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learning platform is like a “bridge” between learner and instructor. You may ask why. Well, an eLearning platform helps to overcome geographical boundaries, time constraints, and learning barriers. 

But how to create a truly effective platform that gives learners a seamless experience, reminiscent of traditional education? How to build a solution that cuts down the time spent on creating, managing, and analyzing the learning process, while also automating routine tasks for instructors?

Let's figure it out together! In this article, we’ll cover all the popular questions about how to build own online learning platform: key features, main steps, how much it costs, and why you may need to develop it.

What is eLearning Platform?

The eLearning platform is a software solution with the opportunity to create and manage educational content, conduct webinars and lessons, work with students’ assignments, collect statistics, and perform other tasks related to the educational process.

The capabilities of popular online learning platforms vary depending on the tasks at hand. For example, online creators may prioritize features like the ability to sell online training courses and set up automated sales funnels. 

At the same time, corporate training platforms must excel in managing deadlines and tracking the effectiveness of remote learning programs.

Why Build Your Own eLearning Platform?

It’s worth starting with the fact that a company looking for a digital learning solution can go two ways. The first is to use ready-made online learning platforms available on the market. The second is to develop an individual solution for your needs.

💡You can find a full comparison of these 2 options here: Custom LMS vs. SaaS LMS Customization: Guide for Decision Makers

On the one hand, the first way may seem easy and economical, because the company receives a ready-made learning management system from an external vendor and no responsibility for its maintenance and upgrades. Developing a custom solution, on the other hand, is a more reasonable decision for large companies in the long term since it has several advantages. Let's name them.

Why Build Your Own eLearning Platform?

#1. Customization for all of your needs

Package and cloud eLearning platforms can provide rich and flexible functionality for organizing online learning. However, no third-party platform can take into account all the features and unique needs of each business. This can only be achieved through individual development of the system from scratch. 

💡Highlight: The platform owner can change its interface and functionality with virtually no restrictions.

#2. Scalability

Ready-made software can be a convenient solution here and now, especially when it comes to relatively small projects. However, as the scale of online learning grows, the use of ready-made learning management systems can be accompanied by technical and organizational difficulties in a large organization.

💡Highlight: In other words, it can lead to additional costs, because suppliers often seek to monetize the scalability of their services in one way or another.

#3. Cost efficiency

There is an opinion that the implementation of ready-made software from a vendor requires much less time and money than creating an individual solution from scratch. However, in modern realities, this stereotype should be forgotten. Some no-code platforms, like Bubble, can help you create your MVP and test your hypothesis, without spending all the money in the world.

💡Highlight: The implementation of ready-made eLearning platforms on the scale of a large business can require even several years and investments of thousands of dollars. 

Moreover, it may be accompanied by a painful process of staff adaptation. All this time and money can be successfully invested in creating a new solution.

#4. Independence

By opting for a pre-built solution, a business inevitably becomes somewhat reliant on the solutions and technologies provided by another company — the software vendor. In the long term, this can make the company vulnerable and significantly limit its development vector.

💡Highlight: At the same time, a business with its own platform remains self-sufficient in any situation; it doesn’t need to take into account the technological and financial decisions of the software provider, and pay for a license or subscription fee.

#5. Cybersecurity

Personnel training processes often require working with sensitive data that relates to the company's internal processes. And not every business is ready to entrust this data to external online learning platforms or cloud services. Creating a custom online educational platform gives the company the opportunity to ensure data security as it deems necessary. 

💡Highlight: Individual development generally minimizes the risks of cyberattacks and reduces typical vulnerabilities that hackers most frequently use.

As practice shows, all the advantages of an eLearning platform are best revealed with custom development. Such a platform can be built with your own IT team, or in cooperation with an experienced external developer.

What Are the Essential Features of an eLearning Platform?

Let’s start with the essential features that every reliable learning platform should have.

