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How to Grow Your EdTech Products in the Post-Covid Era?

20 min read
Derek Odom
Derek Odom
9 Jul 2021

Although the E-learning industry had been growing for some time prior to the pandemic, the world's forced transition to a new remote lifestyle has propelled it forward at breakneck speed. The rapid adoption of cloud-based learning in the industry is creating a lot of opportunities, and today we'll go over some of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a successful EdTech platform. 

Let's start by looking at the total scope of potential growth in the coming years. The E-Learning Market was estimated to be worth $250 billion in 2020, and it is expected to reach nearly $500 billion by 2027. If this is correct, we are only currently seeing the tip of the iceberg.



With all of this potential comes a lot of competition and high demand for quality. If one wants to compete in this market, they should at least be able to answer the following questions:

  • How can you make an e-learning platform that works?
  • What user flows should you consider when designing an e-learning platform?
  • What are the most recent trends that you can leverage to get a true competitive advantage?
  • Why is it so difficult to provide a platform for all generations?
  • How can you build a platform that stands out from the crowd without squandering all of your resources?
  • What monetization strategy will lead to the product's success?

In this article, we'll be answering these questions and more.

Types of e-learning platforms



Whether through video, discussion forums, or streaming audio, all e-learning platforms use similar methods to educate people. There are several types of existing digital teaching & learning platforms in the industry today. Let's go through the main ones:

  • MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses)

These platforms are open-access, free web-based courses with unlimited participation that can accommodate hundreds or thousands of students at a time. Coursera, Udacity, and FutureLearn are three key players in this category, each with a vast library of courses.

  • Virtual learning environment (VLE)

Educational institutions use a web-based platform to manage the digital aspects of their courses. They demonstrate how to incorporate resources, activities, and interactions into a course structure, as well as how to assess students at different stages. Blackboard, Moodle, and Canvas are currently causing quite a stir in this market.

  • Video & audio streaming services

Video streaming services are on-demand online video sources for streaming visual media. We’ve all gone down the rabbit hole of YouTube when researching or learning a topic of interest. Other great examples of this type of service include Curiosity Stream and Nebula.

Audio streaming services such as audiobooks and podcasts may appeal to students who dislike reading and may even encourage them to do so. Also, many students with disabilities, such as dyslexia or a visual impairment, find it difficult to read, so audio content can be incredibly beneficial. Audible is the current king of audiobooks with a huge library of learning resources, and Hardcore History or Philosophize. These are great podcast options aiming to make learning fun.

  • Virtual instructor-led training (VILT)

Virtual learning environments aim to replicate the traditional classroom or learning experience to make online training more effective and adaptable to learners. Lessons and training in a virtual or simulated environment are made easy with WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Zoom.

  • Discussion boards

Instructor-to-student and student-to-student interactions can be facilitated through discussion boards, allowing learners from all over the world to interact and learn from one another. Kialo, a place for rational debate in a friendly and open environment, and Discourse, an open-source discussion platform, are two examples of existing platforms.

  • Forums

Forums can be used for many purposes, including reviewing material before an assignment or exam, engaging students in course material discussion, and reflecting on what they've read or worked on. The Teacher's Corner has a lively teacher forum where people can share ideas and collaborate.

  • Educational games and simulation apps

More than just keeping a student occupied and amused, gameplay can add an extra level of engagement, allowing them to work quickly and have fun while learning the material. Brilliant is just such an app that aims to make learning fun by replacing lecture videos with hands-on, interactive lessons.

  • Digital interactive books (DIB’s)

DIBs can provide engaging graphics, animations, simulations, and interaction focused on skills like collaboration, communication, critical reasoning, analytical, and decision making. Kitaboo, Kotobee, Flippingbook are all apps that allow you to take a standard text document and add interactive multimedia.

5 main challenges in creating      e-learning platform

  • Create an efficient learning process

Online learning can be a very different beast when compared to traditional learning. One major challenge presented is determining how to design an online course that helps students develop skills and absorb information. Focussing on providing an experience that encourages learners to connect with, use, and recall knowledge can help overcome this.

