The online learning industry–otherwise known as e-learning–is highly lucrative, with an expected worth of over one trillion by 2028. That’s right, one trillion. This comes as no surprise when you consider the utility of e-learning platforms in a digital world still fearful of COVID-19 (but more on that later).
If you’re reading this article, you likely have a vested interest in building your very own online learning platform. However, the e-learning market is especially competitive, with new platforms appearing every day. So, in order to ensure your platform is a success, you need to gain a solid understanding of e-learning development.
Fortunately, you’re in the right place. We at Idea Maker are here to help you build an online learning platform from scratch. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is An Online Learning Platform?
For clarity’s sake, let’s begin with the basics: what exactly is an online learning platform? In simple terms, an e-learning platform is an online portal that provides students with access to educational resources, such as tests, academic papers, and lectures. They offer a convenient way for people to learn new skills and ascertain knowledge without having to leave home.
Online Learning Market Trends
During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote technologies thrived. In fact, online portals acted as a gateway to experience life beyond the confines of our homes, making remote tech a crux for many. In particular, the online learning industry saw substantial growth, surpassing a worth of over $300 billion in 2021. As the world slowly moves past COVID-19, the popularity of remote learning continues to rear its golden head while new trends emerge.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to find its way onto nearly all technological trend lists, and for a good reason. Specifically, AI is being used to provide learning support to students and to create customized educational experiences. For example, AI e-learning platforms are capable of adapting course structures and difficulty to the strengths and weaknesses of individual students, which can lead to more personalized learning pathways.
Did you know that the average employee can only dedicate 24 minutes a week to professional learning and development? This contention between lack of time and a need for new skills is being combated by microlearning. Microlearning is the practice of ingesting bite-sized nuggets of information in just a few minutes while working towards an overall learning goal. Eventually, the small pieces of knowledge add up, and students’ goals are reached.
As you can probably guess from the name, game-based learning incorporates educational elements into video games in an attempt to keep students engaged for longer periods of time. Typically, game-based learning simplifies course content to condense it into an exciting and competitive package. This trend will likely continue picking up speed, as the game-based learning industry is projected to reach a worth of over $28 billion by 2025.
Popular eLearning Platform Features
Though each platform is different, there are several features commonly found on e-learning websites, some of which–if not all–you should consider implementing in your own online learning platform. These features include course management, analytics and reporting, student dashboards, and learning resources.
Course Management Portal
A course management portal is an essential part of any e-learning platform since it enables instructors to create, manage, and edit their classes. On advanced platforms, the course management portal may even offer ways to create learning resources and course assets like video lectures, presentations, quizzes, and certificates.
Analytics and Reporting
Providing both students and instructors with visualized analytics and reports is an excellent way to help them view their progress and success on your platform. You might want to also include important statistics, such as the number of completed course modules, learning time, course retention, number of enrolled students, course impressions, and course views.
Student dashboards should give learners access to an overview of all their enrolled courses so they can conveniently pick up where they left off. It should also show their overall progress on the e-learning platform and allow them to manage their user account. This means allowing students to update their email, password, name, address, and payment information.
The quality of an e-learning platform is built on the caliber of its learning resources. As a result, building a learning resource creation suite into your platform is an excellent way to ensure course assets are regulated, standardized, and high quality. This will also make course management and creation easier for instructors.
Top 3 eLearning Platforms
To gain inspiration for your own e-learning platform, it’s an excellent idea to explore some of the industry leaders.
Skillshare has an extensive library of over 30,000 courses, from art classes to business, SEO, and website development. However, the platform is geared toward creative skills, such as illustration and photography, and tends to focus on exploration, growth, and learning application.
From a teacher’s perspective, Skillshare has many desirable features. The platform allows instructors to create, publish, and promote courses along with learning resources. It also has a powerful and easy-to-use creation suite that makes building an online course a breeze.
