Everyone everywhere is talking about eLearning. It’s no wonder online learning is having its moment. The coronavirus outbreak upended almost every aspect of our lives at once, including work-based and academic education. It wasn’t just a move from offices and classrooms to computer screens. Schools tested ideas about attendance, instruction, and testing while businesses looked for ways to launch fully remote training programs. Both had to rethink the role of technology and the human connections holding it all together.

As we’ve already developed custom education software and collaborated with different eLearning businesses, we understand it’s important to prepare thoroughly before you get into the eLearning industry. We’ve analyzed a bunch of statistics, surveys, and search trends and have drawn from our own insights to craft our eLearning Software Development 101 guide. Get comfortable and enjoy!

What is eLearning?

eLearning Software Development
Source: tavvy.com

Before we discuss modern eLearning examples, it’s important to clarify what eLearning actually is. 

eLearning is a new approach to delivering training and learning through digital devices.  

The concept of eLearning is comparatively new. The term itself emerged in 1999, when Elliot Masie first mentioned eLearning during a CBT Systems seminar. The name stuck. 

In the early 2000s, businesses started to use eLearning to train newcomers and develop employees. Companies hosted their learning resources on internal intranets instead of paying a pretty penny for training workshops and seminars.

OpenCourseWare (OCW)

The first giant step towards high-quality and open education was when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched OpenCourseWare (OCW), a web platform that contained nearly 50 courses with recorded lectures and tasks from MIT instructors. Anyone could access OCW and watch, share, and edit resources. In 2021, OCW was used by more than 210 million unique users.

eLearning Software Development
Source: ocw.mit.edu 

Udemy

Another important milestone was the launch in 2010 of Udemy, an online learning platform designed for adult professionals and students that was founded by Eren Bali, Gagan Biyani, and Oktay Caglar. The idea of Udemy was to make high-quality learning accessible to everyone, connecting learners around the globe to the best instructors. 

elearning software development
Source: udemy.com 

Today, Udemy features plenty of courses on topics from Python and jQuery to business branding and customer service. In December 2020, it counted 40 million learners, 56,000 instructors, and 155,000 courses in over 65 languages.

Online learning in COVID times

The coronavirus crisis has had a big impact on education. Between March and April 2020, schools across 194 countries closed, offering students alternatives to classroom learning through technology including radio, TV, and the internet.  

Unfortunately, most education systems weren’t ready for a sudden shift to virtual learning. Students and educators lacked proper preparation, and there wasn’t universal access to learning infrastructure (both software and hardware), making it even harder for educators and students to adapt to the new normal. 

Since then, however, governments and schools have taken actions to address learning losses and make the best of digital education. Take Stanford University as an example. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) serving the Stanford community provides teaching assistants (TAs), postdoctoral students, and faculty with additional training resources to improve the online learning and teaching experience. This includes workshops (TEACH Symposium) and one-on-one consultations, the Course Design Institute program, and free iPads and other tools to support innovation in teaching. Additionally, Stanford launched Teaching Commons, a campus-wide collaborative website that brings together research-based and flexible resources for instructors.

Apart from this, Stanford adjusted their academic calendar and the daily course pattern, increased the financial aid budget, and expanded well-being and mental health resources for students. 

We have to learn from the coronavirus crisis and take steps to make training systems and education fit for the digital age.

eLearning market: Latest trends & statistics

To know what drives an industry, it’s important to look at the trends and tendencies shaping it.

eLearning market overview

According to StrategyR, the global eLearning market was worth $250 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a strong CAGR through 2027, reaching nearly $500 billion. In the US, the eLearning market was valued at $76 billion in 2020. 

Business Wire predicts the eLearning market in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to grow at a CAGR of 11% and reach almost $570 million through 2025. Prime drivers of this growth are gamification as well as the increasing foothold of International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and evolving teaching methods.

