University education is getting more and more expensive. The College Board indicates a 3% growth of tuition and fees for private and public colleges during the past two years.
Online courses have become a great alternative to traditional education. The leading eLearning providers are Coursera and Udemy, which attract millions of users wanting to gain new skills. For example, Udemy can boast of over 50 million students.
So what makes them outstanding examples of educational platforms? How to create a website like Coursera or Udemy that can compete with these giants? You will find the answers in this article.
What is eLearning portal
In brief, eLearning or electronic learning is training delivered via digital devices. These gadgets (computers, tablets, and smartphones) should be connected to the Internet. Students do not have to be present in the class and can learn at their own pace.
Today digital education platforms become an impactful and convenient tool.
eLearning is getting more and more popular owing to their undeniable benefits. Let’s discuss the core advantages in more detail:
- Flexibility. With education marketplaces, students can take courses anytime, anywhere. They no longer need to travel to educational institutions. Instead, learners study in the comfort of their homes. It is a real catch for people who have a full-time job or cannot attend a college or university.
- Self-paced mode. Students are free to set the schedule according to their individual needs.
- Lower costs. Online programs are often cheaper than tuition in a traditional campus environment. Besides, learners save money on course materials, accommodation, and commute.
Despite its high potential and clear advantages, virtual education is not perfect. The most common challenges related to eLearning are as follows:
- Self-discipline issues;
- Lack of face-to-face interaction;
- Reliance on technology;
- The quality of content;
- Lack of feedback from trainers.
Types of digital learning platforms
- MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), e.g. Coursera, Udacity, or FutureLearn;
- Virtual learning environment (VLE), e.g., Blackboard or Moodle;
- Video streaming services, e.g., YouTube;
- Visual instructor-led training (VILT), e.g., WebEx;
- Discussion boards, e.g., Kialo;
- Forums e.g., The Teacher’s Corner;
- Podcasts e.g., Hardcore History, Philosophize This.
Udemy and Coursera: a detailed comparison
Udemy - the world’s biggest online learning platform
The history of Udemy dates back to 2007. Then Eren Bali came up with an idea of creating software for a live virtual classroom. Bali noticed that gifted people sometimes do not have the ability to advance their skills. Thus, he decided to create a software solution to help adults with their education.
The first attempt at building an online education marketplace failed. So Bali and his friend Oktay Caglar packed their bags and moved from Turkey to Silicon Valley. There they gave their project another try. At first, more than 30 investors rejected the idea. Finally, in 2010 Bali launched the platform.
Now approximately 57,000 instructors offer courses in 65 languages on Udemy. As of January 2020, the website library contained over 150,000 courses.
Udemy and Coursera success factors
So what distinguishes them from similar online learning platforms? Let’s find out.
- Advanced technology. It enables students to get a better learning experience.
- The competition-based pricing policy for courses with free educational options.
- Rating system. It allows assessing both the expertise of the educators and the quality of content.
- Educational content translated into different languages. Students get a chance to learn from the most qualified experts from all over the world.
- Course-creation toolkit for building free and premium courses.
- The extensive database of experts who are eager to share their experience.
The table below shows the main similarities and differences between Udemy and Coursera:
|Udemy vs Coursera|
|Number of courses||150,000+||3,100+|
|Number of users||50M+||47M+|
|Who Contributes||Individual instructors||Universities|
|Bachelor’s and Master’s||No||Yes|
|Course price||$20 – $200||$29 – $99|
How to create an eLearning website like Udemy or Coursera
1. Define your niche
So you have decided to build an e-learning platform. First of all, think about the courses that will be present there. Will they encompass a wide range of subjects from arts and crafts to health and fitness? Or do you want to launch an industry-specific education marketplace?
If you decided to take the second path, it would be a sound idea to choose one of the most popular niches. They will attract many students and bring your platform much profit.
- Computers and technology
- Business and Entrepreneurship
- Personal development
- Writing and content creation
- Arts and crafts
- Social sciences
2. Choose a monetization strategy
At first, MOOC providers did not charge their users. They supported the idea of free and open access to learning materials. However, when prestigious universities started joining their platforms, the providers began monetizing their websites.
Let's see how online learning marketplaces raise money.
Some platforms, for example, EdX, allow learners to audit their courses for free. However, if students want to get a certificate of completion, it will cost $50. Verified certificates help support their idea of free education for everyone.
Class Central, a search engine for finding various online courses, defined Coursera's profit from a single course. They traced how many students purchased a certificate, paid for a college degree, and signed up to get access to a degree course.
As it turned out, a single iMBA course brought Coursera more than $20 million. Impressive results, right?
Udacity offers some of the Nanodegrees on a subscription basis. Learners can become experts in various areas from Marketing Analytics to Data Visualization for $399 per month.
Skillshare provides users with very limited access to the service. At the same time, the account upgrade brings lots of extra possibilities. They get unlimited access to thousands of classes. Besides, learners can download lessons on their devices and watch them offline.
Below you can see the core benefits of Premium account on Skillshare:
Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization. All their resources are free. How can they make money? Well, they get donations from users and other non-profit institutions. For example, in 2010, Google gave Khan Academy $2 million to create new content and translate it into other languages.
In 2015, American multinational conglomerate AT&T donated Khan Academy $2.25 million. The money was spent on building the mobile version. As a result, online courses became available for mobile users.
It is a common practice for large companies to train their staff. eLearning platforms effectively serve this purpose. Both Udemy and Coursera offer tools and materials required for the employees learning.