Basic eLearning Platform Features

Basic eLearning Platform Features
  • Online Course Creation & Management. A successful e learning platform should provide extensive content management capabilities, allowing you to easily create, organize, and administer online courses. This includes supporting all possible content types, structuring online course content, defining access rights, and effectively managing learner enrollment.
  • Learner Management. Effective learner management is critical to assessing learning outcomes and delivering a personalized learning experience. It is important to create an online learning platform that allows you to manage online courses and learner profiles, monitor their activity, and generate detailed reports on individual and group performance.
  • Assessment. Assessments are the foundation for determining learning outcomes. A good eLearning website allows you to conduct online assessments, collect online assessment results through automated reports, and offer constructive feedback to learners.
  • Progress Tracking and Reporting. Comprehensive performance tracking and reporting features provide valuable insights into learner performance and overall engagement. Thus, you will need to develop an eLearning platform that offers detailed analytics, including online course completion rates, grades, and student activity.
  • Mobile Accessibility. In today’s world, mobile-first is a must. The same goes for remote learning software. At a minimum, educational software should feature a fully responsive interface for various devices. Ideally, you should also develop dedicated mobile apps for students and instructors.
  • Collaboration and Communication. If you want to create a collaborative learning environment, you need an eLearning platform that prioritizes communication and interaction between students and teachers. Here such features as discussion forums, built-in messenger, and video conferencing can be very convenient.
  • Integration Capabilities. To optimize the learning system, it is necessary to consider the integration capabilities of the platform. When developing, it is important to consider all the necessary integrations with existing HR software, e-commerce platforms, and other learning tools. This helps ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the learning process.
  • Data Security and Privacy. Protecting student & business data and ensuring the privacy of information is of utmost significance. It is important to adhere to security best practices, using standard security protocols and following relevant data protection rules, even at the early stages of solution design.
  • Customization and Branding. A reliable eLearning platform should provide various customization options (from fonts and colors to domain, themes, and menus).

Advanced eLearning Platform Features

If you want to create a truly unique learning experience for all participants, you also need to consider the following advanced features.

Advanced eLearning Platform Features
  • Personalized Learning Paths;
  • Gamification Elements;
  • Skills & Certification Tracking;
  • E-commerce Functionality (to sell online courses);
  • Dynamic Rules;
  • Multilingual interface;
  • Social Learning Features;
  • Mobile Application;
  • Certifications;
  • E-signature.
💡You may also be interested in: Must-Have LMS Features For Diverse Learning Styles

Steps to Building Your eLearning Platform

Developing an eLearning platform is a strategic undertaking that requires thoughtful planning, skillful technical implementation, and user-centric design. So, let's go over the key steps and considerations for creating your own solution, and estimate the associated costs.

Step 1: Define the goals, features, and audience

The first significant step is to identify the key goals, must-have features, and target users for your educational system. You need to find the answers to the following questions: :

  • What are the key learning objectives you want your solution to support? For example, employee compliance training, higher online education courses, customer product training, continuing education, etc.
  • What functionality is needed to achieve these goals? Evaluate required features such as online courses, quizzes, discussion forums, grading systems, gamification, mobile access, and more.
  • Who is the primary audience, and what are their technical capabilities? Understanding learner demographics and digital literacy is critical.
  • What volumes of users, courses, and content do you need to support now and in the future as you scale?  Plan your growth in advance.
  • How will the LMS integrate with existing organizational systems?  Consider integration with your HR software, student information systems, payment gateways, or content repositories.
  • What level of customization do you need? How deep will you integrate your branding to align with your organizational culture?  If you decide to share access with other stakeholders, you might want to consider options like  white-label platform.
💡Note: Defining these requirements will inform technical architecture and platform decisions going forward. Spend time early identifying specific use cases and priorities.

Step 2: Develop the architecture and basic platform prototype

During this step, you need to define the role model for system participants' behavior. You have the flexibility to choose the number of participants, but a typical setup includes five main user roles:

  • administrators,
  • managers,
  • teachers,
  • assistants (teachers without course editing rights),
  • and students.

It's crucial to outline how these users will interact with each other and the content, as this will shape the list of essential features.

You also need to consider the communication methods between all participants. This might involve developing features such as

  • forums,
  • file exchange within courses,
  • Q&A boards,
  • and real-time chat.

These components are vital for fostering collaboration and engagement among users.

