Classrooms go mobile

How to create a value-driving eLearning app

Ilya Kislenka
© Shutterstock / MicroOne

eLearning apps are redesigning the way people learn for fun and work, with added convenience and easy access to the platforms. Creating these apps is both science and art; they must have an attractive design, stay within budget constraints, and help transform difficult subjects into an easy-to-understand, engaging experience. Here is how to do it.

The eLearning market has been booming due to the democratization brought by the Internet. A study by Research And Markets forecasts that the online learning market will reach $238 billion by 2024.

The primary appeal of eLearning apps is their convenience. Students can absorb information at their own pace, track their progress, come back to certain parts of the curriculum, and compare their performance with peers.

Another benefit of eLearning platforms is accessibility. Using mobile devices cuts traveling expenses and opens the doors for broader consumer segments. No doubt this will be part of the future of education, but what are the challenges faced by those who want to create an excellent educational app, and how can these be eliminated?

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Top obstacles when creating an eLearning app

eLearning apps merge the rules of instructional design with the requirements for engaging digital products and the game development know-how. The main challenges of creating a value-adding product are related to overcoming dullness, keeping the users engaged and motivated, making the interface look nice, and staying within budget while continually testing and improving. Below, we discuss each of these problems and ways to overcome them.

Transforming tedious subjects into engaging experiences

When creating an eLearning app, you need to think about new fun ways of delivering learning materials to students. For example, if you teach a foreign language, you need to invent grammar exercises that have immediate applicability instead of just conjugating verbs. If you are teaching coding, you can guide users to building their own game or app along the way.

Another way to make eLearning better is to elevate the social component. Make users compete with each other for rankings in the game. Ask them to work in pairs, collaborate, and come up with solutions. Turn each user into a content creator for the community of peers and make them learn by doing.

Keeping learners engaged and motivated

As in any educational process, students tend to lose their enthusiasm and motivation. Not having a teacher and colleagues around makes things even harder and speeds up demotivation. To fight these problems, an app should send the student reminders about their goals, show them clearly the progress they have achieved so far, and provide examples of future uses for the knowledge they get.

There are verified strategies that ensure better retention and completion rates. The first one is microlearning, or splitting the knowledge into bite-size pieces followed by exercises. The second strategy is to use gamification: points, levels, rewards, trades with other app users, and much more. Finally, an eLearning app should also give a sense of positive progress and build anticipation for upcoming content, the features found in Lingualeo and described in MBicycle’s case study.

Designing an attractive app

The app design can make or break it. An eLearning tool needs to have a strong UX/UI team behind it to make it as pleasant and straightforward to use as possible. Colors, button placement, font size, and image quality are all important if you hope to keep users long enough to get results and have them coming back and sharing the app with their friends.

Think about the users’ age groups and create an interface adapted to their needs. Colorful drag-and-drop interfaces are great for small children; text-based inputs are for adults.

Testing the app

Don’t wait until your app is complete to test its usability and performance. Select a few “ideal users” and ask them to perform different tasks in the app. Evaluate their responses and gather all the feedback you can get to refine the app before it hits the app store. After releasing the app, check the error logs regularly and fix the bugs.

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Staying within budget and time constraints

Probably the most significant challenge when creating a new app is to stay within the fixed budget and time restrictions. To avoid launching an untested app because of the rush, create a realistic timeline right from the beginning. Try working with partners who have prior experience of creating eLearning apps and who are familiar with the technology you intend to use.

Final considerations

With these ideas in mind, let’s list the necessary steps for a successful learning app.

First of all, create your user personas. List their motivations to use your app as well as their unique requirements. Are you targeting corporate clients or foreigners looking to learn a new language? Are you creating a recreational system or a professional training platform? Ask these questions before writing a single line of code or choosing the color scheme because this will help you provide more value.

Next, refine your ideas using these seven coordinates:

  • Is it a standalone tool or part of a more extensive system?
  • Is it for one particular client or the general public?
  • Is it geographically limited? Does it need to be translated into other languages?
  • Does it make sense to customize the app for a specific group of users?
  • Is the communication unidirectional (lectures) or bidirectional (based on user input)? Keep in mind that the best apps are bidirectional, with a constant back-and-forth flow of information and feedback.

Lastly, don’t forget to integrate the fun component in your design as much as you can: people also use learning apps for entertainment.


Ilya Kislenka

Ilya Kislenka is the Head of Mobile Department at Mbicycle. With more than 5 years of proven track record in Android development, he’s also worked on large teams in different roles, such as Senior Android Developer, Team Leader and Technical Consultant. Clean code and professional growth are two of his biggest priorities.

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