How to build an online course website from scratch and questions to answer before that

Dan Fedirko
Feb 7, 2019 · 6 min read

According to research, the global elearning market is going to grow at a CAGR of around 7.0% over the next few years and will reach approximately $331 billion by 2025. This creates a massive opportunity for business and tutors to create online courses and elearning platforms. In this guide, we will cover all the aspects of building an elearning website.

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3 ways of building elearning website

There are 3 main ways you can build a website for your online course: use LMS(Learning Management System), SaaS solutions or code from scratch. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each of them.

1. Code From Scratch

This will be a good choice if you want to build a website with custom features and expect a large number of students enrolled. Notice, that each part of a site will be coded from scratch, so you need a strong team of developers. Most of the online learning websites are build with the usage of PHP, ASP or NodeJS programming languages. Moreover, such a website requires a specific server and database setup. Mostly, cloud solutions like AWS or GCP are used.



2. Open Source LMS and CMS

Open Source LMS(Learning Management Systems) like Moodle or TalentLMS provide you with a ready-built platform which is ready to go after installation on your servers. All the necessary features for creating an online course and its management are included.

There is also an ability to create online courses on popular CMS like WordPress and Joomla, using themes and plugins like Sensei, LifterLMS, eMember, etc.



3. SaaS platforms

SaaS(Software as a Service) platforms like Teachable and Thinkific provide a full range of elearning features via a monthly or annual subscription. There is no installation or coding required.



Questions to answer before development

What are the goals and objectives of your website?

It’s always a wise step to start from the end. What is the result your user gets after using your website? Is it a concrete skill, knowledge or an exam pass?

Understanding the goals and objectives of your website help to build the curriculum right and later on the website development strategy.

What is the plan of study curriculum?

Mapping the elearning curriculum beforehand will help you to know what content you need to develop, how it will be delivered and how the website should look like.

So what your students should know after finishing your course or training? List topics, skills, and exercises you want your trainees to complete.

How will you deliver the content?

Most of the elearning platforms use blend-learning approach, which includes few delivery methods like:

Understanding of content delivery methods leads to a set of features:

How will you engage your students?

If the process of learning is boring, it is hard for learners to focus and consume information. This leads to worse students’ progress and the success of the whole course.

Here are a few ways of keeping the students engaged:

The most popular way to keep the audience alert is used in offline lectures when the lecturer asks questions. The same approach can be implemented in elearning by asking students questions during video and making quizzes.

Another, a more interesting and complex method is gamification. We all love games because they excite, bring joy and involve. Here are some examples of how gamification can be implemented in online learning:

One more method of students engagement is through collaboration and interaction.

It can be done with these features:

Insights about students engagement also lead to features required. Keep it in mind while choosing the way of building the website.

What are your competitors?

With this question, we move closer to the actual development of the platform. Insights from competitors research will give you an understanding of what platforms they mostly use, what features do they have, what their students like and dislike and how you can be better.

Create Wireframes

In elearning, the user experience is the most important part after the content. Wireframes usually are developed by experienced UX designers, but you can do it to on a piece of paper to have a vision of how your website should look like.

Course performance analytics

When your elearning website is up and running it’s time to consistently measure its success and performance. It can be done by measuring KPIs.

According to The Kirkpatrick Model, there are 4 types of elearning KPIs:

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This model will help you know how much your students use and love your website. Moreover, it will show you the business value of a course.

Most of LMS support tracking of the Reactions and Learning metrics. However, it can be challenging to track Behavior and Results, as no LMS have this functionality built-in. There are 2 ways out: analyze it by hand using spreadsheets or develop a custom solution.


The creation of the online learning website can be challenging, not to mention the curriculum itself. But it’s worth the effort. Just keep in mind your main goals and plans and choose the right development way according to it. If you hesitate about the technical part, we will be glad to help you choose.

Elligense | Tech in elearning and ecommerce

We at Elligense develop custom elearning and ecommerce IT…

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