How to Build an Education App?
Udemy, Coursera, and Google Classroom have transformed the education landscape. More and more organizations and individuals are distributing and consuming educational content using these apps. You can make a mark in this promising market. Learn how to build an education app here.
The global market for eLearning
A few quick facts about the global eLearning market are as follows:
- The global eLearning market will likely be over $243 billion by 2022. Read “E-learning and digital education – statistics & facts” for more information.
- Apps have taken the center stage in our life, and Education isn‘t an exception. Already in 2016, businesses considered mobile learning as one of their strategic priorities. Read more about this finding in “Mobile learning stats that will make you rethink your training strategy”.
- The popularity of education apps has only increased. By Q1 2018, Apple informed the world that developers created nearly 200,000 education-related apps for Apple devices. Read about these statistics in “Apple by the numbers: Nearly 200K apps for education”.
- As of Q1 2018, education was the most popular Google Play app category, as this Statista report
Popular education apps
Let‘s review a few examples of popular education apps, as follows:
Following are a few relevant facts about Google Classroom:
- Google had first released it in 2014, as a free web service.
- There are Android and iOS apps.
- The app simplifies the creation, distribution, and grading of assignments.
- It uses Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Gmail, and Google Calendar to accomplish the above functions.
Coursera is a highly popular platform, offering the following features and advantages:
- It features courses from the best universities and businesses in the world.
- There is a robust search function.
- Courses are like interactive textbooks with videos, quizzes, and projects.
- Users can connect with other learners.
- Learners can get certificates upon course completion, and share it with relevant people or organizations.
- There are both iOS and Android apps.
A popular learning platform, Udemy offers the following features and advantages:
- The business model democratizes learning since talented instructors can create high-quality courses and sell them on Udemy.
- Udemy offers a platform for individual students as well as businesses.
- Learners can use the search function to access a large number of courses from a wide range of categories.
- The courses include videos, quizzes, projects, and downloadable content.
- Udemy offers both Android and iOS apps, in addition to its web platform.
Features of an education app
An education app should offer attractive features to make a mark in this increasingly competitive space. Consider including the following features:
- You need to provide a web app, moreover, you should provide mobile apps for popular platforms like iOS and Android.
- A simple yet elegant “User Interface” (UI) is an absolute requirement.
- The app needs a powerful search function.
- The app should provide a marketplace for instructors and learners.
- Robust security is important since an education app will deal with some amount of personal information.
- The app needs integration with payment gateways.
- Streaming is an important component here, therefore, the app must be performant and reliable.
- Instructors should be able to create and upload courses easily.
- Learners should get an intuitive dashboard displaying all their courses, their certificates, etc.
Read more about the required features in “10 best features of educational mobile app to enhance learning process”.
The steps to create an education app
I will now explain the steps to create an education app, as follows:
Step #1: Determine the project scope and approach
I recommend the following:
- Custom software development to build a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app.
- Agile as the “Software Development Lifecycle” (SDLC) model, since you will launch a “Minimum Viable Product” and then progressively enhance it.
Read “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?” for more information.
Step #2: Build a capable team
You need the following roles in your team:
- Business analysts (BAs);
- UI/UX designers;
- Android developers;
- iOS developers;
- js developers;
- A project manager (PM).
I recommend you use the “Scrum” technique to manage this Agile project. The PM performs the role of the “Scrum master”. A “Product owner” provides the requirements. The PM forms small, cross-functional teams where designers, developers, and testers work together. Read “How to build a Scrum development team?” for more information.
Step #3: Procure the right managed cloud services
You can avoid upfront investment with the right managed cloud services, moreover, you can expedite your project. You need a “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) provider for the web app, and a “Mobile Backend as a Service” (MBaaS) provider for the mobile app.
A PaaS provider offers the following advantages:
- The provider handles cloud infrastructure, networking, etc.
- PaaS providers address the server, middleware, operating system (OS), and runtime. You need to bring your code and data.
- Reputed PaaS providers make it easy for you to scale your app with their monitoring and automated scaling solutions.
- PaaS providers help you with the DevOps tools. This makes build management, testing, deployment, etc. easier.
- You can integrate 3rd party services like database and other “Application Programming Interfaces” (APIs) with your app.
I have explained the advantages of PaaS in “Top 10 PaaS providers for 2019”.
The advantages of using an MBaaS provider are as follows:
- MBaaS providers take care of the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, database, etc.
- You can take advantage of their user management and security capabilities.
- MBaaS providers handle push notifications, which is important for mobile apps.
- Your app can use the geolocation capabilities of the MBaaS provider.
- MBaaS providers help you integrate 3rd party APIs to your app.
Read “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?” to know more about the advantages of using MBaaS.
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Step #4: Buy SAP Litmos API
You can expedite your project by using APIs for the core “Learning Management System” (LMS) functions. Litmos, owned by SAP, provides their LMS API. The SAP Litmos API offers the following features and advantages:
- It provides generic LMS features like the search function, etc.
- Learners can shop for courses online.
- There are integrations with payment providers like PayPal.
- The API offers the CRM functionalities required in the LMS context.