Corporate eLearning became a good source of income for Coursera. Thus, Forbes states that this online education marketplace earned $140 million in 2018 largely thanks to the partnership with 1,800 enterprises. For example, Adobe paid Coursera $150,000 for providing machine-learning courses to Adobe’s staff.
3. Select functionality for eLearning website
Let’s take a look at the core features of educational platforms. This functionality will help bring learning experience alive.
- Search with autocomplete. Don’t make users look through an endless list of irrelevant options. Help them find the desired course with a predictive search function instead.
- Filters. Allow students to choose classes based on different criteria. The most common of them are topic, subcategory, level, language, ratings, price, features, and duration.
Below we can see multiple search filters offered by Udemy:
- Recommendations. Create lists of trending courses and the most popular certificates. Highlight best selling authors and thought leaders. These recommendations will help learners discover exciting things. At the same time, new users will have a good place to start.
FutureLearn invites students to explore their top online courses:
Feedback and rating system. This feature is necessary for promoting high-quality classes. In addition, it makes it easier to weed out useless or irrelevant courses.
Categories. With an extensive system of categories, students can quickly find the desired classes.
Below you can see a vast number of categories provided by edX:
Easy sign-up for both students and educators. Make it possible for users to sign up via Facebook or Google to save their time. Student profile. Enable students to view the chosen courses and accomplishments. Wishlists and purchase history should be shown there as well.
Teacher profile. It should have a forum for communication with students and the instructor community. Besides, it will be a good idea to offer educators valuable resources such as articles on teaching.
Сourse page. Provide users with general information about courses, their syllabus, reviews, and enrollment options. These data will help learners to choose the right set of lessons.
Dashboard. With its help, instructors on Udemy can track their activity. Besides, the dashboard provides them with analytical data. It can include the number of students, ratings, traffic, and conversions.
Course creation. Add the specific functionality for building online courses. Trainers should be able to define the structure of classes, upload learning materials in different formats. Aso, make it easier for them to create engaging quizzes and assignments.
Multiple payment options. Provide students with convenient and secure payment gateways. It would be a great idea to allow purchasing courses via eWallets (Apple Pay and Google Pay) that became a popular e-commerce marketplace development trend.
Admin panel. This important part of any e-learning website is required for managing both content and users. You can add students to blacklist, produce statistics reports, add new content to the blog, and assign user roles there.
Blog. It will keep learners updated about the latest courses and specializations. Besides, users can find useful tutorials and read success stories of other students there.
Support. It is a challenging task to provide a great number of enrolled participants with excellent customer support. However, it is not an option to leave their questions and concerns unattended. Otherwise, students will feel frustrated and leave your platform. It will be a good idea to implement a system that sends automated emails with recommended steps for fixing a specific issue.
4. Choose the development approach
When you are going to create a marketplace website offering online courses like Udemy or Coursera, you have two options. You may build it from scratch or use one of the dozens of ready-made solutions that are available on the market.
Let’s take a look at the main benefits and downsides of each option.
Custom software development
Suppose you want to provide a great number of students with specific functionality. In his case, custom software development is the best solution. Surely, it is more expensive and time-consuming, but it enables you to implement any required feature.
For example, you want visitors to be logged out after 200 hours of their login time to avoid login credentials sharing. When you build your website from scratch, you can easily add such a feature.
These solutions will allow you to build a marketplace for education in a matter of days. Such open-source software as Moodle or Joomla already has basic student management features. They also contain many free plugins that may come in handy, but the сustom themes are not free. Besides, you may face issues with adding specific functionality.
5. Define the required technology stack
What technologies does Udemy or Coursera use? That is an exciting question for companies searching for the most suitable programming languages, frameworks, and tools for further e-learning platform development. Well, let’s peek under the hood.
Technical stack for a website like Udemy
You may choose any programming language for building a server-side of your online education platform. For example, at Codica we use Ruby to develop scalable, fast-loading, and secure online marketplaces.
What about Udemy? What platform is it built on? In their early days, Udemy chose PHP as the main programming language. It was used together with a custom MVC framework. However, with the rise of Python, the company decided to switch to this language and the process has not finished yet.
When it comes to databases, MySQL is the ultimate choice for Udemy. Also, ElasticSearch is widely used for search and analytics.
- Third-party tools and integrations
It is worth noting that the list of third-party tools used by Udemy is not limited to the technical aspect only. Trello, Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce, Zendesk - this is the incomplete list of instruments and applications that help the education marketplace achieve different business goals.
Technical stack to build a website like Coursera
What platform does Coursera use? Well, Brennan Saeta, an infrastructure engineer at Coursera, states that the first lines of this e-learning platform were written on PHP. When the engineering team grew, the developers were using Python and Go for some time. However, their final choice was Scala. It is still used by Coursera together with the Play framework.
Similar to Udemy, Coursera also chose MySQL for managing relational databases. In addition, the company uses such an HTTP server as Nginx and such Cloud storage as Amazon S3.
- Third-party tools and integrations
Finally, Coursera uses such popular collaboration and productivity applications as Jira, Slack, G Suite.
Coursera and Udemy have become the world’s leading eLearning providers. So, building a website like Udemy or Coursera can be a good business idea. However, it will not be enough to make their clone to achieve the same success. Create a unique product with exceptional functionality. In this case, you get the chance to succeed in this highly competitive environment.
Are you looking for a development team to build and launch an e-learning marketplace? Codica specializes in online marketplace development for various industries, including eLearning platforms. We will be happy to help you become a leader in the electronic education domain. Check our ready works or contact us to discuss your project.