Make It Work: Tips On E-Learning App Development

Kostya Stepanov
Shakuro Writes
Published in
11 min readOct 12, 2020


By Kate Shokurova, copywriter at Shakuro

Illustration by novoseletska

The habit of learning formed by the modern necessity of being up-to-date explains the great number of e-learning solutions on app stores. But it’s not just today’s culture that the booming educational app development of the recent years owes to.

We are in the middle of a giant experiment to prove the tangible benefits of online education for students and teachers. However numerous the negative effects caused by the pandemic on the world economy may be, having online education as the only means of continuing to provide learning services was the most effective acceleration incentive imaginable. But what’s more interesting is that along with giving value to users, e-learning apps are a very promising option for entrepreneurs. Business owners and market leaders now have new opportunities to tap this thriving market. It’s high time that you made the most of this opportunity.

To learn more about how to create an educational app and how much it costs, take a look at this article. Today we are going to talk about what makes the e-learning app development different and how to overcome these challenges.

Online School App Onboarding by Shakuro

Why students and teachers prefer educational apps

First, let’s observe what makes educational mobile apps so useful and good to many people.

Smartphone penetration continues to rise. There are 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world, more and more every year. What’s more interesting, studies show that on average, Americans check their phones 52 times per day which looks like a pretty heavy usage if not an addiction. So why not take advantage of this? Every day, useful mobile apps for learning appear on the app stores that help kids and adults alike gain extra knowledge and hone their skills.

Similarly, the transformations that are taking place in educational processes are a challenge not only to students but also to those who teach them. Institutions and education software companies should not neglect the needs of teachers, but think about how to make a learning app that would help them to provide their services online using functional e-learning solutions. A survey found out that about 63% of school teachers use technology in the classroom on an everyday basis.

Education is the third most popular category on the App Store, beaten only by Games and Business, and on Google Play, e-learning is even higher in the second place. There are lots more figures and insights in our e-learning market review, check it out.

Growth of educational app downloads. Image: Statista

So what are the uses of educational apps and why do so many people find them so handy? The reason is of course the features that online education and mobile learning, in particular, is able to provide:

  • Video tutoring
  • Online assignments and Performance report
  • Education quizzes and other interactive assessments
  • Notifications
  • Personal account
  • Personalized growth plans
  • Course details
  • Messaging.

In other words, with the help of learning applications, people experience a less costly, but more flexible and autonomous approach to learning at their own pace and time in a more convenient environment.


What to do to make a learning app that works

Conduct a proper market research

The most important task when developing educational apps is to figure out your niche and audience and build from it. Bailing on market research is one of the two most common reasons for startup failures.

Educational apps include many different types depending on this or that particular attribute: for students and for teachers, for kids and for adults, for formal education or for learning a particular skill or acquiring a new set of professional knowledge, etc. So knowing the details of your product in advance is vital in the case of developing an e-learning solution that would be in high demand.

The first step of creating an e-learning app is to know who you are making it for. It has to be a customized education system that targets a specific group. For example, think about how apps for toddlers are different from apps for college students. Or how interactive encyclopedias are different from geography quiz apps. There are countless examples of how the particularities of a target audience affect every step of educational app development. The same applies to the market situation — i.e., who are your competitors and what they offer and the characteristics of your niche — how saturated it is, is there room for improvement, etc.

Proper market research acts as a base on which you decide on the details and further actions.

Make learning active, intuitive, engaging, and meaningful

Modern educational methods have transformed the way people get knowledge by incorporating multiple tricks and techniques that facilitate the learning process and make it more effective. It’s no longer enough to make students passively receive the information from an expert, taking notes like it was before. Like a modern teacher, a mobile app for education must act not as a mere source of information, but a coach, a facilitator of instructions.

Active learning means that students purposefully take part in the learning process, engage in it, performing better as a result. Examples of such learning include discussions, practice, various kinds of problem-solving. During such activities, while a student’s brain activates its cognitive and sensory networks, the information gets processed and stored much better and easier.

Intuitive design is a cornerstone of any kind of modern educational product. When people face the necessity to rack their brains using some kind of digital product, they expect at least its interface to be clear and easy to use without distracting them from the educational material. Every user should be able to easily interact with the system. If a person does not understand or find it difficult to deal with the application, they will most likely delete it.

Image: Matt Borghi

What is an engaging app? There are many planes on which an application can be seen as an engaging one or not. Basically, it all comes down to making it motivational. For example, possibly the easiest way to achieve it is to make an app emotionally engaging, using motivational messages, points, and badges for better performance, etc. Or even play on the effect a good branding can provide. Examples of mobile learning apps that use this approach include Duolingo among many.

Completion Screens — Learn python by Shirish Shikhrakar

Another way is to make an app responsive to every user’s action thus creating a stronger link. Still more, you can encourage a person’s intrinsic inquisitiveness showing new ways to receive knowledge. Just be mindful of how many bells and whistles you want to add to your app’s design. Don’t make it annoying or turn it into a distraction.

Meaningful learning means that at every step students are aware of exactly why they study this or that subject and what they are going to get as a result. Set clear objectives to deliver the maximum output, outline the users’ benefits. So learning should be systematized, connected to the previous studies, filled with applicable examples, and provide a clear gradation system.

diligent study by 杨茜茜

Use real teaching methods

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Mobile apps in education benefit from the usage of the same modern teaching methods as any other educational product. There are many scholarly articles like this one and other kinds of materials on the subject of the most effective teaching techniques that an education app developer can take advantage of and to some degree incorporate in their application.

