Creating An Online Learning Platform

How to Build an Online Learning Platform:
Essential Features and Steps

Key takeaways

In contrast to the chaotic and unsystematic whirlpool of knowledge, you can browse through on the Internet, e-learning platforms with professional pedagogues provide learners with a systematic approach to gaining knowledge, preserving all the conveniences of online interaction. That’s why, nowadays, e-learning platform development is so much in demand.

In this article, we will answer how to build an e-learning platform, consider its types and most popular examples like Udemy and Coursera.

We’ll also calculate how much such software development may cost.

Read about a real case of online platform development based on our own experience. So with a ring of a bell, let’s begin!

The present and future of e-learning platforms
The present situation of the e-learning platform testifies to the enormous potential of digital education for both startups and a wide range of users such as students, company staff, and learning enthusiasts. The proof of its business success reflects an e-learning market size that surpasses more than $200 billion at the time of 2019. At the same time, its popularity among users is illustrated by the statistics, saying that 77% of US companies use online platforms for staff training, whereby every dollar spent on such education returns in the amount of $30 in productivity.

Experts look forward to the rapid elearning platform development in the next several years. For example, this market is expected to overcome $325 billion in 2025. The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and massive self-isolation has once again proven education software’s relevance and enormous potential.

It is worth noting such main factors that will lead to industry development in the next 5 years:

The gradual integration of online learning in the common teaching process;
Increased popularity and distribution of applications which leads to a simpler and more convenient use of online education than ever before;
The emergence of new learning opportunities thanks to the use of AR and VR technologies in educational applications;
The increased role of the Internet, its distribution, and the number of Internet-enabled devices add to the availability and convenience of learning online.
After digging into the e-learning market’s future and current state, let’s shift our attention and explore educational platforms’ most prominent types.

Types of online learning websites

In more than 20 years of existence, many different types of e-learning platforms have come up. Let’s look at the main ones and find out the most beneficial options in terms of scale and functional capabilities for startups.


What is it? A site that offers many online courses in one place from different providers.

What is special about them? The traditional method of destination sites’ work includes the preparation of training material using the functionality provided by the site and subsequent uploading. The site is equipped with tools like eCommerce for managing financial actions, as well as other functionality for content authors.

Examples: Udemy, Coursera, eDX. In other words, the most advanced e-learning platforms belong to this type.


What is it? Under traditional learning management systems, we mean the type in which the platform provides only the basic functionality necessary for conducting courses. Such systems focus mainly on staff training.

What is special about them? Instructors and content makers are entitled to create lessons, manage study material, report progress and performance, as well as many other administrative activities.

Examples: at the moment, the market for online courses has hundreds of learning systems providers, such as BlueVolt and CrossKnowledge.


What is it? As well as traditional ones, open source learning systems provide core functionality for hosting and building an elearning platform. However, they differentiate by being popular among all groups of users, not only corporate.

What is special about them? The difference is that this system type is usually free and customizable: source code can be freely viewed and modified in user interests. There are companies specializing in the customization of open source platforms.

Examples: the most typical ones are Moodle, Sakai, ILIAS.


What is it? A full custom solution allows creating an elearning platform, proceeding exclusively from the needs of your business. With the support of a software vendor, you can make an e-learning website that you imagined from scratch. The degree of realization depends only on your financial capabilities.

What is special about it? Being the most expensive solution, you will get exactly the product that you want, and only you will have full control over its advancement and future changes.

Examples: a striking example of a full custom learning solution is HBS, a Harvard Business School product.


What is it? A model in which the best-in-class point solutions are used and combined into one solution.

What is special about them? Such systems consist of many resources: educational software, assessment and e-commerce tools, e-learning engines, content management tools, all in a single platform. To make the impression of a unified system, learning ecosystems are often created with a custom frontend.

Examples: Adobe eLearning Suite is probably the most famous e-learning ecosystem. It contains a collection of all Adobe applications for educational purposes, including materials for designers, managers, developers, and others.

Top 3 most successful e-learning platforms

We will single out the top three online educational platforms among a whole lot of others on the market and learn what makes them successful so you can take advantage of this knowledge.


From the very beginning of its foundation in 2010, the American e-learning platform Udemy aimed at the audience of students and adults. In its repository, there is an unprecedented number of courses (over 150,000) for the maximum possible number of subjects.

Each course is created personally by the teacher and may contain various multimedia elements and quizzes. Users can preview courses in real time or make a refund within 30 days from the date of purchase.

The cost of the courses varies greatly — you can find some on a similar topic for $20 and $200, depending on the amount of material, the professionalism of the instructor, and the awards for completion. Udemy works on a course-based pricing model, so it is suitable primarily for those who want to learn skills that can be gained through a specific course. It has a web and mobile (iOS/Android) version. As of 2020, Udemy has more than 50 million students and 57,000 teacher courses in over 65 languages.


Coursera was founded by Stanford University professors in 2012. It was one of the first to focus on cooperation with renowned universities and the provision of academic courses, after which you can obtain certificates and even a University Degree.

In total, over 4,000 courses from 200+ universities and educational institutions are presented at Coursera. The price and study time differ from course to course, but the minimum price threshold starts at $39. Learning programs include video lectures, group, and practical exercises, as well as quizzes. Coursera has high-quality web and mobile versions.

In 2018, Coursera earned $140 million, with 36 million registered users. At the time of 2019, this platform has been collaborating with partners from 29 countries, including public and private organizations.


This American online learning platform has offered education through the unusual format of video lessons since 2011. Such video-based courses consist of short lessons of no more than an hour.

Skillshare is a member-based platform: by subscription, users get access to all courses on the site. The standard subscription price is $8.25 per month. For businesses and students, there are separate options and pricing plans, such as a business plan for $99 a year. Also, Skillshare offers many free courses for those who want to try out video learning format and form an opinion if it is suitable for them or not.

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