Corporate eLearning

Throughout 2019 and 2020, many organizations reimagined learning. Before COVID-19, 41% of businesses went for instructor-led training, 25% benefited from virtual instructor-led training (VILT) sessions, and only 24% used eLearning. The coronavirus has changed the situation, forcing 41% of businesses to turn towards VILT and 32% to use online learning according to the July/August 2020 issue of Training Industry Magazine.

corporate elearning statistics
Source: nxtbook.com 

Brandon Hall Group differentiates between more modes of learning and outlines that among organizations:

  • 69% use eLearning modules
  • 65% deliver training through virtual synchronous classrooms and 57% through in-person or instructor-led classrooms
  • 41% benefit from video-based learning
  • 38% use recorded webinars as a helping hand
  • 33% go for performance support

custom elearning software

Online schooling

Before COVID-19, 65% of US teachers said they used digital tools to teach every day, 22% used them several days a week, and 13% used them one time or less per week, as reported by Gallup. As for students, 57% reported using digital learning tools every day.

elearing software development
Source: newschools.org

Because of global lockdown, the demand for eLearning and software for education will continue growing. Since 2000, eLearning sector revenues have increased nearly 900%. This figure is expected to even triple by 2025, according to Guide2Research.

Additionally, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) market was valued at $5.16 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach $21.14 billion by 2025.

eLearning in university education

There are many reasons why students are motivated to choose online learning options. In 2021, these reasons included the coronavirus, existing commitments that don’t allow for campus attendance, and flexibility and convenience, according to BestColleges. 

Though online learning is quite popular, there are still concerns and challenges related to preparing for remote education in the upcoming academic year. BestColleges states that finances are the major obstacle to preparing for online learning delivery in 2021 for 58% of school administrators. Faculty development is also a vital factor for 51% of respondents.

elearing software development

When to use eLearning

Among other things, you should know who uses eLearning and how.

Academic learning

When we hear the terms blended learning and online learning, we usually think of higher education. Yet online learning isn’t just for university and college students. Online schooling is gaining in popularity, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, most students around the world were learning exclusively online or through a combination of in-person and remote learning. There are a lot of online resources (both free and paid) that support distance learning. They include video conferencing software, subject-specific tools, quiz makers, survey tools, apps that support brainstorming and collaboration, and eLearning authoring platforms. 

Employee onboarding

Onboarding is critical to engaging and retaining talent. It should be a strategic process that includes many factors, not just a couple of training sessions and filling out the usual paperwork. Otherwise, a new hire may want to leave soon. According to eLearning Brothers, 20% of new hires depart within 45 days. Fifteen percent of those who do blame poor onboarding.

custom elearning software development
Source: Steelkiwi.com

With eLearning, good onboarding can happen much faster since you can:

  • Standardize and automate the process
  • Include analytics, reports, and tests to measure onboarding effectiveness
  • Invest effort once
  • Minimize business downtime

Employee development and retention

Ninety percent of US employees say learning something new on the job makes them more motivated and engaged at work. It’s therefore important that you, as an employer, support your employees in expanding their skill sets through different growth opportunities including training programs. A full 70% of employees stay with an organization if they receive the training they want.

elearning software development
source: steelkiwi.com

eLearning is a scalable and effective approach to developing employees, as it allows for:

  • Learning on the go
  • Scalability
  • Personalized trainings for different roles and job levels
  • Increased engagement in a multi-generational workforce

Customer training

Modern times require not only employee training but also customer training. You should educate customers on how to use your products and services so they can meet their goals. A learning management system (which we’ll talk about later) can help here. It allows you to build and manage training content as well as measure training effectiveness. 

elearning software development
source: steelkiwi.com

Training programs can be self-paced, guided, or both based on what your customers respond to best. A great example of customer training is onboarding.

Franchise or dealer training

Adopting the eLearning-based approach to training franchisees is a convenient alternative to a traditional corporate training model. With eLearning, you can keep your franchisees updated while reducing training costs. Well-designed online training programs ensure that procedures, operations, and service across all your franchise locations are up to company standards. 

elearning software developemnt
source: steelkiwi.com

Advantages and disadvantages of eLearning

Whether you’ve decided to start an eLearning business or integrate a ready-made education solution, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of eLearning. 

