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Should You Buy a Ready-Made E-Learning Solution or Develop a Custom One?

If you choose to develop a custom e-learning app, how do you develop the one that brings value?

By 2022, the global online learning market is expected to reach $275.10 billion in monetary worth, Reuters says. From 2001 to 2017, the corporate online education industry has grown by 900%, and at least 42% of organizations that employed learning apps have greatly boosted their profitability, according to the statistics by eLearning Industry. E-learning is more sustainable than face-to-face learning in terms of the environment. A study by The Open University found that “distance learning courses involve 87% less energy and 85% lower CO2 emissions than the full-time campus-based courses”.

No doubt, online learning is the future. However, developing an educational app can be a lengthy and often expensive process, which, however, necessarily pays off as students get more engaged and motivated. Generation Z children were born with smartphones in their hands. Letting them keep these smartphones while studying is the best way to boost their learning performance.

Well, why to incorporate an educational app into your learning process is not in question. The question is how to incorporate an educational app into your learning process. Should you buy a ready-made app or make an educational app of your own? Here, we will consider the pros and cons of both options. If you choose the latter path, we will have a closer look at how to make a learning app.

Why Should You Buy a Ready-Made E-Learning Solution?

#1. Do not reinvent the wheel

Whatever your idea is, most likely, a similar software product has already been developed. Why would you do an unnecessary job and create e-learning apps that already exist? Instead, you can buy a ready-made app and focus on the content you are going to incorporate into it.

#2. Save time and effort

Developing an educational app from scratch is a time-consuming process. You need to find a team of professionals, conduct a discovery stage, design UI and UX, write code and test it, fix bugs, and only then, deploy your app. Buying a ready-made solution is faster, cheaper, and simpler then e learning application development since you skip most educational app development stages.

#3. Use someone else’s tech expertise

There are ready-made apps with a variety of functions implemented, including kinetic interaction (touching, moving, scaling, and swiping), audial interaction (talking, repeating, singing, and listening), or cognitive interaction (dealing with exercises, images, videos, or symbolic systems). There are solutions for implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning, AR and VR, so you do not need to hire a team of different specialists to implement all these functions. In other words, you do not need to worry about how to create a learning app of your own. Instead, you simply rely on the proven technical expertise of other people and focus on what you can do best.

#4. Know the price beforehand

When you are buying a ready-made app, you know the final price of it in advance. When you are building your own app, in most cases, you follow the “Time and Material” approach, which means that the final price may vary. Surely, if you are on a limited budget, you may discuss a fixed price approach with your education app development team. However, buying an educational app is still more secure.

#5. Expect no surprises

Buying a ready-made app, you can look and click through the final product. If you choose to build an educational app, regardless of how precise your requirements are, the final product always comes with a bit of surprise. To compare, if you buy a ready-made apartment, you can go through the rooms, check the furniture, and get the actual feeling of your new home. But when you buy an apartment with bare walls, you cannot know what to expect at the end however nice the design looked on paper. Similar thing happens when you make an educational app of your own — you can never know what exactly you will have in the end.

 The price of a ready-made app will depend on the product type, platform, and functionality.

Why Should You Build a Custom E-Learning Solution?

#1. Keep up with the trends

The software market is extending at a rapid pace, and the number of technologies, functions, solutions is growing rapidly. Are you willing to implement one of those newest decisions? Most probably, there are no ready-made software solutions yet, but you can create your own education app. Later, you might even sell it to other people. So hurry up and enter this niche while it is still vacant!

#2. Implement exactly the features that you need

If you buy a ready-made solution, you will be provided a variety of functions, most of which you will not even need. If you want to focus on your needs without dispersing your attention, build your own app. In the same way, if you prioritize security above all, you can focus on ensuring it while developing your custom app.

#3. Think of your particular user

Before developing an app, clearly define your purpose and study the preferences of your target user. Do you create your app for teachers, students, pupils, librarians, drivers, language learners, or people with special needs? Building a custom app will let you take into account all these specific features, design the optimal UI/UX, and incorporate the best content. More than that, by creating your own app from scratch, you will have an opportunity to incorporate your application with the most popular social networks in your country or area, to make your app culture-specific, to develop it in any language, and to make sure it is error-free. In particular, while building an educational app, think of the most relevant and catchy motivational messages to retain your target audience.