  • Addressing lack of motivation

It's also often challenging to keep people motivated enough to stay on the platform and continue studying. For example, despite the limitless free information provided by MOOCs, a study conducted by Harvard found that 95 percent of students dropped their online courses before completing them, a rate significantly higher than dropout rates in traditional schools. It seems that the lack of direct interaction is the culprit for this drop-off.



  • Utilization of many tools and strategies

We know that a successful e-learning platform relies on more than just great content. It requires many tools to keep students engaged. Of course, this includes video, text, and audio content, but also light-hearted fun, public recognition, and social interactions. All of these tools play a crucial part in the students' educational engagement.

  • E-learning being perceived as less impactful

Businesses have sometimes dismissed online certificates as lacking equivalent value because university and college-based courses have dominated the market for decades.

Also, some people still believe that completing tasks in less time lowers the quality of education, and with less accountability, exam cheating is just about unavoidable. Fortunately, based on our experience working on a recent project, it looks like artificial intelligence (AI) will take care of many of these doubts soon. 

  • Accessibility challenges of users

New trends are emerging to shape today's e-learning industry as the demand for more online learning content grows. With so many types of new users, different levels of accessibility must be considered to make the experience user-friendly for everyone. 

Recent studies show that the most important factors for an individual to get into online learning are: technology aptitude, teaching/learning environment preferences, and overall opinion about online learning. According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, in the US, 14 percent of children have no Internet access and struggle to complete online homework. And approximately 17 percent of children live in homes without access to desktop or laptop computers.

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    Best practices to help solve the above challenges


    Make the UX more intuitive for creators
    - Coursera, Udacity, EdX, and other MOOC providers have proprietary learning and content management systems. When uploading courses, the data typically includes a course title, category, and description. 

    You can help course creators target their audience by describing who the course is for and what the prerequisites are, as well as ensuring that each automatically checked lesson, quiz, or exercise has subtitles, slides, and text attached to it.

    Seek qualified instructors that can provide true value - Require online course instructors to have a strong background in their subject, such as a bachelor's or master's degree in the field they teach, to ensure valuable content. Courses or a certificate program may also be beneficial to aspiring online instructors.

    This is not to say that someone without a specialized education cannot be a teacher. It's essential, however, to look closely at their accomplishments and achievements.

    For example, we previously created an online training platform for the IT industry. The technical support and technical team were the easy part. We've ended up spending 90% of our time looking for interesting speakers and content, as well as marketing the platform.

    Curate the content for your platform - Even if content creators thoroughly check the courses they upload, something such as a low-quality video or grammatical errors can slip through the cracks. Consider how to curate the content on your educational platform in addition to verifying the content creators.

    Assist users in choosing a course by providing: 

    • Ratings and reviews - One of the most significant factors determining a course's success is its online reputation. Students trust well-known websites, so when other students leave reviews after completing a course, the website gains credibility. 

    Source: 9to5Mac

    • Recommended courses - Provide an endless stream of valuable content by recommending courses similar to those that the user has expressed interest in or complementary to completed courses.

    Source: Drudesk

    • An Introduction Sample - A student should be able to try out a course before committing to it. Users of Coursera and many other platforms can watch an introduction video that explains what's included and what knowledge they'll gain as a result of taking it.

    Source: Aimprosoft

    Simplifying enrollment for users and course creators

    • Onboarding users should be quick, easy, and straightforward; while also making it clear to the user why they are enrolling in the first place. You can make your onboarding more interactive with quizzes, functionality simulations, or suggestion questionnaires as long as you can keep it short and sweet.

    Source: Study Flow

    • Provide user support for all involved, especially in the early stages, to ensure that you quickly address and resolve technical issues and other inquiries. It's also important to consider providing ongoing support, such as keeping track of current and resolved issues through a help desk or support system.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Integrate a calendar to keep users up to date with learning plans, organize upcoming events, and schedule modules and webinars.