Advantages and disadvantages of eLearning for businesses
AdvantagesDisadvantages 
Time efficiency. eLearning is always accessible, meaning you don’t have to pull your employees off the floor or out of a meeting. They can learn after or prior to work or between meetings if they have a couple of minutes.Technical issues. Since eLearning is technology-based, it sometimes requires troubleshooting, whether that’s related to connectivity problems or low bandwidth.
Access from anywhere. You can have somebody in Atlanta and somebody in Chicago go through the same learning experience. They don’t have to be under the same roof.Isolation. Employees may fall into
a feeling of isolation. We all learn differently. Some people learn very well in an instructor-led training environment or face-to-face setting. So when they’re going through eLearning and not getting instant feedback, they may feel like they’re all by themselves and not learning that well.
Scalability. You can roll out a learning program to as many employees as you wantNo control. Self-paced learning can be considered both an advantage and disadvantage. Since you, as a manager, no longer have control over the environment, you rely on your employees to make sure they cover content in a specified amount of time and meet your deadlines.
Travel time and cost savings. You don’t have to worry about getting everybody in a room at the same time. You also don’t have to adjust to everybody’s schedules. You can just set deadlines. 

Advantages and disadvantages of eLearning in education

Advantages and disadvantages of eLearning for businesses
AdvantagesDisadvantages

No-boundary, unlimited access. eLearning eliminates geographical boundaries, letting students from around the world enjoy self-paced learning. This means they can study in their own time and according to their own needs and preferences.

Additionally, eLearning allows students to revisit lectures and classes any number of times, unlike classroom learning.

Little opportunity to develop communication skills. eLearning lacks face-to-face time. This often impedes supervision and timely feedback and can cause students to feel socially isolated. 
Personalization. Each learner is unique, with different abilities, learning styles, motivations, and interests. eLearning programs can cater to individual needs, allowing learners to choose their paths and navigate them.Gap between theory and practice. Due to the specifics of the technology-driven environment, teachers may find themselves merely providing instruction. Teaching theory in a virtual environment is easier than getting students to do practical work.
Consistency. Due to the specifics of the technology-driven environment, teachers may find themselves merely providing instruction. Teaching theory in a virtual environment is easier than getting students to do practical work.Limited to certain disciplines. While eLearning may be great for humanities and social sciences, it may be ill-suited for scientific disciplines.
Paperless learning. eLearning contributes to a greener and cleaner environment and is cost-effective since you don’t have to purchase textbooks and exercise books.Possibility of cheating. Because eLearning systems lack proper monitoring solutions, students are prone to cheat more often.
Improved metrics. eLearning provides everything necessary for managing learning, allowing teachers to keep close tabs on student progress, growth, and other important metrics. Educators can get insights into how to improve training materials and learning outcomes. 

Types of eLearning

Now that you know the strengths and limitations of eLearning, let’s talk about what types of eLearning there are. Typically, eLearning is divided into asynchronous and synchronous.

Asynchronous eLearning

Asynchronous eLearning allows for learning on the go. This means learners can participate in the same training course at different times, at their own pace, and on their own schedules.


Examples of asynchronous learning tools include:

  • Self-paced courses
  • Discussion groups
  • Forums/message boards
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Digital documents
  • Recorded audio and video
  • Slides with or without narration

Synchronous eLearning

Unlike asynchronous eLearning, synchronous eLearning happens at a specific point in time. Learners sign in to a virtual classroom at the same time regardless of their geographical location and the instructor leads the class.

Examples of synchronous learning tools include:

  • Virtual classrooms
  • Scheduled online examinations
  • Live presentations
  • Live chat (text, audio, and video)
  • Live polls and quizzes

Blended eLearning 

Blended eLearning, or hybrid eLearning, consists of a mix of in-person/real-time and self-paced learning activities. In the eLearning context, this means that one chunk of learning is instructor-led, commonly through webinars. The other chunk takes place online with students working at their own pace. 

The blended model augments the learner experience and ensures:

  • Flexibility and easy access to learning materials
  • Social learning and enhanced communication
  • Peer support
  • Lower travel and training expenses
  • Personalization
  • Improved retention
  • Increased learning effectiveness

Synchronous vs asynchronous vs blended eLearning

custom elearning software development

Types and examples of eLearning software

Now is a good time to consider different types of eLearning software.