#4. Spare yourself unnecessary problems

If you decide to buy a ready-made solution, you rely on somebody else’s knowledge of how to make e learning apps. You cannot be a hundred percent sure that the code is clean, that the app is bug-free, and that nothing is going to break when you start scaling your product. Instead, if you decide to build an educational app, you start from scratch. You will have full control over the quality, and it will depend solely on the technical expertise of your team.

#5. Test your idea

If you are not sure if your idea is going to work, start with MVP app development. It will let you try out your idea and analyze its performance. According to the findings, you will be able to adjust it to the needs of your user and be sure that the project is going to succeed.

* The price of building your own app will depend on the product type, platform, functionality, and salaries of IT specialists in a certain region.

If you decide that building a custom e-learning app is the path you should take, how do you make sure that your custom solution will bring value?

How to Build a Custom E-Learning Solution?

1. Choose your niche

The education industry provides plenty of options for learning apps to develop. You might want to create a customized education system, targeted at a certain group of people. Let’s say, you want to develop an application for primary school students to learn to read and to write. Maybe, you want to let beginner athletes pick the right e-learning platform to find out more about nutrition and exercising. You may create an e-learning software product, which would feature a variety of courses in multiple subjects of various difficulty levels and duration. It is also a great idea to develop an AI chatbot, which would help your users learn languages or solve math problems. It might also be used to study processes within an organization during onboarding and to test employees’ competence. A gamified education service would let you encourage a young audience to study while playing, whereas more mature users would enjoy full-scale self-learning management systems. Educators would be grateful if you developed a skills assessment solution or a school management platform. Meanwhile, businesses would greatly benefit from a professional training system.

There are plenty of types of educational apps. So, have you decided what should it be? An app for learning foreign languages? A self-learning platform? Or maybe, a digital literature database? The opportunities are endless, and all of them may become really helpful for someone on a condition that you take the needs of your target user into account.

2. Develop the idea

Before you start developing educational software, develop your idea. Place your future app in the 7 product dimensions: multiplicity, publicity, geography, identity, communication, time, and price.


You need to start with understanding what your product should be. Should it be an individual software product or one of the tools of a broader educational system? For instance, if you develop learning management systems for a broader online learning platform, you will be limited by the standards and requirements of the latter. However, if you develop a gamified application for children to learn math, you are free to do whatever you want.


Now, you will have to decide if your app is going to be open only to a certain circle of people or to the broad public. Let’s say, if you develop an app for learning languages, you would want to make it generally accessible. However, if you develop an internal education management platform for a particular school, you would definitely want to close it from the public.


Respectively, another important choice to make is whether your target audience is going to be global or limited to some geographical place. If your app is going to be available only for certain users, you should customize it in accordance with a particular geographical location. For instance, if you develop a performance assessment platform for the USA, the marks should range from “A” to “F”, for Germany ― from “1” to “6”, for the Netherlands ― from “10” to “1”.


Going even further, you might want to consider whether to customize your app to a particular user or not. For example, if your product is targeted at athletes, you should provide them with information that they find relevant. However, if it is a platform with online courses in all possible subjects and topics, you should leave your app as neutral as possible.


Moving on, as far as communication is concerned, you need to decide if the information flow will be unidirectional or bidirectional. If your online-learning app is limited to lectures, the communication is going to be one-way. If you are going to provide your users with an opportunity to pass tests, answer questions, or chat with each other, the information flow will be two-way.


You need to decide whether the users of your app will interact with it synchronously or asynchronously. For instance, if your app features a chat room or an online conferencing tool, your users will interact in real-time. If your app features a discussion forum or any other form of communication that does not require an immediate response, you will foster asynchronous interaction. The first option helps students learn to communicate more effectively and to think faster, whereas the second one gives them an opportunity to take time to formulate their thoughts.


The last but not the least important question to answer is whether your app should be free or paid, or maybe it should feature in-app purchases. Depending on your purpose and target audience, you need to decide if monetization is possible. For example, if you develop an online dictionary, you could make it accessible for free but add some premium features that can be purchased. If you develop a translator, there is no point in making it paid because of a huge number of competitors that are accessible for free. Instead, you can profit from advertising. However, if your learning app is going to feature some exclusive courses or resources, you better charge your users for using it.