    Source: Global English Editing

    • Enabling interactive notifications can be very useful. These can be as simple as a greeting or an invitation to enroll in a new course. They can be an effective tool for keeping students interested in learning more if tailored to the needs of your target audience.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    Make studying more convenient

    • A good video player is essential, so make sure yours is up to par. Compared to text, video is shown to be 66 percent more engaging to the senses and allows for more information to be shared quickly by showing rather than telling.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Check to see if your text materials and content are well-organized. Teaching with chapters, outlines, and sections has a significant impact on a learner's comprehension.
    • Providing localized content for foreign learners is especially crucial If your e-learning platform will be used to train multilingual employees who are expected to work as a single unit.
    • Developing a thriving community allowing students to form or join existing groups based on their learning interests enables them to share their progress in courses, lessons, topics, quizzes, and other activities.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    How to motivate online learners?

    • Gamification elements enhance the experience by adding a fun challenge and engagement, allowing learners to investigate concepts, make strategic decisions, receive immediate feedback, and re-engage after failing attempts. 

    Source: Dr Zac Fitz-Walter

    • Microlearning allows students to consume small chunks of information in a fun and interactive way. Services such as the popular TED-Ed and the language app Duolingo are two real-world examples of this technique.
    • Track learner progress and provide students with a centralized view of their overall progress on individual activities and assignments, as well as the overall Course Completion status.

    Source: Search by Muzli

    • It's good to congratulate students for taking the initiative to learn a new skill by awarding a course certificate, which acts as a tangible and motivational component of online learning.

    Source: SlideShare

    • Personalized, hands-on instruction from teachers and exercises tailored to the students' specific needs are two of the most effective ways for your students to stay motivated while learning.

    Whatever the case may be, critical thinking and design relevance are always required. It’s best not to go after trendy features for your platform or app unless you have a clear and understandable goal in mind. 

    What else should you consider when designing an e-learning app?

    Define your niche - Do you want to encompass a wide range of subjects from arts and crafts to health and fitness, or launch an industry-specific education marketplace? Whatever it may be, decide early and stay consistent within your chosen market.

    Keeping user data safe - Learning about security is essential for avoiding costly regulatory penalties from leaked personal information, confidential organizational data, or other security threats from hackers, competitors, etc.

    Select a monetization strategy

     
    1. 
    Paid certificates (Freemium) - Learners can review courses for free on some platforms, but if students want a certificate of completion, they will have to pay $$$.

    • Pros: Allowing users to try your app before purchasing it enables you to reach a wider audience while also allowing them to pay for only what they require.
    • Cons: This approach can initially be expensive, and if users are already reaping the benefits of the free version, it may be tough to persuade them to upgrade.

    2.  Monthly subscription - Using Udacity as an example, they provide nano degrees through their subscription of $399 per month, making it possible for students to become experts in many fields, including Marketing Analytics and Data Visualization.

    • Pros: Subscriptions are usually a far more reliable source of revenue than one-time course purchases because of automatic renewals.
    • Cons: It can be difficult maintaining value and keeping content fresh for existing customers. Subscribers want to justify their continued purchase.


    3.  Premium account - Non-paying Skillshare users have limited access to the service, but upgrading your account unlocks a slew of new features, including unrestricted access to tens of thousands of courses, which can even be downloaded for offline use.

    • Pros: This is a great way to build a user base of high-quality customers, and you can start making money right away.
    • Cons: It can be challenging to attract first-time users, and paying customers can have higher expectations for a product.


    4.  Donations - Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that makes all of its materials available for free. They sustain from donations from users and other non-profit organizations.

    • Pros: This strategy has the advantage of allowing you to validate your company concept straight away. If your specialty has a large market eager to pay for an e-learning site, you won't have any trouble raising the money needed to get started.

    • Cons: The most significant downside of a donation-based company model is that your financial success is contingent on the generosity of your contributors. When there are no more donations or grants, your business will most likely cease to exist.

    5.  Corporate eLearning - E-learning websites like Udemy are frequently used by large corporations to train their employees. Both Udemy and Coursera provide employees with the tools and materials they need to learn during onboarding.

    • Pros: There is a significant potential customer base as corporations phase out classroom training in favor of eLearning systems. According to a recent study, 74 percent of businesses use some form of eLearning.
    • Cons: Organizational buy-in may be challenging to get since some learners and administrators may still be resistant to change.