It's also essential to specify the software components to be developed, interactions with third-party systems, functional characteristics, databases used, and more in your system design. 

This design is usually documented in a Design Specification Document (DSD). To simplify the visualization of the design process, you can use various notations such as flowcharts, ER diagrams, UML diagrams, and mockups (e.g., a Figma prototype of the platform).

💡Note:  These visual tools help to clearly define the system's features and interactions. Moreover, it ensures a coherent and comprehensive architecture for the eLearning platform. 

Step 3: eLearning platform development

After the requirements and design of the eLearning website are approved, the next stage of the life cycle — the development process. Here, programmers begin writing the program code according to the previously defined requirements.

DevOps specialists set up the software environment, front-end programmers develop the user interface of the program and the logic of its interaction with the server.

This stage consists of 4 main processes:

1) Developing algorithms — creating the logic of the program;

2) Writing the source code;

3) Compilation — conversion to machine code;

4) Unit testing and debugging.

💡Note: To ensure the best results, you can follow these best practices: writing unit tests to check the correct operation of each system component, conducting a code review, creating builds, and deploying software in the local environment.

Step 4: Test your solution

It is important that your eLearning website is bug-free and functions properly - nothing should interfere with the user's interaction with the platform. Therefore, it is integral to pay enough attention to testing.

💡Note: Testing each piece of functionality across all devices, scouring for errors in the code, and ensuring new features don't disrupt existing ones is a best practice to guarantee a product launch with minimal bugs.

This way, you can ensure that the product is released with a minimum number of bugs.

Step 5: Implement and maintain

When your eLearning platform has been tested and there are no serious defects left, it’s time to release it and hand it over to end users.

Following the platform's release, the technical support department springs into action, offering user feedback, consultations, and assistance.

It's essential to establish comprehensive user and technical support workflows. For instance, if users encounter any post-release bugs, you must relay this information to the development team via error reports. Depending on the severity, engineers either deploy an immediate fix (referred to as a hotfix) or defer it to the next program version.

💡Note: Furthermore, the technical support team aids in gathering and organizing various metrics, providing insights into the program's performance under real-world conditions.

Stage 6: Craft documentation

In addition to design documentation and development records, you need to describe some other types of documents, for example, the functions of the program and how to use it.

There are 3 levels of documentation that we recommend crafting during this stage for your eLearning platform:

  • Architectural (design) – for example, a design specification. These are documents that describe the models, methodologies, and development tools selected for developing the online learning platform.
  • Technical – all documentation that accompanies the development. This includes various documents that explain how the system works at the level of individual modules. As a rule, it is written in the form of comments to the source code, which are subsequently structured as HTML documents.
  • User – includes reference and explanatory materials necessary for the end user to work with the system. This is, for example, Readme and Userguide, a help section for the program.

How much does it cost to build an online learning platform?

The average cost of custom eLearning website development varies across regions. In Europe, including CIS countries, experienced specialists typically charge between $80 to $100 per hour. For instance, in the UK, top developers may command rates ranging from $150 to $200, considered acceptable for online learning projects. Similarly, Australia falls within this price range. On average, working with European developers totals between $15,000 to $25,000.

In the United States, developers' rates are notably higher, with a minimum of $50 per hour and reaching up to $250 to $300 for top-tier expertise. In contrast, developers in India offer a maximum hourly rate of $80.

Complexity Time Required for Development Approximate Price
Basic 4–6 months $50K–$75K
Advanced 8–13 months $100K–$165K
Fully Customized 14–25 months $175K–$320K

Final Thoughts 

Developing your own eLearning platform can be enticing due to the customization, scalability, independence, and robust cybersecurity it offers. However, it's essential to acknowledge the downsides. Building a custom eLearning solution is often time-consuming and demands significant financial and human resources.

Thus, deciding to develop a platform requires careful consideration of numerous factors. Furthermore, many online education platforms are available today that can meet most of your needs and requirements. One such option is the EducateMe platform.

EducateMe stands out as an excellent LMS, catering to various corporate training needs, including employee onboarding, upskilling, extended enterprise, and customer training.

Try it for free before you start your development process! I assure you, you won't regret it 😎

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