Online education and learning are now massively popular more than ever.
E-learning was certainly always a very lucrative industry. The e-learning market reached $165.36 billion in 2014, and was worth $255 billion in 2017.
Now it is estimated that the e-learning market will account for $325 billion by 2025.
Such forecasts show that the online learning industry is extremely favored by investors, innovative startups, and a huge target audience.
It’s not only e-learning startups that are building e-learning platforms, many offline businesses, including educational institutions, are considering building our online platforms as well.
But how to create an e-learning website and be exceptional? What business model should you choose and what features should you implement?
These questions are always among the most important for entrepreneurs. In this article, we’ll look into all of them.
State of the Online Learning Market
The online learning market is already experiencing a new flow of inexperienced and new types of users – students and teachers. With the pandemic hitting education hard, schools, universities, and colleges are moving online. And it’s a whole new world for offline educational institutions.
Nevertheless, the e-learning industry will only benefit from this new wave of online students. From the example of the 2008 global financial crisis where private tutoring grew by 7% between 2009 and 2010, it is clear that the coronavirus crisis is likely to affect the e-learning industry in a positive way. So, this is the most perfect time to create an e-learning website and help as many tutors and students as we can.
Benefits of Building an E-Learning Website
According to BizEd, over 80% of educators believe e-learning can upgrade student performance and learning outcomes.
With e-learning students or those who want to upgrade their skills can save a bunch of time not driving to their course location. Instead, they can take a lesson from the comfort of their home or any anywhere else in the world.
Usually, online courses are more affordable, since there are no costs wasted on administration. Plus, a user can find courses that suit their budget, with no geographical limitations.
According to Entrepreneur, around 90% of students go for e-learning rather than offline learning. It was also estimated that 70% are willing to move e-learning if given access to live online classes. Furthermore, 63% of students would pick live classes over recorded lectures for their exam preparation.
Moreover, it’s not only students who prefer online education. Employees who want to improve their skills also are going online. In the USA, 77% of companies offer online courses to help educate their employees. 81% of employees take online courses for personal development.
In addition, an e-learning platform can provide its users access to lesson recordings. Thus access to an audience that avoids offline education because of their unstable schedules.
Business Models of E-Learning Websites
Basically, there are 3 main business models for e-learning websites:
Learning Management System (LMS)
The learning management system is a software application for the administration of educational courses as part of remote learning. The first LMS appeared in the 1990s and initially was used by universities and colleges. However, now LMSs are used both by corporations for training their employees and by higher education institutions.
The LMS market is expected to grow to $22.4 billion by 2023. One of the key drivers for the LMS market is the adoption of digital education.
How does an LMS work?
LMS platforms offer an online learning platform for students or employees to access recorded lectures, resources, and have live discussions.
Online Course Platform
An online course platform is an online learning platform that offers video courses from experts in different areas.
How does the online platform work?
Users choose online courses by checking out demo videos and reading reviews. Then users get lifelong access to videos and online assessments. Usually, this type of e-learning sites provide certificates after course completion.
These types of online learning platforms are growing at an enormous rate, take Udemy or Coursera, for example. In March-April, one Udemy course surged 231% in popularity, and another 146%.
But perhaps the most impressive story of online course platform growth is Lynda.com. In 2013, this platform raised $103M in funding. In 2015 it was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. This platform is now known as LinkedIn Learning.
Online Learning Marketplace
An online learning marketplace is a mediator between educators and learners that connects both sides on one platform. Such marketplaces allow users to browse and book one-on-one or group video lessons with tutors.
How does an online learning marketplace work?
A potential student enters a keyword into a search bar. Then a student chooses a teacher based on reviews, ratings, and the teacher’s profile description. If necessary, a user can contact a tutor with additional questions. Usually, online learning marketplaces offer one-on-one live classes via a video call.
An e-learning platform can either be managed or a freelance online learning marketplace.
The teams of managed marketplaces play a bigger role in managing all the platform’s activities, such as
- the verification process
- adding or deleting users or teachers
- approving or disapproving classes.
Plus, unlike freelance platforms, managed marketplaces tend to hire in-house experts to teach on their e-learning websites.
Q&A Student Marketplaces
There is also a subtype of an online learning marketplace called an online tutor marketplace, or Q&A student marketplace. This is a type of online learning marketplace where students or pupils can ask a question on a subject and get an answer from a teacher.
