How to Build an App like edX

The online learning segment has been witnessing significant growth in the last few years. As per market research, the US eLearning segment is expected to grow by $12.81 billion between 2020 and 2024.

The expected growth can be credited to the unprecedented emergence of Covid-19 that catapulted the entire world and pushed companies to redefine learning.

While companies are taking steps to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, learning is going to be the new vantage point that will empower individuals and businesses to deliver more value than ever before. edX, an American massive open online course provider, has been premier in the space of e-learning platforms.

It was developed by several experts from Harvard and MIT and hosts over 2500 online university-level courses that cater to a wide range of disciplines.

In this article, we will cover insights on eLearning app development similar to edX.

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Managing and Promoting Your Online Courses

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Enabling transformation through Digital — edX

edX is a mission-driven organization that is grounded in cutting-edge cognitive science, pursuing a vision where every learner can access education without the barriers of location or cost.

It offers meticulously designed courses to provide an understanding of topics in the fields of business, architecture, web development, computer science, and many others, some of them at no charge.

Additionally, it offers several distinct learning features that are woven in the following key principles:

  • Experience: From engaging video lectures and dynamic graphics, you can learn new knowledge and skills.
  • Practice: A critical part of learning is demonstrating your knowledge. edX offers a space to practice through quizzes and virtual environments.
  • Apply: The learnings offered by the courses and programs from edX translate directly into the real world, i.e., you can immediately apply your new capabilities to real-world situations.

Developing an App like edX — The Steps

The success of edX has inspired many entrepreneurs to create their own eLearning applications.

The development of an eLearning application such as edX consists of a few steps that include defining the requirements and expectations, chalking out the characteristics, finalizing the design, tech stack, and then ultimately developing and deploying the application post-testing.

All of them are explained in detail, below:

1. Understanding the Audience

The first step towards creating an eLearning app that is liked by the audience is to understand their viewpoint and meet their needs.

The requirements can be varied, so it will be important to define the target audience and make an app that solves a problem faced by the majority, thereby, defining the goals.

2. Defining the Idea

The main component of an eLearning application is its design and user interface, both crucial for determining user experience.

So, when you begin with the development of an eLearning application, the idea can be conceptualized from the user’s point of view. Features, categories, visual components, and more can be streamlined by analyzing mind maps.

However, it is important here to consider the following questions:

  • What will make your platform unique?
  • Why should people use your platform?
  • Will the learners get a solution?

Besides, you can also build a business model canvas and mention the value propositions of your application.

3. Creating Wireframes for Stronger Sight

The purpose of the wireframe is to provide the development team and, therefore the users with a clear view of the features and the functionalities of the application.

Hence, it can be safely said that wireframing lays the foundation for the application’s UI/UX and showcases the journey of a user through it. Wireframes can also be considered the blueprint of the application; they contain highlights of the page structure, illustrations of each component, user flow, content hierarchy, and more.

4. Deciding Technology Stack

The fourth step towards eLearning app development includes the selection of a technology stack. Several elements like software products, programming languages, web servers, and databases, when grouped together, form a tech stack.

It can further be classified into two main segments:

  • Back-End Technology Stack: Powers the application from the server-side and is not visible to the users. Consists of programming language, database, and a web server like Python, PHP, MySQL, and more.
  • Front-End Technology Stack: Forms the visuals of the application and is also known as the front-end (client-side) technology stack. Consists of JavaScript, JQuery, HTML, and CSS.
5. Developing a Prototype

This is gaining a lot of traction recently; prototyping takes you a step ahead of blueprints. They are working models created by UX architects that help build an interactive experience by exploring design ideas.

Further, interactive prototypes help with usability testing and in painting the future by showing the current and planned states of an app’s design. Additionally, a designed prototype can be referred to and iterated as per business goals during any stage of development. A few benefits of prototype development include:

There is always scope for improvement. The business idea can be sold Business problems can be identified and resolved at an early stage Reduces the chances of wastage in terms of development time and resources No hands-on experience is needed to develop a prototype

6. Developing the Application

This is the most important step as the idea of an educational app starts taking the shape of reality, where through coding, the application is actually built.

However, it is crucial to have flawless coding for the application’s success and to have an error-free code, developers with prior experience are needed.

You can either hire freelancers or a custom app development company for the building of an app similar to edX. However, selecting responsibly will be a must, and so, the following points can be considered:

  • The cost.
  • Project deadlines.
  • After-support.
  • Consider checking their portfolio.
  • Go through reviews and ratings.
  • Consider years of experience.
  • Look out for transparency.

Post-selection the developers work on “Sprints” or “Milestones”, where the project is divided as per their expertise. Further, for an application to be without functional defects and bugs, developers need to write short and focused functions instead of writing one big block of code

Once the code is written, the application is sent for testing.

7. Testing the Application (Quality and User)

In this step, an application is checked for any bugs or functional errors, and requirement matching with the final product is also done here.

Testing of the application also includes checking the usability, consistency with the goal to provide a good user experience, that can eventually increase the profit of the business. Apart from quality testing, user testing the application is also pivotal for its success.

In user testing, the application is tested for its intuitiveness and user-friendliness, i.e. the interaction, behavior, and navigation, keeping real users in mind. This is also done beforehand so that the chances of the application failing in the real world are reduced. If the users come across unidentified bugs, it can create havoc and the brand value of the business can be gravely affected.