In terms of content, Udemy is substantially ahead of Skillshare, with over 200,000 available courses. Unlike Skillshare, Udemy is focused on business-related skills like office productivity and finance. Unsurprisingly, Udemy also offers a service directed towards businesses, aptly named Udemy Business.
In terms of course creation for instructors, Udemy is a video-forward platform, meaning courses are largely taught through pre-recorded lectures. However, teachers can also make additional resources available to students, such as quizzes, certificates, and online exercises.
Unlike the above two platforms, LearnDash is a Learning Management System (LMS) that integrates with website development services like WordPress. LearnDash doesn’t offer an extensive library of courses like Udemy or Skillshare; instead, it provides users with a basis for creating their own online learning platform from scratch.
LearnDash powers over 100,000 WordPress-based e-learning platforms and is packed full of intuitive features to set your website up for success. In the next section, we’ll teach you how to install LearnDash on a WordPress website and how to start building your e-learning platform.
How to Implement an LMS with WordPress
Now that you understand what an online learning platform is and the basis for creating a successful e-learning website, it’s time to learn how to implement the LearnDash LMS with WordPress. Before we begin, however, it’s worth noting that building an e-learning platform is a technical process that requires knowledge of website development. As a result, you may want to consider hiring an expert web development agency to help.
Setup Your WordPress Install
WordPress powers over 36 percent of live websites and has a diverse mix of available functionality and third-party plugins, making it a popular choice among developers. There are two versions of WordPress available: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Both versions offer the same features; however, the former comes full-hosted while the latter is self-hosted. What does this mean in simple terms?
Opting for a fully-hosted WordPress website means that WordPress handles the server-side technicalities such as security and making your site live. The self-hosted version, on the other hand, requires you to set up, maintain and install WordPress on your own server. For those less technically experienced, WordPress.com is a far more convenient choice, circumventing the entire server-side setup.
Related Article: Things to Know When Setting up a WordPress Site
Install and Activate LearnDash
After setting up your WordPress install, the next step is to install and activate the LearnDash LMS plugin. Follow the steps below, and you’ll have LearnDash LMS installed in no time:
- First, you’ll need to go to LearnDash.com and purchase a license. After purchase, you’ll be prompted to download a .zip folder containing the plugin. Otherwise, you can download the plugin from your account area.
- Once you have LearnDash LMS downloaded, navigate to the left-hand sidebar of your WordPress website management portal, then click ‘Plugins.’
- At the top of the page, you’ll see a button that says ‘Add New.’ Click this button, and you’ll be taken to the WordPress plugin store page.
- At the top of the page, you’ll now see a button that says ‘Upload Plugin.’ Click ‘Choose File’ and select your earlier downloaded .zip file.
- Now click ‘Install Now.’
- Then click ‘Activate Plugin.’
After following these steps, LearnDash LMS is installed on your WordPress website and ready for use in developing your e-learning platform. To access the LearnDash plugin, navigate to the left-hand sidebar on your WordPress install and select the ‘LearnDash LMS’ tab that should have appeared after activation. There you will find all the required features building an online learning platform.
Build Your Courses
Building courses with LearnDash LMS is relatively simple once you get to grips with its functionality. At first, however, it is a little overwhelming due to its extensive capabilities and customization options. Not to worry, we’ll walk you through the basics of building courses with LearnDash LMS.
When you select your LearnDash plugin from the left-hand sidebar, you’ll be presented with several tabs and terms. On face value, the terminology used is self-explanatory; however, LearnDash courses are structured using a nesting system consisting of classes, lessons, and topics.
- Classes: Classes consist of lessons and topics. They create the overall course page.
- Lessons: Lessons are presented within classes. They are made up of topics.
- Topics: Topics are the individual modules found within lessons.
Course Creation Step-By-Step Breakdown
- Click on the ‘classes’ tab in the left-hand sidebar, then select ‘Add New’ in the top right corner.