Learning management system (LMS)

What is a learning management system? It’s software businesses use to develop, deliver, and track training programs for their customers, employees, and partners. This type of software usually supports content in different formats including (but not limited to) text, video, audio, images, presentations, podcasts, quizzes, and URLs.

elearning software development
Source: dribbble.com by Dibbendo Pranto

A learning management system, often called an LMS, is used across different institutions for different use cases.

  • Universities, colleges, and schools blend traditional learning forms with digital technologies to provide an effective learning experience, create personalized learning pathways, improve student performance, and adapt to the pandemic reality.
  • Companies use LMSs to teach customers about their products and services, quickly onboard newcomers, and develop employees. Also, an LMS allows for product demos so prospects and leads can understand how your solution can solve their pains and make sure it does what it claims to do.
  • Franchisees and dealers can use LMSs to improve employees’ product knowledge and share company policies. In this context, LMSs connect employees to a brand and ensure every team player gets the resources they need to perform at their best.

Common LMS features include:

  • Course development and management
  • Centralized learning materials
  • Virtual classrooms
  • Message boards
  • Assessments
  • Test-out options
  • Certifications
  • Notifications
  • Calendar and scheduling
  • Learning trackers
  • Reports and analytics
  • Gamification
  • Mobile access
  • Integrations

Learning experience platform (LXP)

A learning experience platform, or LXP, is an AI-driven system designed to craft personalized learning experiences. 

elearning software development
Source: valamis.com 

LXPs and LMSs perform similar functions, which is why many people mix them up. But they aren’t the same thing. To make it easy to see the difference between the two, we’ve created an LMS vs LXP comparison table. 

 LMSLXP
Learning access
  • Closed system
  • Accommodates business-owned learning resources
  • Open system
  • Accommodates third-party learning resources
Content managmentAdmin-drivenUser-driven
FocusLearning experienceLearning management
Content typeSpecific content, mainly about compliance and business rulesAnything
Learning pathsDirected: linear and defined Self-directed: personalized and adaptive
InterfaceNo specific rules for interface designNetflix-like with recommendations and information that is relevant to individual users
Ideal for
  • Employee training
  • Closed learning groups
  •  
Professional development

Authoring tool

How can you design an eLearning lecture, pack it into a publishable format, and deliver it to your students? That’s what an eLearning authoring tool is for. 

custom elearning software development
Source: ispringsolutions.com 

An authoring tool is a web-based application that helps non-tech and tech-savvy people alike create interactive courses. It has everything needed to create training content and then convert it to an eLearning format to be distributed via an LMS.

Student management system (SMS)

Schools and colleges manage a vast amount of student data. To do this better, educational establishments take advantage of student management systems (SMSs), also called student information systems (SISs) and sometimes even school management software.

A student management system helps schools manage and distribute all their student records including attendance, grades, schedules, transcripts, and behavior data. This type of software allows schools to:

  • Keep all important data concerning leads, students, alumni, faculty, and donors in a centralized place 
  • Improve interdepartmental communication
  • Facilitate parent–teacher communication/relationships
  • Reduce time and effort on maintaining and managing student records
  • Easily share data with external institutions
  • Standardize data formats across departments 
  • Automatically create bills, process enrollments, and collect payments


A typical SMS/SIS includes functionality for:

  • Managing student information including contact data and medical records
  • Enrollment
  • Attendance
  • Admissions
  • Grading
  • Classes & scheduling
  • Tuition billing
  • Staff accounts
  • Student and parent portals
  • Mobile access
  • Reports

Online learning marketplaces

This type of software allows learners to purchase courses and connect with instructors for one-on-one tutorials. Online learning marketplaces are home to many teachers, so students can choose the ones they like along with the courses they need, as a learning marketplace can offer courses on different subjects. To find the perfect instructor, students can filter instructors by specialization and keywords.

Online learning marketplaces allow students to take courses independently, serving content to users remotely. Content can also be delivered as videos in which famous educators deliver learning materials in several episodes to let students watch them and learn gradually. Upon successful completion of a course, students typically get a certificate.