How does an online tutor marketplace work?
Basically, a user chooses a subject, asks a question, and provides any necessary details. There are also some fields that a user is required to fill in, like when the user would like to receive an answer.
Then, a user chooses a type of teacher they would like to answer the question. Obviously, the price varies depending on the type of tutor: high school, college, masters, or Ph.D. The prices are set hourly.
Moreover, a user needs to estimate the number of hours a tutor is likely to spend on an answer. After posting a question, a user gets tutor bids. Then a user chooses a teacher most suitable to answer the question and pays.
10 Core Features for Every Online Learning Platform
In fact, the process we call registration implies features including:
- the registration itself
- sign in
- password recovery.
The registration process should be quick and simple. It’s not a feature that users like to spend time on. A complicated registration process might increase the user’s leakage. Despite this, it is still highly recommended to introduce a double opt-in registration and ask users for an email confirmation.
As mentioned above, to keep users on the platform, the process of creating an account has to be very simple. And authentication makes the registration process as easy as it gets.
Just allow your users to register by using Google, Facebook, or even Apple.
Note: If your online learning platform offers tutoring lessons to minor children, within the registration process it’s advisable to ask for:
- zip code
- grade level
This is done to avoid any gaps in who is paying. And overall, to take extra precautions.
The sign-in feature should have a simple form with an email address and password. In addition, your online learning platform can offer sign in through social networks.
In case a user has forgotten their password, send your user an email with a recovery password link.
Warning: The real concern for your platform should be restricting access to different user roles: users, tutors, and admins. To restrict access to different user types, our company usually implements a policy system that authorizes access to parts of a project.
2) User Profile
The user profile doesn’t have to be complicated nortoo detailed. It needs to contain the general information that was extracted from the registration process.
Tip: Don’t force users to register right away. Usually, the registration process comes before sending a request to the tutor.
For tutors: the tutor registration involves more steps:
- 1 step is to include basic information.
- 2 step is to describe their educational background. Additionally, the subjects that they are going to teach. Plus, a few words about their experience and expertise to attract more users.
- 3 step is ID verification. Firstly, a tutor uploads photos of the ID document. Secondly, states the country. Thirdly, indicates a type of their ID document, and the document number.
Tutors and users should always be able to update their profile information.
Users should be able to search either by keyword or by subject.
Some online learning marketplaces, like Wyzant or Preply, try to find the best tutor right away by suggesting the user take a questionnaire. A questionnaire can include questions like the following:
- Time zone
- Level of user’s education
- Availability for lessons
- The urgency of the lesson
- Teacher’s title
- Teacher’s short description
The search page should also contain filters and a sorting system, but this is not always the case.
The users should be able to filter teachers by:
- Hourly rates
- Tutor age
- Student’s level
- Upcoming dates
- Price range
The search page should also show the number of teachers chosen according to user preferences.
Basically, a user should have the ability to sort by:
- Best match
- Lowest/highest price
- Event time
Surely, not every type of online learning platform has to have a booking feature. This feature is more typical for online learning marketplaces for booking lessons with teachers.
After a user books a lesson with the teacher, the teacher receives an email with the user’s request and additional information. Typically a teacher confirms the class and the student receives an email with payment instructions. After processing the payment, the student receives a link for the upcoming class.
5) Tutor Page
A tutor page is actually a page that converts users into clients and convinces them to book a lesson with a teacher.
A tutor page should always have a tutor’s photo, name, the subjects a tutor gives lessons on, rating, and hourly rate. That’s the primary information that is going to make the initial impression. And obviously, the page should have a ‘contact a tutor’ button.
After scrolling through the tutor page, a user should be able to find the information on:
- The number of hours the tutor has spent teaching on the platform
- The tutor’s education
- Cancellation history
- Examples of the tutor’s expertise (answers on user subject questions)
If a tutor has a lot of reviews you can add a review search by tags or keywords.
After a teacher has accepted an invitation for a video lesson, the user sends the payment. As soon as the payment is received, the scheduled lesson appears on the user’s dashboard.
Regarding sending funds to the tutors, different educational platforms use different approaches. For example, with Wyzant, payments are carried out twice a month. However, with Skooli, the platform pays tutors only after they earn $100.
