8 min read

How to Build an E-Learning Platform

How to Build an E-Learning Platform

Struggling to manage a growing number of online courses? Feeling limited by generic e-learning platforms that don't truly reflect your brand or meet your students' unique needs? Perhaps you're dreaming of building a robust online academy, but don't know where to start.

If these challenges sound familiar, a custom-built e-learning platform could be the solution you're looking for.

Imagine a platform that hosts your courses and scales effortlessly as your audience expands. Envision a learning environment that reflects your brand's unique identity, engages learners with interactive features, and provides you with the data and tools to measure success.

This is the power of custom e-learning development.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the steps to creating a scalable, high-impact e-learning platform that sets you apart. We'll delve into the benefits, explore your options, and share real-world success stories to inspire your journey. Whether you're an individual with a wealth of knowledge to share, or an enterprise seeking to train teams and delight customers, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to build a thriving online learning ecosystem. 

What is an E-Learning Platform? 

The “E” in e-learning stands for electronic. As the name suggests, an e-learning platform is a digital environment that hosts the information, courses, tools, and multimedia content learners and educators need to engage online. E-learning platforms offer a highly scalable and customizable way to monetize your knowledge, bringing your courses and expertise to a broader audience. 

E-learning can take many forms including discussion forums, interactive apps, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and more. In some cases, e-learning platforms include a synchronous, virtual learning component—where a professor teaches from one location and learners scattered across the globe learn together from wherever they are. Other e-learning platforms offer a completely self-paced experience, where students select what and when they want to learn. 

Benefits of Offering Your Courses Online

E-learning has been around for years, but the 2020s prompted unprecedented growth. Even still, many learners worldwide are hungry for more online course content. According to Statista, the global number of e-learning users is expected to hit 1 billion by 2029. If you’re considering investing in a platform to offer your courses online, understand these top three benefits. 

Flexibility 

Thanks to e-learning, companies and experts can offer their knowledge without the limitations of time and place. Asynchronous digital learning allows you to reach students all over the globe without ever stepping foot on a plane. Whether you’re sharing leadership expertise or have designed a continuing education course specific to a particular profession, e-learning platforms offer unparalleled flexibility to help you distribute that knowledge. 

Replicability

E-learning offers an important advantage for certain topics that require precision. While conventional teaching methods are prone to slight variations every time the information is shared, e-learning can help you deliver an identical experience to each learner. That’s a huge benefit for corporate buyers. They can have confidence, for example, that every new hire receives the same important safety briefing. 

Efficiency 

An e-learning platform can effectively teach a limitless number of students. Depending on the model, e-learning isn’t restricted by classroom space, professor bandwidth, and scheduling like traditional in-person learning. At scale, e-learning also requires less time from you, the expert, and support staff. 

Scalability 

With the right development partner, e-learning platforms are highly scalable. A nimble platform offers a growth-ready foundation. It can accommodate growth, multiple instructors, complex course structures, and advanced features. So, even if you plan to start small with just a few learners, your e-learning platform offers the opportunity to build a full-service learning destination, rooted in your courses. 

How to Build an E-Learning Platform 

Building a high-quality e-learning platform takes time and resources. Many individuals and companies discover that the effort is well worth it. E-learning can increase revenue, improve user experience, or help you reach new audiences. For the highest chances of success, follow these essential steps to build an e-learning platform. 

1. Determine Your Market Position 


Any great digital solution must solve a problem or provide value to a specific set of people. So first, you’ll want to identify the need you want to address. What problem will your e-learning platform aim to solve? 

Lots of great ideas never see the light of day simply because there’s no market to support them. It doesn’t matter that you have expertise in prehistoric insects if there’s no market for that type of learning. Be sure to research your potential customers and understand their wants and needs. This information will help you craft an e-learning solution. 

As part of this definition phase, spend some time understanding the competitive landscape. Ask yourself: Who else is trying to solve the same problem? What’s missing in the current market? The answers to these questions will inform your own market position and plan of action. 

2. Outline Your Platform Approach

At this point in your building process, it’s time to get clear on how you will build your e-learning platform. Think of your business model and development approach as the foundation of your platform. First, determine how your e-learning platform will make money. Some common models in the e-learning space include: 

  • Subscription: Users pay a fee to access all or certain material for a limited time. 
  • License: Users pay to license the e-learning software for a specific number of users. White-labeled e-learning platforms allow users to customize the look and feel of the course with their own branding. 
  • Certificates: Users pay by distinctions and credentials administered through the e-learning platform by completing certain coursework. 
  • Affiliate: Existing users can invite users and earn a commission when new members join. 
  • Course Fee: Users pay by the course for specific bundles of content. Often, access to a course does not expire. 
  • Premium: Users can interact with most content on the platform for free, but must pay an upgrade fee to access premium content. 
  • Custom Corporate: E-learning courses are built or tailored to a specific company, department, or set of users.

The right business model will depend on the nature of the content, the users, and the industry.

You’ll also want to choose a development approach. There are two primary options to choose from when it comes to developing an e-learning platform: 

  • SaaS: an out-of-the-box development solution that allows for limited customization. E-learning content is hosted within a third-party ecosystem. 
  • Custom-Built Software: a digital solution built specifically for one set of users.