- Enter the class name, add a class description, and include any media you wish students to see.
- Then click ‘Publish.
- Next, navigate to the ‘lessons’ tab and select ‘Add New.’
- Enter the lesson name, and any information students need to understand.
- Then click ‘Publish.’
- Now, navigate to the ‘topics’ tab and select ‘Add New.’
- Enter the relevant information and media assets.
- You can create as many lessons and topics as you wish to be included in the class.
- Navigate back to the ‘classes’ tab and select ‘edit’ under your class name.
- Navigate to the ‘builder’ tab above the class’s name.
- When you’ve finished building your course, click ‘Publish.’
- Here you can add your lessons and topics to build up your class.
For a more in-depth tutorial on creating courses using LearnDash, you can read Idea Maker’s client usage guide here: Using LearnDash.
Add Users and Design Sign Up Page
After building your e-learning platform courses, you’ll need to create a portal for users to sign up and sign into the website. You can do this by heading to the LearnDash ‘settings’ tab in the left-hand sidebar. You’ll then be presented by the ‘general’ tab, whereyou can customize your website by altering its color scheme and uploading a logo. Above the logo upload parameter, you’ll notice a button for ‘login & registration’; ensure this is switched on. Click ‘save’ after making any changes.
Next, you should navigate to the ‘registration’ tab next to ‘general.’ Here you can edit which parameters appear when users go to sign up. You can also attach it to an item in your website’s navigation bar, so when users click it, they are taken to a registration or login screen. Once again, be sure to click ‘save’ after making changes.
Marketing Your Learning Platform
Once you’ve created your online learning platform and have published it live on the web, you’ll need to market it and build a solid user base of teachers and students. Here are some effective ways to market your e-learning website.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website with features that appease search engine algorithms, therefore helping your platform appear high on results pages. SEO considerations include keyword usage, metadata optimization, schema usage, internal and external linking, and content quality. There are many tools available to help your SEO marketing efforts, such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush.
Related Page: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the practice of leveraging the wide reach of social media platforms to advertise your website to prospective customers. There are two main types of social media marketing: organic and paid. Organic promotion is where you create posts that take advantage of existing trends and hashtags to get in front of an audience for free. Paid, on the other hand, requires you to create pay-per-click ads, as discussed in the next section.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are placed on social media platforms and most websites’ that accept advertisers. As the name suggests, you pay a fee every time a user clicks on your ad, taking them to your website. PPC ads are typically very flexible, allowing you to set budgets as low as one dollar per day. However, PPC ads require experimentation to find the right mix of budget and target, meaning they often cost more than originally expected.
How to Monetize Your Online Learning Platform
Once you’ve advertised your e-learning platform and have built up a strong user base, you can then monetize your website. Here are a few ways to do so.
One of the most common ways to monetize an e-learning platform is to ask users to pay for access to courses. You could sell them courses in packages of related classes or have them pay to access each course individually. Though this is a simple method of monetization, it gives few users reason to return unless you have highly specialized courses that can’t be found elsewhere.
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model gives users access to different levels of features depending on how much they’re willing to pay each month. For example, you could offer a free version of your e-learning platform that restricts the number of lessons users have access to until they upgrade their account. This business model offers an excellent opportunity to secure a recurring monthly income.
Related Article: Understanding the SaaS Business Model and How It Works
Instead of charging for courses, you could make them available for free but ask users to pay for class resources essential to their learning. This monetization method could be integrated with the above SaaS model. For example, you could offer users free access to the website but charge them a recurring monthly subscription to use learning resources.
Need Help Building Your Online Learning Platform?
If, after reading this article, you still feel a little unsure about building your own online learning platform, consider working with Idea Maker. We have a team of expert developers and designers experienced in e-learning platform development. In fact, Idea Maker’s founder also created their very own e-learning platform called TruAcademy. So, if you want to learn more about how Idea Maker can help you, schedule a free consultation with us today.