7) Video Call
Besides messaging, there is another very important way of communication between users and teachers. That is video communication. If you are planning to create an e-learning website, your marketplace should have a video feature introduced either by Zoom or Twilio.
File sharing, lesson recording, and screen sharing should be available for both sides during a video call.
The dashboard is designed both for users’ and tutors’ convenience. It helps to track the students’ progress and view the number of lessons taken. The dashboard enables tutors to view booked lessons, withdraw funds they have earned and access video lessons.
9) Feedback and Rating
Feedback and ratings are, in fact, what makes your platform look trustworthy. So it is worth including ratings and feedback sections on a tutor page, on your home page, and some even include reviews on the payment page.
10) Admin Panel
Every online learning platform should have an admin panel. No matter whether it is a local or a global marketplace. Features like adding, editing, or deleting your marketplace users and tutors should be accessible to any admin. In addition, an admin should be able to add, edit, delete, approve, and reject classes.
Additional Features for E-learning Websites
Gamification is becoming a hot trend in a lot of industries, including e-learning. Elements of gamification can be added to the e-learning platform to boost users’ motivation to learn.
There are a few ways to introduce game elements into your platform:
- Points: for showing how well a student knows a certain topic you can give users levels or scores.
- Bonuses: you can introduce points that can be given after each finished lesson or task. These points can then be exchanged for a free lesson or a subscription upgrade.
- Leaderboard: allow users to view each other’s scores to give learning a competitive edge. To top it off, create a list of the top 10 users in a specific learning category. This way, users can view their friends’ scores and compete for first place.
Note: Typically, gamification elements are used in mobile applications or on language platforms like Duolingo and NaNoWriMo.
When you decide to create an e-learning website and would like to make it possible to use, you have to consider the localization of the platform. It is likely that not everyone from your target audience speaks the same language. Thus, creating a website for tutoring with a multilingual approach can be your one-way ticket to a broader audience.
A Q&A session is a live stream of users’ questions and answers, sometimes accompanied by platform admins.
AQ&A is another great way to get users’ feedback or see if there are any troubles that users are having with your platform. In addition, users can share their concerns and chat with other people. Udemy uses Q&A sessions for boosting discussions and developing forums. This is done by notifying and inviting users to an upcoming stream, where they can get intel about certain courses, and learn whether they were useful or not.
How to Monetize E-Learning Websites
The subscription monetization model is typically used by online course platforms like Udemy or Coursera. Users buy either a monthly or yearly subscription to get access to courses they like.
One of the examples of an online course platform is SkillShare. SkillShare offers a monthly subscription with a 14-week trial – $15 and a yearly plan – $8.25/month.
Not only online courses use this monetization model. Even though CheggTutors is an online learning platform, it still charges subscription fees. There are 3 subscription plans on CheggTutors.Two of them are used to get an expert opinion via chat, and the third plan is for video calls.
Examples: SkillShare, CheggTutors, Scooli.
The freemium model is a monetization model where users can access certain features for free. But after upgrading their plan to a premium subscription, users can have access to a broader set of features.
Coursera, for example, has free and premium plans on its online course platform. Premium allows users to get a certificate after finishing the course or have their assignments checked and graded.
Examples: Coursera, Udemy, Edmodo.
Paid Courses and Lessons
This model implies users paying for lessons hourly or by the minute.
Each teacher specifies their hourly rate. There are no risks involved whatsoever. For gaining trust and marketing your platform, you can always offer a free lesson to newcomers. Preply, for instance, pays for the first lesson in case a user is not satisfied.
Examples: Coursera, Udemy, Preply, Wyzant, TutourHub.
The commission model is a revenue model where a service provider is charged a fee with every payment transaction. Usually, the commission model is applicable to online learning marketplaces where a tutor pays a fee for every service they provide.
Examples: Teachers Pay Teachers, Udemy, SkillWise.
4 Ways to Create an E-Learning Website
If you’re planning to create an e-learning website, there are actually 4 ways to do it:
Custom development is software development from scratch. A custom development solution is great for long-term projects.
Pros and Cons of Custom Development
Building an e-learning website from scratch enables you to create literally whatever you want with any features you can imagine. This is an especially alluring advantage for innovative products.