Building your e-learning content within an existing LMS (learning management solution) can be faster and easier, but often at the expense of revenue and control. If you want to develop something truly unique, opt for custom software

Learn more: SaaS vs. Custom-Built Business Applications: Choosing the Right Solution for Your Enterprise

3. Decide on Unique Features 

Now that you have a direction, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Take your nebulous e-learning platform idea and begin honing in on the specifics. You don’t have to get as specific as buttons and switches in your e-learning app, but you should outline any key features you want your app or platform to include. 

Many successful e-learning platforms prioritize the following: 

  • Community building 
  • Advanced analytics
  • Curated learning paths 
  • Instruction management
  • Admin panels 
  • Advanced assessments 
  • Credentialing options 
  • Course bundles
  • Built-in payment processing

If there’s anything in particular that your buyers or learners will look for in a platform like yours, this is the time to identify it. You’ll want to have key features underlined and circled, so to speak, before you select a partner to help you make them a reality. 

4. Select a Development Partner

Even if your company has internal development resources, it’s best to partner with a software team experienced in developing e-learning platforms. A dedicated development team can help manage everything from goal definition and project timelines to UX/UI design and software development. Having a team focused on your project has important benefits—like access to the right expertise and an unwavering commitment to seeing your project through to the finish line. 

When selecting a development partner, be sure to seek proof of past success. Check out review sites, like Google, Clutch, or G2 to see what past clients say about their experience. A great firm will have positive reviews and case studies they can point to demonstrating their knowledge and capability. 

You’ll also want to consider communication style, cultural fit, and contracts in the partner search process. Ideally, look for a firm that fits well with your company culture, has a track record of frequent and clear communication, and has procedures in place for your data and software security. 

These are all things we at Designli prioritize. We have extensive experience both building scalable e-learning platforms and integrating with existing systems. From experience, we know that building an e-learning platform is a different beast. That’s why, it’s so important to seek out a development partner with a track record of success, specifically with e-learning platforms. We’ve been there and done that. So, we understand the specific technical challenges and security requirements involved in building a large-scale e-learning solution.

Learn More: Complete Guide to Software Development Outsourcing

5. Test Your Platform with Real Users

Once you’ve created an MVP (minimally viable product) with your development firm, it’s time to seek feedback. Real users can help to validate any assumptions you might have made and reveal areas for improvement. Often, the testing process provides ideas for new and important features. For example, you might discover that employees prefer shorter, bite-sized audio lessons to videos. This sort of information is invaluable—especially before you’ve fully launched your e-learning platform.

6. Make Improvements 

After gathering user insights, work with your development partner to implement the necessary changes. In the best case, user testing might confirm what you’ve already built. That means you can have greater confidence in bringing your e-learning platform to market. In most cases, however, some changes or additions will be warranted. Even after your product is complete, embrace regular feedback and improvement cycles. This will keep your e-learning platform relevant and aligned to user wants and needs. 

Custom E-Learning Platform Examples 

Here at Designli, we’re experienced in developing e-learning platforms. Read more about several of our standout projects in the digital learning space. 

Behind the Knife

Years ago, a group of surgeons started a content library as a resource for aspiring and experienced surgeons. Since then, Behind the Knife has evolved to become like Kahn Academy for surgeons. With podcasts, videos, and other interactive content, the brand is an invaluable resource for surgeons—whether they’re studying for boards or just looking to keep their skills sharp. 

Designli helped the team at Behind the Knife reinvent its mobile experience. Our process guided the team from a SolutionLab focused on iterating the product to UX/UI design and prototype to a new mobile app and admin panel. The result? An elevated user experience and premium brand experience. 

Read more about the Behind the Knife e-learning platform

Virtuosity 

Two educators and leadership experts had an idea—make their knowledge of leader character more accessible and actionable via an e-learning platform. That’s how the Virtuosity mobile app was born. It combines the power of leadership coaching with the user-centered experience of online learning. 

Designli worked with the mother-daughter founder team to develop the idea into a beautifully designed app. The app allows both individuals and organizations to sharpen their leadership character. When in-person retreats and seminars became less attractive during the pandemic, the custom mobile app offered an ideal replacement. The Virtuosity app continues to allow the parent company to deliver software-enabled services at scale. 

Read more about the Virtuosity e-learning platform

Icueity

Founder Rebecca noticed from her work with leaders and C-suite executives that most people have blind spots. Often, the way leaders see themselves and the way their teams see them don’t align. That’s the idea that prompted the creation of Icueity. It empowers continuous, 360-degree feedback to help leaders use the e-learning mobile application to reach their full potential. 

To build Icueity, Designli guided Rebecca through a SolutionLab. This process helped zero in on the core features that would make Icueity feasible and investor-ready. The Designli team developed Icueity as a native iPhone and Android app with an agile approach that allows Rebecca and her team to continue to iterate and respond to user feedback. 

Read more about the Icueity e-learning platform

Launch a Thriving E-Learning Platform: Your Path to Success Starts Here

Investing in a platform for your online courses can future-proof your business, monetize your knowledge, and improve the quality of your work. While traditionally, most people think of e-learning as virtual school, it can be so much more. From interactive apps and employee education to engaging skill-building environments, e-learning has applications across industries. 

Ready to explore your e-learning platform idea? Let’s chat. With broad and deep experience developing e-learning software, we can help you turn your concept into a scalable solution. Schedule a free consultation to get started. 

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