The global pandemic and the quarantine that came after have changed almost all of our familiar life processes. Some enterprises, unfortunately, reduced their activities or closed down. Others adapted to the remote mode of working. Education is an industry that underwent one of the most radical changes. Despite the fact that the remote learning format has been around for quite some time, an unexpected and forced transition has become a big challenge nonetheless. But these difficulties proved to be a blessing in disguise for the educational app market. So thinking about how to create an educational app is a promising move.
The current situation and the rising popularity of learning apps of all kinds have prompted the growing interest in educational app development. Educational apps are your chance to create something useful for society and make a profit.
What educational apps are and why they are popular
Education is trending. Not for the degrees’ sake, but to gain knowledge. Knowledge is the key to future success, for kids as well as for adults.
“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.”
Learning apps are one way to gain this knowledge. An educational app is a piece of mobile software designed to help individuals with remote learning of any kind. The examples vary from apps teaching kids basic math to apps acting as advanced professional training platforms for adults.
Who uses educational apps? A variety of people and institutions:
- Kids of different ages, starting from toddlers to learn basic things and ease the learning process
- Pupils, applicants, and students who need help preparing for exams
- Specialists to maintain a high qualification level or to get to the next one
- People who decided to try something new or get additional education, master the necessary skills, and gain new knowledge
- Educational institutions to solve different learning problems
- Online courses platforms to use such apps as a tool for better market promotion.
Categories of educational apps
Just as there are countless variations of learning apps, so there are countless ways to categorize them.
Before you build your application, you need to choose the most appropriate training concept you will offer to your users. Based on their purpose, educational apps can be:
- Learning platforms. If we are talking about learning platforms such as Udemy, Coursera, or edX, then it is always a coolly designed, sturdy platform with different courses, and many creators posting their content.
If you have this type of app in mind, create a comfortable place for taking courses in the most digestible form. Let course creators load a course part by part, allow as many formats as you can, and add tests and a grading system, as well as motivational elements for future students.
- Learning apps for a specific subject. If you decide to create an app that is dedicated to one topic, then you need to pay a lot of attention to the concept of information delivery. Your app should have a maximized functionality and a unique and welcoming design.
- Educational games. In game-style apps, learning goes hand in hand with entertainment. You should have a strong learning concept, narrative, and game scenario, which will motivate a user to study through the playing. Of course, well-thought-out and strong gamification is a rather difficult stage of creating an app. But it makes users continue learning in a pleasant and playful learning atmosphere. Therefore, such applications are complex, but popular in comparison other types.
- Learning management system (LMS) apps. A popular type of training app now is learning management systems. Large companies use such apps to unify multiple learning concepts that they want to provide for their employees. With the help of an LMS, training of company employees is carried out in a single common space, which is simple to analyze and evaluate.
- Classroom education apps. And another popular type of application for teaching is so-called classroom apps where there is no learning process as such, but rather the management of the learning process. Such apps are usually used between parents, teachers, and students as a single space for observing the progress of students.
- Educational apps for kids. And of course, a separate type is educational apps for children. Their making requires knowledge of child psychology, and the ability to convey important learning goals to children while maintaining their engagement and motivation.
You can probably think of other apps for education that don’t belong to these categories that are used by you or by people you know.
Why would people want to use your e-learning app?
To answer this question, the first thing you need to understand is that users are looking for more learning apps! And here is why:
Time and place flexibility. This is the number one reason educational apps are so widespread. The simple convenience of having learning opportunities anywhere and anytime you like at the tip of your fingers makes them incomparable to offline classes. This is especially important for busy people. This is the 21st century, and all the technical prerequisites are in one place for using the simplest software for education. What could be more convenient than the ability to become smarter through a device that is always with you in your pocket? And now you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars or travel great distances to learn something new or acquire a new skill that will help you earn more.
Wide choice. People no longer need to choose only the courses presented in their city or wait until a particular person takes a tour. Nowadays, we are free to choose from any of the learning materials available online. So the creation of applications for learning is now especially relevant. There are certain types of applications that are already very popular, and these categories are filled with serious competitors, but there are also a lot of topics that users need that are not covered enough in the current offerings.
Money-saving. Even if an educational app is monetized through a subscription, it’s still far less expensive than paying a tutor. People choose learning applications first because it is the easiest and most affordable way to learn something. This is a way that does not require serious investments and expenditures of time. No effort to meet with a teacher, no serious technical requirements. It is so simple – a tap on the application icon, and your learning starts right this second!
Efficiency. Online learning provides a more efficient way of learning, i.e. one that is quicker, more organized, requires no commuting, etc. Therefore, an application is the most convenient and simple way that does not lead to procrastination like other types of training because of its simplicity.
