if the components are organized into modular columns or based on their values.
- Create a prototype of the platform with the essential functionality and basic interface. Most teams, including ours, start with a low-fidelity prototype. It’s a simple sketch with a primary interface that can be modified or re-done anytime.
- Test your low-fidelity prototype. You need to check if your target audience responds well to the design. It’s essential to show the design to people who aren’t involved in the project to get an honest third-person perspective.
- Choose neutral styling and keep much space. An e-learning development platform is focused on keeping users’ attention on the content. You need a moderate design that is easy on the eyes and promotes focus.
Before you start the eLearning design and development process, take a look at what competitors are doing, remark on the advantages and disadvantages of their layout.
The best strategy for understanding the e-learning development process and standards are stepping in your users’ shoes and becoming an e-student yourself.
Step 4: E-learning platform development
- Establish architecture. Both mobile and web development offers several approaches for structuring a platform. In an eLearning website development, you can choose between a progressive web application, a multi-page application, or a single-page application. Also, the app can be built as a monolith or a microservice – this will define the development and testing process.
- Determine a tech stack. You need to choose the technologies that you will use to build client- and server-side of the application. For mobile apps, you need to determine if you prefer a natural or hybrid approach to development.
- Determine functional and non-functional requirements. You should define essential land additional features of your product and define criteria by which you will evaluate their quality. For instance, a functional condition for eLearning development sites can be “having a personal profile for every learning with curriculum, statistics, grades,” while a non-functional one would be “to upload materials in the offline more for higher accessibility.”
- Write the code. Developers will start working on essential features first, building their client-side (functionality interface), and server-side (business logic, databases, computing).
- Add APIs and integration. You can integrate existing plug-ins and use hardware characteristics (camera, recorder, microphone) to increase interactivity.
Step 5: Testing
This is the stage where development and testing teams critically analyze and improve the product.
For e-learning platforms, this stage is especially important. The platform needs to be highly usable and fast. Otherwise, users will have much resistance to learning – as if procrastination wasn’t enough.
- Multi-browser and multi-device testing. You need to ensure that your functionality and interface work well on different devices, screen sizes, OSs, and browsers. You can use emulators or native devices to interact with the feature in real-time.
- Stress testing. You need to know how well eLearning development applications handle a high number of users. You need to generate multiple requests simultaneously to check what server load the platform can withstand.
- Adapting to different languages and locations. Be sure to enable the support of different languages and subtitles if you re planning on entering international markets.
- Acceptance testing. This is where the team comes back to functional and non-functional requirements and makes sure that the wend product corresponds to all set expectations.
- User Experience testing. You need to check the system interface, imagining the most likely scenarios of accessing a particular feature. The solution should be intuitive and easy-to-navigate.
Step 6: Releasing the platform
After you run multiple tests on your platform, it’s time to release the product and assure its high performance, intuitive, and compatibility. It’s more than just deploying the solution on the server – you also need to pay attention to promotion and communication.
In this article, we’ll go over eLearning development best practices that Syndicode’s team follows.
- Start promoting before the release. If the software is developed not just for one company or educational institution but is defined to attract users on a large scale, you should start gathering the audience before publishing it. The goal is to have a waiting list of interested users before you go public.
- Make sure you cleaned the tech debt. Nothing is worse than an e-learning platform full of bugs. Make sure your code responds to high-quality standards before you make it public. No extra dependencies, unnecessary complexity, or unreadable fragments.
- Release with scalability in mind. Remember that the first release only the beginning of your growth. Choose server providers that account for your needs in computing and memory storage. Changing a vendor, later on, could be problematic, mainly once you collect users’ data.
When you release a project, you should remember that it’s not the last stop, instead, just the beginning of an e-learning development life cycle. Create a post-release strategy even before you publish the platform – so you are not overwhelmed later on.
Stage 7: Maintenance and working on the next iteration
A release of a platform always leads to the influx of feedback and new ideas. Your system’s users will provide feedback on the platform functionality and interface. YOu will likely find out about more bugs and complexity – this will be enough to get you started working on the next version.
- Document all the feedback. As soon as you released a platform, start collecting suggestions and reviews. It will help you plan functional and non-functional requirements for the next product version.
- Measure the performance and traction for your platforms. Connect the solution to an analytical tool that will track the number of users, an average time spent on the platform bounce rate,s the most popular pages, etc. Tools like Google Analytics will give you a clear idea of your app’s performance.
- Always clean up the tech debt. No e-learning platform is perfect—schedule regular code cleanup sessions to keep your system’s performance at a high level. At Syndicode, we are very focused on delivering clean code, so dealing with tech best early on is always within our focus.
How to estimate e-learning development time?
Level of difficulty: an underlying software takes on average 3-6 months, an intermediate level requires 6-8 months, and an advanced platform takes 8-12 months. Obviously, the precise estimate depends on the following factors.
- Scenario: the more complex is the narrative of the learning software, the longer the development will take;
- Design: the more pages a team needs to create, the longer they will make the prototype. It’s faster to develop small platforms with a single course than sophisticated educational platforms with tens of thousands of pages.
- Animation: dynamic images take a lot more time to design, develop, and compress than static images;
- Interactive tests: each interactive test prolongs the duration of development by several days.
Another factor in determining an e-learning development timeline is learning hours. The fastest to develop are the platforms that cover a single short course – 60-70 hours. The development of a platform will take a lot more time if a platform handles multiple classes with an involved duration of 300-500 learning hours.