Hence, the step of quality and user testing should not be undermined. Once the application is fully tested, i.e. is free from bugs, it can be deployed.

8. Deploying the App and Providing Support

Once the app is tested from qualitative and quantitative aspects, the eLearning app can be deployed to appropriate app stores (Apple, Google, and more).

Here, for the effectiveness and efficiency of the elearning app, selecting the right deployment platform will play a major role. Post-release, testers can check the app under real-life conditions for its smooth functioning.

Releasing the product by addressing the customer’s pain points will always be the primary goal. But, nurturing and improving the product as per users is important too. This can be done by gathering feedback from users.

A few benefits of the feedback mechanism are:

  • Gray areas for improvement come to light.
  • Brand loyalty is built.
  • Helps with data-driven decisions.
  • Customer engagement is increased through UX improvements.

While the improvements can be an ongoing process, having a dedicated team that offers support regarding application’s performance or other unforeseen situations is critical.

Providing support will deliver a higher level of trust and will also increase the eLearning application’s efficacy.

Essential Features for an Ideal eLearning Application

The framework of elearning is providing education with the assistance of electronic assets. To best do that, here is a list of features that should be incorporated in an eLearning application.

Self Registration

People or users looking for an eLearning course can choose from the catalog as per their requirements. But to pursue the course, they will have to book a spot and pay the course fee.

Hence, it is important to have a self-registration feature from where students can enlist themselves and pick a course.

Payment Methods

This feature is arguably the most important on the list. If the eLearning business fails to accept the payment methods offered or if users face difficulty during checkout, then they will simply move to the competitors and purchase a similar course.

Therefore, eLearning applications should allow easy checkout and also supports multiple payment methods like Stripe, PayPal, and more.

Reporting and Data Analysis

This is another important feature that is needed in the eLearning application. The feature helps in improving the learning experience by keeping track of the application’s performance, determining content needs per user, identifying areas for improvement, and more.

Metrics such as site visitors, most visited pages, course completion rate, session tracking, email tracking and more, help with the crafting of marketing campaigns.

Assessment and Live Feedback

Assessment and live feedback feature not only encourage students when they perform well but also brings the areas needed for improvement to the fore.

Additionally, a functionality to provide live feedback on the basis of their performance and activity can also be incorporated into the eLearning app. Assessment methods can include test scoring, leaderboard, multiple scoring methods like quiz and more.

Online Course Catalog

An eLearning application should ideally have a list of courses designed for individuals, as well as, advanced programs which users can either buy or select.

Furthermore, these courses can help learners understand a topic in a better way helping improve compliance to the subject matter, in addition to driving interest and broadening their knowledge spectrum.

Monetization Methods for an eLearning app like edX

edX was co-created with initial funding of $60 million with a primary goal to offer a first-class education from top universities around the world and not to make money.

However, to sustain the organization, a balance towards maintaining a robust level of free access was struck, which included the following monetization plans:

  • Verified certificates.
  • Access of graded assessments to people who pay .
  • Removal of features that make the free audit track attractive so that people are encouraged to opt for paid verified track.
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That said, eLearning apps like edX can choose various other methods to monetize. These include:

  • In-app advertising.
  • Subscription model.
  • Selling.
In-app advertising

Online advertising can be implemented to monetize the app through banners or video ads. With businesses who are looking to build a brand name, providing them visibility on your app’s screen will make for a constant inflow of money.

However, make sure that too many popups with ads don’t automatically flash in front of the user’s eyes all the time. Selective users can also be provided the option to upgrade to a premium app version where the data can be accessed without ads.

Subscription model

As mentioned above, the subscription model can be another popular method to generate revenue from the app. Users of the eLearning application can be charged a subscription fee based on either a monthly or annual basis.

The perks covered under this model can consist of free access to courses, lectures, videos, or assessments. The limit can be set on the number of courses available under the subscription category.


A well-built eLearning app can also earn money by offering users products to purchase as per their interest. The items listed can be used to develop competencies — like lesson plans can be put online for sale.

Relevant items such as audiobooks, videos, books, and more can also be offered for purchase via an online store.

Cost of eLearning App Development

The cost of developing an eLearning application like edX depends on several factors like:

  • Application complexity.
  • Number of features and functionalities to be incorporated.
  • Third-party API integration.
  • The location of developers, developing the application.

Below, we have classified the duration needed for particular modules and location-wise hourly rates:

Moderate Time Needs Basing on Complexity
Complexity Duration Development Hours (Approx)
Simple app (3-6 months) 500-800 hours
Medium app (5-9 months) 800-1200 hours
Complex app (8 months and above) 1200 hours and above
Region-Wise Hourly Rates
  Region Hourly Rate
1 North America $150/hour
2 Australia $92/hour
3 UK $71/hour
4 South America $43/hour
5 Eastern Europe $40/hour
6 India $25/hour

With the above-mentioned information, the estimated eLearning app development cost with moderate features will range between $50k to $70k. For a more intricate app with custom features and functionality, more time, money and effort will be required.


The accelerating winds of technology have paved the way for eLearning applications. As people are looking to acquire new skills online or to strengthen their knowledge spectrum, apps like edX that consist of a gamut of courses will be in rising demand, dominating the learning sector.

Considering the bright future that lies ahead, entrepreneurs should capitalize on the eLearning wave and kick start their business by developing an app like edX.

A custom mobile app development company with a strong reputation can be hired for the same.

(Article written by Bhavmeet Kaur of FATbit Technologies.)