- Integration with back-office operations in your company is possible.
- The API enables “Single Sign-On” (SSO).
- User account management is easy with this API.
- The SAP Litmos API integrates well with other 3rd party tools like Google Analytics.
- It‘s a RESTful API, therefore, developers find it easy to integrate.
- There is extensive documentation available for this API.
You can check out their pricing plan here.
Step #5: Use Express.js for the web app
Nodejs is a popular open-source option for web app development. This modern runtime environment offers numerous advantages, as follows:
- js is good for asynchronous event-driven programming. This improves the scalability of the web app. I have explained this in “10 great tools for Node.Js software development”.
- js offers significant productivity gain to a software developer.
- Streaming is important in an education app, and Node.js makes the implementation of streaming easier.
- js is performant.
- js has a vibrant and growing community. There is a massive library of sharable open-source tools and frameworks.
Express.js is a popular Node.js framework, and I recommend you use it for the web app. Express.js has the following advantages:
- It‘s a fast and minimalist framework.
- js makes the web app scalable.
- It uses Node.js features as its‘ building blocks, therefore, it provides a lightweight layer for web app development. As a result, the web app is performant.
- There is excellent documentation for Express.js, for e.g., a “Getting started” guide and more detailed guides.
Step #6: Develop, test, and deploy the web app on AWS Elastic Beanstalk
Now that you have all the tools with you, you need to take the following steps:
- Design the UI of the web app.
- Develop your web app with Express.js. Read “Deploying an Express application to Elastic Beanstalk” for more information.
- Use MongoDB as your document database. Read “MongoDB on the AWS cloud: quick start reference deployment” for details.
- Integrate the SAP Litmos API with your app.
- Manage the build, test your app, and deploy using the AWS DevOps tools. Read “DevOps and AWS” for guidance. This completes the web app development.
Step #7: Design the UI of your mobile app
You need to design a user-friendly UI of your iOS and Android apps. Focus on the following:
- Choose a navigation menu pattern that suits your app. Read “Mobile navigation menu examples” for more information.
- Use a mobile app color scheme that‘s soothing, blends well with your UI design, and fits with the nature of your app. You can consult “8 trends in mobile app color scheme” for guidance.
- Design icons for your mobile app that are simplistic, recognizable, memorable, and convey the functionality. Icons should work for screens of different size, furthermore, they should work against different backgrounds. Check our guide “How to design the perfect icon for your mobile app?” for more details.
Step #8: Use Android Studio and Kotlin for the Android app
You should use Android Studio, the popular “Integrated Development Environment” (IDE) for Android app development. Android Studio supports Kotlin, the modern programming language that many Android developers nowadays use. Kotlin offers the following advantages:
- Kotlin has a concise syntax, therefore, developers can accomplish their objective with less code.
- The language has features that help developers, for e.g., they can avoid null pointer exception.
- Kotlin supports functional programming.
- Writing bug-free code is easier with Kotlin.
- Kotlin features a small library, therefore, there is no runtime overhead.
- Google and JetBrains are fully backing the growing Kotlin developers‘ community.
I have explained these advantages in “Kotlin vs Java: which is the best choice?”. You need to integrate the SAP Litmos API in your Android app.
Step #9: Use Apples‘ Xcode and Swift for the iOS app
- Developers need to write less code with Swift since there are operators for string control, class division, etc.
- Swift apps are fast. Swift is lightweight, therefore apps written in Swift are performant.
- The language eliminates coding errors by its‘ very design.
- Swift reads like English, therefore, the code is more readable.
- Apple and IBM fully back Swift, which bodes well for the future of the language.
- Maintainability of apps improves with Swift.
- Swift helps in better “App store optimization” (ASO).
I have earlier written about these advantages in “How to migrate your Objective-C project to Swift?”. Remember to integrate the SAP Litmos API in your iOS app.
Step #10: Publish your app in the app stores
Now that you have developed and tested your app, you need to publish in the app stores. Here are the guidelines:
- “App store review guidelines” for Apple app store;
- “Launch checklist” for “Google Play”, i.e., Google app store.
This completes the mobile app development.
Step #11: Use an effective PM tool
Last but not least, you need an effective PM tool for this project. Your scrum team will work as follows:
- The “Product owner” provides the requirements in a document called “Product Backlog”.
- The team estimates the requirements and considers their priority.
- They then slot these requirements in “Sprints”, i.e., iterations. The team conducts a “Sprint planning meeting” for this.
- A scrum team conducts a “Daily stand-up meeting” to discuss the project status during a sprint.
- The project stakeholders review the app in a “Sprint review meeting”. The features should be demonstrable. The stakeholders approve the sprint if the features work.
- The project team also has a “Sprint retrospective meeting” after the sprint. This is a lessons-learned exercise.
I recommend you use Asana, a robust tool for managing Agile projects, to manage these activities.
Planning to launch an education app for your business?
APIs, IDEs, PaaS providers, MBaaS providers, frameworks and other tools can expedite an education app development project. However, depending on the complexity, it can be a complex project. Consider engaging a development partner that can manage a complex project end-to-end. Read “How to find the best software development company?” before you engage a development partner.