In a nutshell, the most up-to-date teaching methods come down to the following:

  • Project-based and problem-based learning — as said earlier, education based on projects and real-life problems is far more rewarding than a simple consumption of facts. Adding the elements of specific issues in place of traditional theoretical and abstract models proves to be more efficient.
  • Cooperative learning — working in a group improves the attention, involvement, and acquisition of knowledge. That goes for the benefits of social networking elements that were also highlighted earlier in the article.
  • Gamification — educational application development is perhaps the most suitable place for implementing this contemporary approach. There are plenty of ways to add some competitive and challenging aspects and make users stick to your app.
Motivating and Inspiring Math Lessons on Mobile by Vince Schwidder

Provide personalization

One of the advantages of mobile applications is personalization which is especially important in education. Today’s users don’t see personalization as an advantage, they expect it. The content or curriculum that is tailor-made to users’ needs is one of the features that are able to attract and engage people to your app. One of our projects — I’m in Diary mobile app — was based on the personal calendar feature that made it easier to organize events with colleagues, friends, and family. The personal aspect of the app was a thing to capture its audience.

You can achieve a customized approach in educational mobile app development by:

  • Storing and using the user’s name
  • Letting students pick avatars and otherwise customize their digital environment
  • Incorporating content based on a student’s browsing habits and preferences
  • Enabling users to set relevant learning objectives and charting their own learning path
  • Allowing learners to skip certain segments of a course
  • Personalizing the offered media.
Online Course Finder Exploration Design by Desemy Kristanto

Introduce only the necessary functions and technologies

Having too many choices is damaging to the learning process. It’s better to avoid adding trending or extra functions and technologies just for the sake of it. Otherwise, a user may become overwhelmed with options, get tired, and not achieve their goals, which means that your app will come flat, failing to serve a purpose. There’s nothing wrong with multifunctional apps, but the line where they become too cumbersome is thin. Sometimes it’s better to concentrate on one aspect and push it further or make use of other techniques. For example, you could take video games as an example and create an e-learning app with different courses with varying difficulty levels and duration.

Likewise, however neatly some of the existing apps for educational purposes use modern technologies like AR or VR, think about whether your app needs them. Adding them because they are all the rage in today’s education software development won’t do a thing to make an app more useful if people don’t need them.

Online learning app by Beatrice Castaldo

Provide social network elements

Learning gets done far easier and effective when there is someone you can turn to for advice or just share your thoughts on the subject and have a little session of critical thinking. You can either incorporate your own social elements in your app’s design or integrate it with the existing social networks.

We at Shakuro were additionally convinced in the power of social interaction in learning while developing the website for Proko — an art education platform. Adding social networking elements to the website’s design was one of our client’s priorities as it had proven to be a huge driving factor for people to use his product.

A similar situation occurred when the CGMA art education platform was relying on our educational app development services. One of our challenges was to integrate a custom Discord-based messenger.

Educational e-book cover illustration by Katia Tsikrikonaki

Choose a monetization model that suits

When picking a monetization model for your application, remember that educational apps have some characteristics that make them different from other types of apps. For example, if you have an app for small kids and you want to use ad placement as a way to make a revenue, be mindful that there are strict guidelines on what you can and can’t promote to kids.

On the whole, the most profitable monetization models for e-learning apps are:

  • Subscription
  • Freemium — for example, selling the complete course or anything beyond the basic features
  • Course fee
  • In-app ads
  • In-app purchases
  • Paid installs.
monetary balance by Kemal Sanli

Focus on KPIs

Another distinct characteristic of e-learning apps is that it’s very easy for educational app developers to lose track of indicators that really matter in pursuit of a higher number of users. It doesn’t matter how many people use your app. What matters is how many of them bring profit (depending on your monetization strategy).

Keeping track of such basic mobile app metrics as

  • Retention rate
  • Churn rate
  • Daily and monthly active users
  • and a number of others

The following ones also need to be monitored constantly:

  • The average revenue per user and average revenue per paying user
  • Return on investment
  • and Lifetime value.
ROI simulation by Aditya Shrivastava

The trickiest challenge: Choosing the right educational app development company

The pandemic has brought a true paradigm shift. Most likely you and your children if you have any, were forced to remain in quarantine at home like the majority of the world population. Or you might even be there now, depending on where you live. A lot of people took up online courses during this time of crisis to help them get through and turn this forced period of staying-at-home to their advantage. Were you one of them? If you were, you can understand the reason why e-learning solutions became so popular. But even after the quarantine, the demand for e-learning solutions will not stop. This definitely means it is a good time for e-learning mobile app development.

But finding the right team of professionals that understand your goals may prove to be the most difficult challenge of them all. If you want to build an app with specific features you need someone with experience. Experienced in creating educational products, we can help you with that.

So don’t spend too much time thinking. If you have an idea of bringing a new and promising educational app to the market, grab the opportunity now. All you need to do is decide on the features, contact an app development company, and get your application ready.

In the next article of our educational app development series, we are going to look at how the current trends, technological and otherwise, improve the learning apps and how to make the most of using them.

Further reads on e-learning app development:

Originally published at



Kostya Stepanov
Shakuro Writes

I'm Kostya, the founder of Shakuro. For 16 years, I've been helping companies and individuals worldwide create and enhance digital products.