+ Don’t forget: because of the global pandemic and self-isolation, people have discovered that online learning is a convenient and highly practical way to become smarter. Besides all its positive educational aspects, it also limits the number of contacts outside of home. In fact, you can learn any kind of knowledge and skills without getting out of bed.
Simplicity. And of course, this mode of learning takes advantage of a simplified, familiar type of display to which the human eye is already very accustomed through the popularity of smartphones.
Educational apps market
Have you noticed how many people are involved in some kind of online learning activity? Have you tried some during the quarantine?
Online education has been turning into a fashionable trend during recent years and, nudged by the pandemic, it apparently has very good prospects. Developers of such resources are becoming aware that this industry is capable of generating impressive revenues.
To illustrate this, look at the top App Store categories by Statista.com data:
An educational market is now a platform where they test newest tech solutions, and that generates a huge income. It is expected that the educational app market will grow by over $46 billion by 2024.
What features people expect from educational apps
What makes an educational app for learning? Given the wide choice of options described earlier, it highly depends on its purpose. Basic features of an educational app usually include:
- User profile
- Learning material storage
- Push notifications
- Scheduling system
- Statistics on the dynamics of learning
- Social network integration
- The ability to make payments (if needed).
How to create an educational app
Before developing an app for learning, it’s important to outline your plan of action. Following these steps will save you from a lot of trouble:
- Finding an idea. Think about what you or the people around you would like to have on their phones, what are the trends and opportunities, and come up with a unique (at least, in some ways) idea.
- Market research. Pay as much attention to this step as you can because a lack of proper marketing research is one of the major problems, why so many startups fail before they are able to make a statement.
- Testing. After you’ve picked an idea and have studied the market, ask your target audience about it. Do they like it? Do they need it? What advice do they have?
- MVP. First, build an MVP with basic features and go from there.
While looking for a way to create an educational app, you may come across app constructors that offer you the services of app building with ready-made solutions and no coding. They are far cheaper than custom solutions made by professional app development companies. However, you should be aware that using these kinds of services has several very serious drawbacks like the inability to create something custom, maintainability issues, and possible problems with getting your product to the app stores.
Educational app design
The design of an app depends on its users and their goals. The UI of a learning app can vary from colorful and cute themes with animations and illustrations for kids to sober and minimalistic ones for adults. What they all have in common is the UX part. Every educational app is useful when it’s able to:
- Capture a person’s attention and keep it
- Engage them with learning activities
- Offer meaningful experiences
- Let interact socially.
The design of an app for learning also depends on the type – whether it is a platform for courses or an app dedicated to one topic.
Specifically, it’s better to design learning management apps in a strict minimalistic style. It has no distracting details, but a plain, perhaps even a bit outdated look that outwardly resembles a public education. Same is for learning platforms — design is rather serious and strict:
But if you’re going to create an app for e-learning based on game logic, then cute animations, illustrations, and cartoon style will benefit it. Such apps entertain users while they are studying. Look how well they designed one of the top-10 most downloaded educational apps — Brainly. It has a modern, sophisticated look, with trendy blurs and a fresh, minimalistic color scheme:
In the apps created for teaching a specific subject, for example, a language, the difference between apps is not too great. They are all made in approximately the same minimalistic style with small colorful elements and little immersion in the app branding.
You can confuse some screens with others, even though they come from different creators.
Designers make use of all kinds of tricks to ensure a smooth, continuous flow, a sense of achievement, ease of use, and a clear structure.
Educational app development
To make an educational app for iOS or Android, you’ll need a development team, consisting of the following specialists:
- Project manager
- UI/UX designer
- One or two mobile developers
- One or two back-end developers (depending on the required development speed)
- QA engineer.
As you need the help of several people, the task of hiring separate freelancer specialists may prove to be troublesome, so you have two basic options: hire an in-house team or make use of outsourcing company services.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches. In-house teams mean easier communication. But they tend to cost more (sometimes several times more) due to the higher standards of living in certain parts of the world. Developers from outsourcing destinations offer more affordable rates having the same level of expertise and without compromising on the end result.
Before learning the details, it’s impossible to say for certain which languages and technologies to choose for mobile app development since they all have their benefits and drawbacks.
Our iOS/Android mobile app stack consists of Swift and Objective-C programming languages and Xcode IDE. We use Java and Kotlin languages, Android Studio IDE, and Retrofit REST client for Android app development. Backend/API stack is provided by Ruby, .NET, Postgre DB, Redis. Admin panels are made with Material UI, React, Angular, jQuery.
There are two major approaches suitable for educational app development: to create a native app or a cross-platform one.
Native applications are created solely for iOS or Android platforms, and their main characteristics are:
- Higher price
- Higher requirements for developers
- Higher performance speed.
