The e-learning industry has been rapidly growing throughout recent years and in 2020 it became especially popular. People are now used to the fact that they can study almost everything online - and it opens a whole lot of new opportunities for developers who want to create a valuable product.
Now is a good time to develop an e-learning portal but you have to take care of multiple aspects before designing an online course. To help you, we’ve collected the best practices on e-learning development that will ensure that your e-learning portal attracts many students and provides them with all the needed services.
The different models of e-learning portals: an overview
Before jumping to the development of an e-learning portal, it is important to know the differences between the various models and their approaches. Below are some of the most common examples of e-learning websites.
A self-learning platform
This type of platform offers a self-learning approach. This implies that a user can choose their own courses and a convenient learning pace, can pause and come back whenever needed and can monitor their own progress. The content provided on such a platform comes in different forms: audio and video lessons, vocabulary, downloadable content, etc.
An online tutoring platform
This platform offers an individual (or group) tutoring with a teacher. If a user opts for this way of learning, they will have more strict and structured learning and will be graded by the teacher. As well, a user will be able to receive personal feedback throughout the learning process.
A web conferencing platform
These platforms are used to facilitate the online learning process for a group of students by providing them with a centralized e-learning environment. Such platforms are especially popular with universities and colleges and are designed to seat big groups of students.
Of course, can combine these options as needed but still you need to use one of the models as a base for creating your e-learning platform as it will impact the functionality and UX.
The essential features that any e-learning platform needs to have
Despite the platform that you are going to choose, there are some essential features that every e-learning portal has. These features ensure great user experience and contribute to providing value to the users.
Secure authentication and user cabinet
One of the most important things that you need to take care of is secure and multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires two pieces of evidence (i.e. a password and a code sent to the phone) to prove that the user is who they say they are. It is a secure way to guard one’s personal information and credentials and is widely used by websites. As well, it’s always a good idea to include several authorization options (via email, social networks, etc.) to provide users with a choice and save their time.
Another feature related to the user’s data is the user cabinet. A user needs to have an option to create and customize a personal profile, manage its settings and privacy as needed, and see all the courses and related information in there.
Easy and advanced search
Whether you decide to create a self-learning portal or the one that offers personalized tutoring, a user will need to search through the e-learning courses and be able to find the most suitable one. Therefore, a portal needs to have really good search filters and user-friendly navigation.
The portal should provide options to filter the courses by:
- Categories and subcategories
- User ratings
In this way, a user will be able to quickly find a course of interest among the variety of options. And obviously, you need to wisely categorize the courses so the users do not get confused.
There are two types of dashboards - a student dashboard and a teacher dashboard - and both should be present in any e-learning portal.
A student dashboard provides a detailed overview of the current courses, received awards/recognitions, interaction with the teacher, and other useful information relevant to e-learning resources. With the help of the dashboard, a student can easily manage their courses, change the subscription plan, contact the teacher, and monitor the progress.
As for the teacher dashboard, it helps tutors monitor the number of students enrolled, check and manage the course fees, see the statistics for each course, and set up and edit the courses and notifications.
Various interaction options
Whether a user prefers a self-learning course or the one with a tutor, they will still need to interact with the portal and other students and/or tutors. Thus, a good e-learning platform has to provide numerous interaction options.
These options may include:
- A forum for topic discussions
- A chat with the portal representative
- An option to leave comments under lessons
- A video/audio call option
By providing various interaction options, you create a real classroom-like experience in your e-learning classes. This also adds to the personalization which equals better user experience.
Different payment options
An integrated payment system is essential for any e-learning portal. In order for both students and teachers to conveniently manage their payments and earnings, it is important to implement numerous payment options to your portal.
The most popular payment methods include:
- Credit (or debit) cards
It is important to consider who your target audience is as different countries may have different preferred payment systems. In the US, for example, PayPal is incredibly popular and common while European users may prefer paying with a credit card. All these aspects have to be considered when planning the payment system integration.
Customization is a really important aspect. It contributes to user satisfaction and shows that you truly care about the diversity of your students and are ready to offer different e-learning methods to them. Here are some customization ideas that you might want to incorporate:
- Support for multiple languages
- An option to turn on tracking notes
- Integration with social networks
- Synchronization with the calendar
- Profile customization
All these things help make a learning process more enjoyable and personalized. As a result, students are happier with it and hence will more likely stay on your portal and explore more courses.
Things to consider before developing an e-learning portal
We’ve walked through the essential features of an e-learning platform - but there are also some things to keep in mind before designing e-learning courses. By taking these aspects into consideration, you will be able to design a high-quality product that caters to the needs of the users.
Know your audience
Research of a target audience is critical as it serves as a base for adding functionality and working on the UX. When designing an e-learning product, you need to consider what are the preferences and habits of your potential students, what courses may interest them the most, and what method of studying they prefer. All these things must be considered when planning your e-learning program and the defined target audience will also dictate the choice of the tutors and the overall learning process.
Engage good teachers
Once you understand your target audience and its needs, you can start looking for knowledgeable and professional tutors to work with you. Of course, you’d expect all the tutors to show a high level of expertise and knowledge so you can ask for certifications and hold interviews to see whether this person will fit in the team.
Depending on the portal model, you will need to collaborate either with an educational establishment or assemble a team of freelance tutors who have the required certifications and experience.
Make the portal user-centric
Usability is rule number one for those online products that are aimed at conversions. And the concept of e-learning implies offering students an option to choose the most comfortable studying pace and program. Therefore, when creating an e-learning portal, try to make it as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.
Enable clear and intuitive navigation and categorize the courses wisely. As well, work on your call-to-action buttons - try personalizing and optimizing them in order to increase the number of conversions. And don’t forget to invest in high-quality video production for the lectures as poorly filmed lectures can discourage the users from engaging.
Enable user ratings and feedback
Testimonials are really important as they greatly impact one’s opinion about an online product. Hence, if you want to increase reliability and trust in your courses, it will be a good idea to enable user ratings and reviews.
By doing so, users can not only search for the courses by their ratings but will also be able to see the comments and opinions of real users, with all the pros and cons. This, in turn, will greatly increase a level of trust and will serve as an additional factor in attracting the user to roll in the course.
Find an experienced development team
When creating any software product, it’s not enough to have amazing ideas only - you also need to find a reliable development team that will realize them as needed. Thus, we recommend looking for a service provider on websites like Clutch that offer testimonials and reviews from the past clients of a company.
When looking for a development agency, look at their portfolio to see whether the company worked with the e-learning projects in the past. You can also request an interview with the team and ask them more about the way they can design your product. Look for a team that offers transparent communication and a flexible approach and you will be rewarded with a high-quality e-learning software product.