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How to Build an Online Learning Platform: Features, Website Development Process, Costs

Since 2000, the e-learning market growth rate has been 900%. Such a number shows how big the online learning industry has become and its lucrative startup opportunity. As you clicked on this article, you probably want to create your own e-learning platform too.

2020 has been the year most of us embraced self-education, which has spiked the interest in custom e-learning website development even more. And though it may seem easy to some, successfully building such a site requires thorough preparation.

If you’re wondering how to build an online learning platform, this article is just for you. Keep on reading to find out about the market, features, the development process, and more.

E-learning platforms market overview

The online learning market size is set to exceed $375 billion by 2026. According to Global Market Insights, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 8% between 2020 and 2026.


The first reason for the industry’s growth is the increased use of e-learning by individuals and organizations in various sectors: education, corporate, healthcare, government, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has spiked the demand for online learning even more, driving increased profits to the market.

For example, this statistic shows a share of UK residents using e-learning. As you can see, nearly half of all respondents in the age range of 16-24 years are using online learning materials. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of respondents between 25 and 34 years attend digital courses.

When it comes to corporate training, the benefits of e-learning are immense. Check out these two statistics:

  • Online learning requires 40-60% less employee time than traditional education.
  • For every dollar spent on e-learning, businesses make back $30 worth in productivity.

Quite impressive, isn’t it? That’s why the corporate e-learning market segment has been one of the fastest-growing and most promising to those planning to create a learning platform.

As for geographical segmentation, North America and Europe account for over 70% of the global online learning market. The fastest-growing region is the Asia Pacific, with an expected e-learning annual revenue growth rate of around 20%.

Online learning trends

  • The demand for cost-efficient education. Due to the pandemic, academic and corporate organizations have shown an increased interest in the digital learning format, as it is often more affordable and effective at the same time.
  • The interest in self-education. In 2020, people were also eager to study independently, whether to gain new skills for professional development or to get better at their hobbies.
  • E-learning communities. Platforms targeted towards people of color, for example, can offer a sense of support and inspire users to complete their studies even more.
  • The growing popularity of VR/AR. These emerging technologies open up plenty of new opportunities in the e-learning segment, especially corporate training.
  • The need for training tools in specific industries and regions. Finally, e-learning has been in high demand in sectors like healthcare and government and areas like Latin America and Africa. The recognition in such regions can be explained by the increasing penetration of the internet and mobile learning.

Types of e-learning websites

Now, let’s take a look at the various types of online learning websites.

Platform type Example Description
Learning Management System Adobe Captivate Prime, TalentLMS The Learning Management System (LMS) model is oriented toward individual instructors and content creators. With the help of such a platform, they can create custom courses and track their students’ progress. LMS is also a great model for corporate e-learning.
Learning Destination Site Coursera, Udemy, edX A Learning Destination Site is similar to a marketplace, where users can browse, choose, and purchase courses they like. Such a website can collaborate either with institutions or individual instructors to get the educational content onto the platform. Many Learning Destination Sites are subscription-based so that users can get unlimited access to courses for a fixed price.
Open-source Learning Management System Moodle, iTunes U, Dokeos The main benefit of open-source e-learning platforms is that they are free to use for both educators and students. This type of LMS acts as hosting for custom courses and offers a wonderful opportunity for those who want to share their knowledge with the world free of cost.
Learning Management Ecosystem Abara Learning Management Ecosystems are mainly used by universities and other educational institutions to offer e-learning to their students. These platforms often use an open-source LMS as their base, modified to provide additional functionality and a secure backend to users.

Besides the e-learning platform types described above, it’s always possible to create something fully custom based on your specific ideas, needs, and targets.

The most successful platforms


Udemy is one of the biggest e-learning platforms available at the moment. About 57,000 instructors offer courses in 65 languages on this website, and the course library has more than 150,000 items.

There are several reasons Udemy is so popular. To begin with, users get lifetime access to courses they purchase through the platform. Meanwhile, instructors can use the platform for free and get a great share of the revenue from their courses.

Also, the website offers 24/7 customer support and additional learning resources to its users.


Coursera is another wildly popular online learning website, but its approach is slightly different. This platform cooperates with leading universities, colleges, and companies like Facebook, IBM, and more. These organizations provide a wide range of classes and educational materials, ranging from free courses to online degrees.

Coursera is a subscription based-platform, meaning that you can access most of the courses offered there for a reasonable price. However, some specializations and degrees are not included and should be paid for separately. There are also possibilities to get financial aid.

The main quality of Coursera that differentiates it from competitors is the quality of the platform’s courses. Some of them are compatible with traditional education, which drives many users to the site.