Cross-platform development means:
- Lower overall costs
- Animations and 3D objects limitations.
So while being more costly, native development seems to be a better choice for educational apps since it offers a more custom and quality-oriented approach.
When choosing the tech stack for your project, consult professionals beforehand. The final set of technologies and tools depends on your project requirements.
How much it costs to make an educational app
Several factors may influence educational mobile app development cost, including the number, type, and complexity of the required features and the presence of costly elements like animations.
We at Shakuro created an MVP of an educational app for kids, and the whole process took 2100 hours to complete. So, taking our outsource rates, the rough calculations for this project, including iOS front-end and server-side development, UI/UX design, management, testing.
Total cost: $115 500.
This is an MVP version. The complete app with additional features will take about 2500-2600 hours ($87 500-$91 000), though these time and cost calculations are approximate and can vary greatly. For example, your MVP may prove to be much cheaper because the project in our example is intended for kids and has a lot of illustrations and animations which are expensive. You can only receive a more accurate figure after consulting our specialists.
How to monetize an educational app
What method to choose to monetize your app depends on its nature, users, and, to a certain extent, luck (you should always be testing your methods). However, the overwhelming majority of educational apps are monetized using one (or a combination) of these four methods below.
- Paid apps
The simplest option. You demonstrate a set of features, explain why users need to pay for them, and set a reasonable price (which is an art by itself).
If you choose to make your app free, the best monetizing models in this case are:
A monthly subscription is the most popular method of monetizing a learning app.
Here is one of the most popular language app — Drops, which has a lifetime subscription for just $209. It reached 25 million users so far:
Some educational apps like Duolingo offer premium features that require subscribing to unlock.
Look, how free learning app Duolingo generated $161 million in revenue in 2020, a 106% increase year-on-year thanks to the ability to sell several gaming options like “life” and “diamonds” and the in-app advertising option:
Uptime, the free app with premium features, costs $79,9 a year. It presents users with five-minute knowledge bits from top books and courses, and raised $16 million in a Seed funding round:
- In-app ads
Ads are popular because they allow people to use apps for free. You should only be aware of what ads you choose and how many of them, especially in apps for kids.
Trends in learning app development
Video remains one of the most popular content formats. For example, it explains the explosive growth of the Tik Tok app. Back in 2016, the application was popular only in China, but in September 2018, it beats Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat by the number of downloads in the USA. Incorporate video lectures in your learning app if they suit its format.
Technologies like AR, VR, and AI
Virtual reality (VR) is still perceived by many as pure entertainment. There are still not enough VR devices to talk about the revolution in the gaming industry. But the format turned out to be in demand in other areas, such as medicine and education (and medical education). More and more large companies are starting to use VR to train their employees. The reasons are simple: an employee can be quickly and easily immersed in the context of a situation, taken through different scenarios, and immediately tested.
AR-visualization allows you to show complex objects in a simple and convenient way, which increases not only the memorization of information but also the depth of understanding.
As for the use of artificial intelligence, there are AI chatbots ready to assist. AI mentors are always at hand and let you explore an incomprehensible topic at any time. What’s more, AI algorithms can analyze thousands of works, identify the problem areas of a particular student, and create individual lessons to fill knowledge gaps.
Gamification in apps means you use game rules to achieve real goals. In other words, with the game-like flow, you make boring assignments interesting and transform something difficult into simple. Here is the gamified educational app Elevate, where the system of gaming steps and dashboard analysis motivates users to study:
Micro training is considered one of the main fitness trends in 2021. Judging by the accelerating pace of life, every year its popularity will only grow.
Micro training techniques are valid not only for fitness apps but for educational ones. It means presenting educational content in a very short and easily digestible form taking 5-10 minutes to accomplish.
me, every night, reluctantly doing my Duolingo at 11:55 pm so I don’t lose my streak pic.twitter.com/UVIOwgSnS4
— straight adjacent anarcho-monogamist (@intrnetdaughter) June 20, 2020
Let’s make your ideas a reality
Though the pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, there is no need to be a hostage to the situation. There’s no need to stop, it’s worth continuing to search for new opportunities and use the situation to develop new projects and ideas. It can as well be a new and exciting educational app.
Let’s figure out together how to create an educational app that would help you reach your goals and make this world a better place. Drop us a line, and let’s make something new together and make this process exciting!
Further reads on e-learning app development:
- Educational Apps: E-Learning Market Research And Statistics
- Make It Work: Tips On E-Learning App Development
- 8 E-Learning App Trends Defining Educational App Development
- E-Learning App Design And How To Make It Better
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This article about e-learning app development was originally published in June 2020 and was updated in September 2021 to make it more relevant and comprehensive.