3. Find your team

Depending on what your product should be, what are your time and budget limits for developing an educational app, what special features need to be implemented, you need to choose your team. It is important that the developers know how to create learning apps — so have a thorough look at their portfolio. You need a team of specialists that will assist you with the education app development.In particular, if you want to implement AR/VR, you need to find professionals that specialize in AR/VR. If your app is going to use the advancements of machine learning and AI, you need to hire people that are skillful in these spheres. Another important question to consider is whether to hire freelancers or an agency. While the former option is more cost-efficient, the latter option is more reliable. Read more about the Freelancers vs. Agencies dilemma.

At this point in time, you also need to discuss payment strategy, Are you willing to sign a Statement of Work, or you want to work by a “Time and Material” (T&M) approach? In the first case, you will know a fixed price in advance, so you can plan your budget expenditures. However, fixed price usually covers all the risks that your vendor might encounter, and thus, it may turn out to be higher than the end price in T&M. In the latter case, you will have an opportunity to spend more time and costs on perfecting the application or adding some additional features.

4. Conduct a discovery stage

Discovery is the crucial stage of e-learning application development. Have you decided what your app should look like and whom you are going to work with? Now, conduct profound research to evaluate the existing software and e-learning resources and to better understand your user needs. By doing so, you will be able to reassess your idea before starting the educational app development. You will understand, whether the niche is vacant or overcrowded, whether there are some other features you would want to implement, what makes a successful education app in your particular sphere, or which mistakes to avoid. It is important that the discovery stage is conducted after you have hired your team because a professional business analyst would see some opportunities or potential issues that you, otherwise, could easily miss.

More than that, you should be prepared that your initial product idea is barely likely to stay intact. After the discovery stage, you might need to reevaluate your target audience, communication model, or pricing strategy. It is a natural part of educational app development aimed to improve the final outcome, so if you trust your development partners, do not resist the changes they offer.

At this point, you also need to decide which platforms you want your app to operate on, is it a web platform or a mobile app. Think about how to adopt the latest technologies, such as machine learning and AI, voice chatbots, AR/VR, or PWA. Also, consider simulation and gamification if applicable. If that is a chatbot, you need to select channels it should support. Accordingly, your partners will help you to choose the technical stack, which would allow them to develop the best-functioning application.

5. Hand in your idea to developers

Once you have formulated the final idea, it is time to entrust it to your team of professionals, who will design, develop, deploy, and support your app. The first step, although not an obligatory one, would be to create a prototype, and then, a minimum viable product to ensure that your idea is going to work. After the UI/UX requirements and technical specifications are finalized, the e-learning app development starts. Throughout the development process, your app should be continuously tested by QA specialists to ensure that there are no bugs. Only after the application is perfect, it can be deployed to the store. Maintenance and support are equally important since you may come up with new ideas on how to develop an educational app, your users may express their will to see some additional features, technologies may require some updates, or some unpredictable mistakes may occur.

6. Promote and advertise

However great your software product was, it is not going to work if your target users do not know about it.You may create an account on Instagram or Facebook to reach your target audience and communicate with them. With the help of paid advertising and word-of-mouth, you will be able to spread awareness about your product. Keep in mind that the better your product is, the less you are going to spend on marketing since the users will do all the promotion job for you. Social media platforms will also come in handy in terms of collecting learner feedback and adapting your app to the best interest of your users. Besides, you may also contact your target users directly and offer them to test your software for free. For example, if you have developed a plagiarism checker, you can contact major schools and universities and offer them a trial period of your program. Finally, good old marketing strategies, such as TV advertisements, billboards, or handouts are also going to serve their purpose even though they are bound to cost you a lot more than any other marketing solution.

To Wrap Up

If you chose the “build a custom solution” path, we will be happy to help. Here is a brief summary of the end-to-end e learning app development plan we have presented above:

  1. Come up with a unique idea: find a software solution to a learning problem.
  2. Define your app in terms of multiplicity, publicity, geography, identity, communication, time, and price.
  3. Hire a team of professionals whom you would trust with developing an educational app.
  4. Conduct a comprehensive discovery stage and finalize your product specifications.
  5. Design, develop an educational app, test, and deploy.
  6. Do not forget about promoting and advertising your product.
Do you have an idea for an education app?

Let us help you to take your educational project from the idea through discovery, design, and development to a final product. We know the answer to the question “How to create e learning app?”, and we have a sound experience in it.

Alex Pletnov Kate Novak Head of Partner Engagement
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