Skillshare is an online course marketplace that combines the features of the two platforms described before. Though independent instructors create the lessons, Skillshare has various tools to help these users make truly valuable and high-quality courses.

This website is more focused on creative education and has more than four million students. The classes are presented to allow users to understand the subject easily, which is a huge advantage. Skillshare also builds a strong educational community with its discussion forum.

The platform is appealing to prospective students because of its affordable pricing, while instructors get a chance to profit from it. However, customer support is only available via email.

Business model canvas

If you want to take a more detailed inside look at the interactive learning platform, check out Udemy’s business model canvas.

E-learning website features

It’s time to take a look at the functionality an e-learning website should have.

Registration and account management

The first step any e-learning website user completes is registration. When the user is registered, which can be completed with just an email or social login, it’ll be much easier for them to keep track of their classes and subscriptions and all standard personal profile data through their account.

Moreover, if there are individual instructors on your platform, they should see the list of their courses and manage info about their education and occupation.


The dashboard is what users usually see after logging into their account. Here, it’s wise to display the latest lesson the user checked out, how much longer it would take to complete the course, and the overview of enrolled courses.

As for the teachers, the dashboard should include stats of their courses, assignments to check if such a feature is available, and their earnings.

Searchable course library

This feature is the backbone of any online learning platform. The number of search filters you have should also increase as the number of courses on the website increases. This way, users won’t struggle with finding the right lessons. Some of the standard filters include categories, language, level, length, etc.

Course overview

A separate page for each course is also a must. Here, students can see the description, including learning materials, information about the course creator(s), and whether a certificate is available.

Moreover, it’s nice to provide the expected learning outcomes in the overview so that users know what exactly they’ll achieve by completing this course. Finally, don’t forget user ratings and reviews – people pay a lot of attention to those.

Payment options

If your e-learning platform is for-profit, think about the payment methods offered to users. These should be secure and convenient, like traditional credit or debit cards, PayPal or Stripe, and Apple Pay or Google Pay.

For subscription-based websites, make sure users can choose a one-time, monthly, or yearly payment.


Reminders and notifications are essential for any online learning platform, as they are proven to increase the course completion rate.

Students like the option to choose pop-up or email notifications about anything like unfinished assignments and upcoming due dates. It’s worth sending your users emails with personalized course recommendations, too.

Course creation and editing page

Any learning platform should have this feature, whether it’s an institution or an individual who’s building a course. With such a creation and editing tool, users can easily adjust course structure, update learning materials, add helpful resources, and more.

Admin panel

Lastly, when you create an online learning platform, you should implement an admin panel. Here, administrators can manage the courses offered on the website, check user statistics, take care of payments, notifications, and update the platform.

Additional features

You can also enhance your e-learning platform with such features:

  • Chats and discussion boards. When these are available, learners can ask their instructors or each other questions, allowing them to understand the material better. Chats are also great for increasing user engagement.
  • Artificial and virtual reality. As mentioned before, AR and VR are an excellent addition to e-learning platforms, especially for corporate training. Just remember, these technologies are rather tricky to implement unless done by a development expert.
  • Gamification. Whether you’re planning to start an online learning platform for children or adults, gamification and microlearning tools can help users achieve better results. Quizzes, flashcards, or scoreboards are all examples of microlearning.

6 steps to create your own e-learning platform

Here’s a step-by-step guide for anyone interested in building an online learning platform from scratch.

  1. Select the platform type
  2. Choose a monetization strategy
  3. Decide on the functionality
  4. Create a solid UX/UI design
  5. Develop your platform
  6. Launch!

Step 1. Select the platform type

If you’re reading this article, you probably have an idea for your app already. If you don’t, that’s totally fine, too!

Based on the info we’ve provided above, you should start your journey to an e-learning app by choosing a platform that suits your needs the most. This option will depend on your target audience, budget, development timeframe, etc. Alternatively, if you’re not tied to such requirements, you can select the type platform first.

For those who don’t have an initial e-learning website idea, though, it helps to pick a specific target industry to focus on. There are many options to choose from: business, technology, arts and crafts, science, health and wellness, and more.

Step 2. Choose a monetization strategy

When you’ve decided on the type of e-learning website, it’s time to determine how to make money from it. Unless it’s going to be a non-profit platform, here are your main option:

  • Paid courses: a user pays for each separate course they want to complete. Perfect for platforms with independent instructors.
  • Paid certificates: in this case, users can finish the courses for free. However, if they want a completion certificate, they’ll have to buy it.
  • Subscription: a user pays a monthly/yearly fee to get access to multiple or unlimited courses. Best for websites that cooperate with academic institutions.
  • Corporate cooperation: this is rather self-explanatory – an organization pays you to create a learning platform for its employees. This can be a one-time payment or an ongoing collaboration.
  • Affiliate model: with this option, you’ll have to include links to learning materials like textbooks or special equipment in the offered courses. As users buy the advertised products through the link, you get a commission.
  • Donations: some platforms, non-profit in particular, let their users donate money if they enjoy using the offered courses. There can also be corporate sponsors who provide funding for further development of online learning sites.