    Most important features in an      e-learning platform? 


    Now that we've covered the fundamental requirements and expectations for creating an e-learning platform, we'll go over some of the most important features to include, keeping in mind that each platform will have its own set of unique requirements:

    • Authentication and user profile - This is because the online learning system may create a situation in which unauthorized individuals would be able to attend and take examinations.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Filtering system - In online learning, there is a lot of shared information, but because of the flood of information available, finding related interests can be more difficult for the user. An intuitive system will be able to filter based on the learner's preferences.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Dashboard - Dashboards can be used to monitor real-time progress, identify trends, and pinpoint problem areas. Your students and instructors will only see what's necessary with personalized, interactive dashboards.

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Course page - Every course page should provide detailed information about its content. This might include a longer description, a price, information about the creators, a multimedia format (articles, videos, etc.), a star rating, a certificate of completion, and any required items or materials.

    Source: Aimprosoft

    • Payment systems - Provide customers with secure and user-friendly payment options on your e-learning site. Accept credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, or Braintree, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other payment options to make them more diversified. It should be simple for students to pay and for instructors to receive payment.

    Source: Study Flow

    • Course creation page (for teachers) - Allow your website administrators or course instructors to easily create and modify courses using their preferred structure, as well as upload learning materials in several formats such as PDFs, audio, videos, slides, and even live training sessions. 

    Source: Language Learning Platform

    • Admin panel - To enable administrators to track participant activity, such as obtaining analytical data (number of students, ratings, conversions, and so on), managing user roles, and creating or editing new content.

    Source: Coursera for Business

    Conclusion

    The pandemic has fueled the adoption of online education, and tech companies in this domain have developed exponentially, showing that EdTech is here to stay. I hope this article has answered some of your questions and given you a better understanding of the challenges of launching a successful EdTech platform, as well as highlighted the industry’s demand for great products.

    Each company’s path to success is different, so we do not mean for the principles listed to be exhaustive. What we’ve presented here is aimed at providing ideas and best practices that EdTech developers may have overlooked, but can have a significant impact on the success of your platform.

    Consider scheduling a consultation with us if you need assistance with an EdTech product idea or need your current product updated. We can help you turn your idea into a visually appealing and efficient user experience.

    Check out our previous EdTech case studies below...

    E-Learning Platform (Study Flow)

    As we have mentioned, E-learning platforms present several challenges, the most pressing of which may be developing an educational app that assists students in organizing study materials and learning how to recall subjects successfully. 

    To begin addressing this challenge, we performed a comprehensive investigation. We conducted market research alongside stakeholders, identified gaps in competitor features, and facilitated a brainstorming workshop. In addition, we carried out a quantitative research survey, defined the project scope, feature roadmap, and monetization strategy.  We then built the information architecture and the actual UX/UI Design. We are delighted that the client was pleased with the product.

    Read the full case study here.

    Interactive Training Tool 

    For this project, the client approached us with a straightforward task, to redesign an outdated platform with several usability problems. Right off the bat, we discovered many stronger competitors on the market.

    The first step was to conduct user interviews to identify user needs and pain points while creating documentation and training. We then did rapid low-fidelity prototyping, user testing, and finished the UI design based on our findings. All of this effort resulted in an All-in-One Tool that meets the needs and relieves the pains of instructional designers who use the software on a daily basis. The client was extremely pleased with our collaboration, as well as our thorough research and implementation.

    Read the full case study here.

    Language Learning Platform 

    This customer approached us with an existing Language Learning platform that needed redesigning due to an outdated UI and various usability concerns.

    To get things going in the right direction, we held a workshop to identify and document the areas that needed the most work. We iteratively redesign the entire platform with several new features on top after documenting and prioritizing the design issues. In addition, we structured the design elements in a design system while preparing the hand-off files. The client was very open and pleased with the constructive feedback we were able to offer, as well as our responsiveness and technical expertise.

    Read the full case study here.



    To learn more about our processes, check out our in-depth brochure here. And if you have any questions, you can contact us by clicking on the window at the top of the page.

    Derek Odom by Derek Odom

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