E-learning development costs and budget
We already examined the most common steps in software development. Now it’s time to evaluate the e-learning development time estimates and budget calculations for e-learning system development, starting at a basic level – and finishing with the highest interactivity.
1. The cost of a basic e-learning system (no interactivity)
A basic e-learning system predominantly features text and video content. The interactivity is limited to leaving a comment and downloading the learning materials. Users can track their progress and resume where they left off.
- Text and video lectures for every lesson
- A simple layout with columns and blocks;
- Limited or no animation, the page is mainly static.
- Testing is limited to tests on multiple-choice or true-false questions;
- Users can’t customize personal profiles and set up the learning process;
- The statistics are limited.
- Profit: 100-150 dollars is an average platform’s e-learning development cost per hour;
- Expenses: 3000 – 5000 dollars for the platform’s development, design, testing, and deployment.
Elearning development time: 2-3 months
Platforms with the necessary level most often serve companies’ internal needs.
An expert or an enterprise can build such a simple platform to share knowledge with employees, a group of students, or a class. It’s a low-fidelity system that’s fast to develop and easy to use. Here’s an example of elearning personal development – a platform that offers only one course.
2. The cost of eLearning system with Basic level of interactivity
Such a system incorporates interactions with teachers, students, complex text, quizzes, and grading system. The content is available in multiple forms: text, video, podcast. Users can manage their profiles, set up learning schedules, read video transcripts. A second-level platform is focused on community-based learning features.
- Sophisticated design based on users’ needs and personalization: a recommendation engine based on student progress and a personalized curriculum;
- An active community, forums, and real-time chats;
- Animation, graphics, and gamification: users can perform necessary actions and receive points, keep track of their progress, be displayed on the leaderboard;
- Interactive testing: users can do tests of various formats interact with video and images, create flashcards, look up hints, and more;
- Whiteboards: some learning platforms allow creating mindmaps, summaries, notes, and whiteboards based on the lesson;
- Templates and additional content: users can download a checklist, generate a list of personal requirement;
- The use of AI and machine learning: the software uses smart algorithms to offer exercise, track progress, detect cheating, and others.
- 150-200 dollars for an hourly lesson
- Elearning development rates: 5000 – 10 000 dollars
Elearning development time: 5-6 months
Memrise is an example of a second-learning platform. Its interactive functionality universal interface, animation, and fast performance make it a suitable learning tool for any field, from foreign languages and medical terms to quantum physics.
2. The cost of eLearning system with Advanced level of interactivity
Advanced learning platforms allow interacting with an educational game. A user is immersed in settings and can apply practical knowledge in a realistic situation. A student is tested in original conditions – these unusual settings helps to retain the information. Often, advanced learning platforms introduce higher stakes: time constraints, external “danger,” multiplayer competition, hardcore modes, strict grading systems.
- Custom realistic design;
- Use of animation, video, audio, VR, community-based features, multiplayer, real-time streaming;
- High-level use of gamification: the software looks and feels like a game;
- A creative narrative: users are thrown into an education scenario, to complete which they have to demonstrate excellent knowledge of the subject;
- Different levels of difficulty: users can customize the content based on the level of their skill;
- Sophisticated testing: questions don’t offer straightforward answers but encourage users’ creativity and abilities to think on the spot.
Profit: 150-200 dollars for an hourly class
Development budget: 20 000 – 50 000 dollars
Elearning development time: 6-9 months
TinkerCard – an interactive gaming platform for learning design and engineering. Students can build complex 3D projects together with their teachers and classmates.
The platform offers the possibility to work in a class group or create an individual assignment. Each learner has a personal profile with completed projects. The system provides templates, insights, real-time tips, and grading.
What can you do to lower the cost of the product?
Business owners can do many things to make sure that the expenses for e-learning development are reduced. The cost of the project depends not solely on execution but also ideation. If a product owner has a clear vision of product concept, target audience, design, functional requirements, and business objectives, that can significantly lower the final budget estimate.
Here are some other things that you can do to lower the cost of e-learning development:
- collect the list of references and competitors who wok in the same field, highlighting your favorite functionality; providing the development team with design and media content: assets like videos, photos, templates, logic, illustrations simplify the design stage and speed up the development process;
- conceptualizing course structure and curriculum;
- providing samples of questions, tests, lessons, and interaction services;
- researching the market.
The cost of development also depends on the chosen tech stack, architecture, programming languages, and eLearning development frameworks.
A development team should select technologies that fit the needs of the project and strive to optimize the development process.
It’s a crucial e-learning development qualification.
We at Syndicode reduce costs by automating development and testing, using eLearning development templates, integrating ready libraries, APIs, and integrations.
Building an e-learning platform is a sure investment in 2020. Not too many businesses yet picked up on the need to create a sound e-learning system, which makes the niche even more suitable for companies of all sizes.
The market of e-learning is already highly demanded but not yet overcrowded.
It’s possible to build a system that will not only respond to your company’s needs but also can be expended other businesses and fields.
In this article, we examined the complexity of e-learning platforms, walked you through the main stages of the development process, and transparently estimated project costs and revenues.
The rest is up to you – come up with a concept that will be relevant for your industry. You can send an eLearning development request form with our e-learning development team, too – we’ll share our ideas and experience.