Step 3. Decide on the functionality

As you know what type of learning website you’ll create and how you’ll monetize it, you can make a list of features you’d like to include. If you’re limited in time and budget, start only with essential functionality in an MVP.

It’s a great way to understand what your learning platform will be like without spending months on development. Adding something complex can be done later when the website has proven itself effective and profitable.

Step 4. Create a solid UX/UI design

Design matters a lot for an e-learning platform. Users should have no problems with navigating your website, and there shouldn’t be any elements that distract learners from the website content.

To begin with, ensure the user dashboard has a good layout and provides all the necessary insights clearly and concisely. The same applies to individual course pages – they should focus on highlighting the essential information and not be cluttered with too many pictures or graphics.

An e-learning website should also load fast and be responsive. If it’s the other way around, the users will get frustrated very fast and are unlikely to use your platform again.

Step 5. Develop your platform

When the UI/UX design is ready, you can move to the development process itself. For a web e-learning platform, you’ll focus on the frontend and backend, as well as integrating third-party solutions for improved functionality.

Let’s look at specific components of a learning website tech stack.

Frontend: JavaScript, Typescript, PHP, React, Angular, HTML, CSS;

Backend: Python, Django, Node.js, databases like MySQL, cloud services like AWS, PayPal and Stripe for payments;

Third-party tools: Dropbox, Trello, and other services to offer a better learning experience.

Finally, don’t forget about QA. An e-learning platform must be bug-free and work as smoothly as possible, so make sure it’s been tested from start to finish before it’s available to future students.

Step 6. Launch!

Congrats, the technical part required to build an e-learning website is completed! Now comes another crucial step: launching your platform.

However, you can’t release such a platform without courses, a key component. Based on your chosen model, you’ll have to either advertise your site to educators or reach out to academic organizations first. When they help you fill your platform with learning content, you can make it public for general users.

How much does it cost to make an e-learning website?

How to build an online learning platform is one question, but you’re probably wondering how much does it cost too.

The price tag for an online learning platform depends on three main variables: the complexity of the project, the number of developers in your team, and their hourly rate. For example, if there are six team members with a $50/hour rate who have to complete 1500 hours of work in total, the final cost would be $75,000.

Such a rate is average for an Asian development company like Elearney. Remember, American and Western European companies can charge up to three times more for the same amount of work of similar quality.

We won’t lie: e-learning website development can get rather pricey. That’s another reason you may want to start with an MVP. But if your budget allows, don’t hesitate to implement as many features as you want.

Our experience in online learning platform development

To finish up this article, let us present a real example of our experience in e-learning web development.

One of our clients noticed a lack of high-quality educational sources that cater specifically to people of color. Thus, he had a desire to create an e-learning website with a twist.

The idea was to build an online educational community for BIPOC to complete courses for professional and personal development. That’s how Melanence came to life, an EdTech startup offering a learning experience with a focus on diversity and empowerment.

Let’s take a look at the platform from a technical viewpoint. Our work began with the discovery phase to ensure we are well prepared and any potential risks are minimized. However, as we used the Scrum methodology for this project, we were able to start the development sooner and conduct further discovery simultaneously.

We started by creating the design of the platform and then moved to MVP development. As for the tech stack, here’s what we used to build Melanence:

  • frontend – TypeScript, React, Redux + Saga, HTML, CSS;
  • backend – Python, Django, REST API, Paypal, AWS, Docker.

As a result, we’ve built a solid and unique educational platform that’s currently valued at nearly $4.5 million. Melanence is an amazing example for those who want to make an e-learning website. It stands out among its competitors, and users love it for the genuine idea to empower people of color.


Distance learning has been a daily activity for many in 2020, which made educational websites wildly popular. Thus, creating an e-learning site is one of the best current startup ideas.

If you decide to create your own e-learning platform, prepare well first. Select the specific type of platform, monetization strategy, and, ideally, your niche.

Then, we highly advise you to collaborate with experienced web development professionals for the creation itself. This way, you’re guaranteed to get a final product of excellent quality.

We hope you found our explanation of how to build an online learning platform helpful. Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions; we’ll be thrilled to answer them!

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