Today neither students, nor teachers and professors can imagine their daily routine without online studying due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Dozens or even hundreds of online services are being used daily by both scholars and education staff. However, it is not the pandemic we should give all the credit for online education to exist. Alternative ways of studying appeared as early as the XIX century. Advanced tech such as steam engines and the railway assured faster and more reliable correspondence delivery, thus making remote education possible. The very next important step towards online learning was made in the XX century with computers and the Internet being invented. In 1989 the University of Phoenix became the first institution to launch a fully online collegiate institution providing both bachelors and masters degrees. A few years later in 1994 the International University (Missouri) became the first fully online-based higher educational institution. Nowadays all major universities use online platforms to provide education services to their students. And again: it all has started even before the pandemic. Educational institutions used numerous platforms as secondary or even major tools in their work. The most advanced universities paid great attention to elearning platforms development. They used online platforms as a single place, where students could send their homeworks and get all the necessary materials to cram for their exams.
Yes, the game’s rules have changed and coronavirus is the game-changer. While in the good old days those were mostly universities or some other specific educational institutions that used online platforms, nowadays everyone exploits them due to natural reasons. Imagine how many pupils suffered because of the lockdowns! Actually, you don’t have to imagine, just read the article in the Washington Post.
Of course, the existing services were overloaded with lots of new customers and often failed to function properly in early 2020. Such services as Moodle and Google Classroom though being pretty powerful simply couldn’t cope with the rapidly increased stream of new customers and information. Considering this, only the institutions which had their own learning platforms succeeded in switching towards the ‘online regime’ rapidly. Others – are trying to create their own online education portals via web development or exploit existing ones.
First thing that makes a difference between online e-learning platforms is how those platforms interact with the customers. Some may have their own courses, while others aren’t sources of information themselves, but perform as learning management tools for independent course authors. Anyway! If you want to build a platform for online courses, these are the main types of e-learning platforms:
- Learning Management Systems
- Learning Management Ecosystems
- Custom Built Learning Platforms
Learning Management Systems are extremely simple platforms that provide you some basement for building your own learning courses. They are pretty widespread and they only give you some basic tools, while the core of the work is yours to do. There are both commercial and free-to-use LMSs – both types are quite popular and only slightly differ from each other in the terms of functionality.
Another type of online education platform is a Learning Management Ecosystem. They also deal with online learning management just like LMSs, yet there are several differences. LMEs apply different independently existing solutions making them work together as one. So basically, a Learning Management Ecosystem works as a conductor in the orchestra of separate online education tools.
Last but not least: Custom Built Learning Platforms – advanced sets of tools, containing all the facilities and data needed to make the educational process fun, interesting and complete. Those are the most expensive ones, usually, they are done from the very beginning till the end for one main beneficiary. Such platforms may exist in different forms and shapes, they are far more complicated than LMSs and LMEs and far more specific. Therefore, only some wealthy or profitable organizations can afford them, getting significant technical and organizational benefits in exchange for their resources.
Well, first of all, you need a plan. In order to create an e-learning platform you ought to know exactly how your project should look like:
- What functionality will your platform have?
- Who are your customers? What do they do? What is their age?
- Which instruments is your platform going to need? (Be careful: nobody needs to spend extra budget for the tools your customers won’t eventually require)
- What kind of disciplines are you going to provide? All of them? Science only? Arts only? (Yeah, a learning platform for studying languages will differ from one created for studying math. Maybe you plan to have only one or two specific subjects, this may save your time and money)
- Do you need to create an education website? If you have one you may create a PWA or an app
But before you write down the steps you have to perform in order to get your platform safe operational and sound, you should pay attention to another important thing one more time: your budget. The amount of money you’re going to spend depends on the type of platform you want to develop. So what will it be? An LMS? An LME or a CBLP? A website or an app? Both, perhaps?
However, it doesn’t really matter what you have planned or thought through if you don’t have a proper team of experienced developers capable of bringing your project to life. You will definitely need a piece of advice on your e-learning platform development to determine how many people you’re going to need and how many hours they work will take to have any clue about both timing and budget.
Any online education platform usually has such essential tools as:
- A mobile application and/or a web-site
- Audio and/or video processing to exchange, download and upload Media
- Data processing
- An independent cloud data storage
According to this division your essential tech stack for an e-learning platfrom will consist of:
- Platform’s architecture
- Media exchange service
- Web Real Time Communication (RTC) Server
- Transcoding and Real Time Transcoding services
- Data processing tech stack
- Storage tech stack
Storage tech stack cosists of the main database, data-analising element, file storage and real-time data-base.
Yes, we have developed learning platforms too! And in our humble opinion we’ve really nailed it. Our specialists took part in development of a learning management system called EasyGenerator. This service helps a million of its users to organise and administer their courses and working on this project we have gained some tremendous, unique experience, which will make it easier to develop similar platforms. Among the skills we have developed while working on EasyGenerator are:
- Web-design, taking huge attendance of the service under consideration
- Customisation of the existing solutions for client’s requirements, regarding design and interface
- The site’s operational speed optimisation for Google PageSpeed
Apart from traditional education platforms like EasyGenerator we have developed more specific services. The Klokhet app is another great pride of ours. It is a special application for students’ attendance tracking and other kinds of assistance provided to their professors.This one was fully developed by our team from start to finish. Klokhet was designed for Dutch educational institutions regarded as ones of the best in Europe and worldwide. You can download it on both IOS and Android devices and use its capabilities purchasing one of three kinds of subscription (the first month is free of charge though). As the app works perfectly we are very much satisfied with our work, so here are some things we’ve mastered, while making this app:
- Full-cycle work, including complete design, web-developing (both front- and back-end), mobile developing
- Different codebases and platforms support, IOS & Android support
- Tech support for non-tech users (teachers)
- Bug tracking and fixing
- Foreseeing and preventing users’ probable incorrect behavior which might cause the app’s malfunctions
Working on both these projects our team took the existing education platforms’ experience into account and developed our own algorithms of coping with lots of possible issues one may face, developing an online education platform, so rest assured – we can cope with any kind of work in this domain.
If you build a complete full-size platform for online courses from a scratch with a full set of instruments you have to consider the amount of developers’ work ergo the budget:
This kind of work takes approximately 900-1000 working hours of a qualified back-end developer. Surely, numbers may differ depending on the scale, budgets, clients demands and requirements.
Usually it takes twice as less as back-end. It may take 400-450 hours.
This one may also differ a lot: 200-400 hours.
Quality assurance may also take up to 1000 hours.
Project management takes another 2500-3000 hours. And extra 500-700 hours for the project documentation.
In conclusion, we want to highlight the perspective of online education platforms embodied in both apps and web-sites. Even after vaccination finishes the pandemic off and kids and students will come back to their classes those platforms will continue to develop, gaining new functions and improving old ones, making education better, faster and more affordable.
After all, going all digital will save not only time, but also forests and animals, so we, as yoga adepts we are, absolutely support this tendency. However, not only our team wants it to happen, seems like the market itself advances towards majorly digital education. On the eve of COVID19 pandemic global investments into education technology reached nearly 19 billion dollars, with a projected amount of 350 billion by 2025.
Thereby, to develop or not to develop is not a question, it’s rather the answer.