For coping with high loads of users, you need to have a steady and reliable e-learning software, so it won’t crash at the first opportunity. Custom e-learning software development will give you the reassurance you need.
It usually takes up to 3-4 months to launch an MVP for an online learning platform. If time is very sensitive to your e-learning business then perhaps custom development is not an ideal solution for you right now.
I’m not going to lie… custom development is the most expensive option to create an e-learning website. However, in return, you’ll get exactly the software you’ve imagined.
Software as a Service, also called SaaS, is a service subscription in which subscribers are provided with an off-the-shelf software application that is fully supported by the provider. Companies that offer SaaS solutions operate by a subscription model on an annual or monthly basis.
Pros and Cons of SaaS
Pro: No technical background needed
SaaS would be one of your best solutions if you have little or no technical background. You’ll only need to pay monthly to keep using the service.
In case you have any questions or difficulties, you’ll have a SaaS support team to contact for assistance. But the speed and quality of this support will depend on your subscription plan and the SaaS provider itself. With a premium plan, some providers give their users the benefit of getting a response within 2 hours.
Con: Lack of customization abilities
SaaS solutions don’t actually give you much room for customization. You’ll be able to set some basic UI and UX, however, changing things to the way you would like might not be possible with SaaS. Thus, SaaS is a good choice for some products that follow a simple pattern of features. However, it is not a great choice if you want to show a unique value proposition for your innovative project.
White-label is a product or service that is owned by a provider which you buy, rebrand, and use as your platform. However, without getting the intellectual rights to the codebase of the platform.
Pros and Cons of White-label
When opting for a white-label solution, you can get a custom-like solution. Plus, save 80% cost of developing from scratch.
Time can be of the essence to certain businesses. E-learning is becoming more and more widespread, and the number of competitors grows every day.
If you want to jump on the last bandwagon quickly, then a white-label solution will get you to your final destination in just a few weeks, instead of months.
When using a white-label solution you are able to scale your online learning platform. This means that you can add any necessary features to your online learning platform, customize it, or change the already existing features.
Despite paying a much lower price compared to custom development, you still get a high-quality white-label solution. It might sound ridiculous that a company would want to sell a high-quality piece of work at a low price. However, it’s more profitable for the company, since it would be reselling the white-label solution over and over again.
Con: Dependance on tech support
When choosing a white-label solution, you kind of depend on the tech support of the company that sells you the solution. You can surely hire other developers to support a product, but it would be much better to choose a trustworthy provider from the very start.
Con: Little choice on the market
There aren’t many white-label solutions on the market. However, there are tons of custom development companies ready to help you, and several SaaS solutions.
It is also possible that the white-label solution doesn’t have all the required features for a certain type of platform. However, you can add the necessary features, either with the help of the white-label provider, or your own hired developer.
A Content Management System, also known as a CMS, is software that is used to provide and organize a process for creating, editing, and managing content.
CMS gives full control over the codebase, custom UI, and business logic.
Pros and Cons of a CMS
Pro: Pre-developed design and features
With a CMS, you can choose whatever theme you like, apply it to an already existing functionality, and you are good to go. Obviously, the functionality won’t be as custom to your kind of business as you would like it to be.
Pro: Few tech skills required
Like with SaaS, a CMS does not require your team members to be technically equipped with coding knowledge. They can update the software by simply pushing a few buttons.
Con: Customization limitations
With a vision of how you want your online learning platform to look, you may be very disappointed by the limitations of the customization. Unless you want to hire a UI/UX designer to build the way you want.
Con: Functional scalability issues
What happens when you try to add a few more features to the software?
Your CMS crashes.
The CMS is not as flexible as custom software would be, for instance. Thus, it’s more difficult to add or change the system’s functionality.
To wrap up, the e-learning market has never been better. It is predicted that the e-learning market will reach $325 billion by 2025.
With the current situation, more students and teachers are shifting online. That’s why entrepreneurs are seeing a very lucrative time to get in this industry with its online platform. For starting an e-learning business you need to know:
- the most commonly used features
- the monetization models.
In addition, choosing how to create an e-learning website of your own is one of the top decisions to make.
With such a wide variety of tools to choose from, it can easily become easily confusing for decision-makers. Needless to say, the number of hours and the amount of money that is going to be spent on research, and implementation is significant.