There’s no doubt, Udemy is one of the most successful e-Learning websites ever created. It has got thousands of courses on various subjects, and it’s accessed by millions of learners every month. Most e-learning websites can only dream to achieve that kind of success.
In an eLearning context, if you want to build a successful education website like Udemy, you can take a few leaves out of their book, adopting the principles and implementing the features incorporated by the site.
That’s why we’re going to explore the process of creating a Udemy-like online education site in this article. We’ll take a look at why one should choose them as an example while creating their own e-Learning site, the site development process, and also the cost involved in it. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive straight into the details.
Why Choose Udemy as a Model for Your e-Learning Platform?
There are many features of Udemy that make it arguably the best e-Learning platform today.
From an intuitive UI for students to instructor-friendly features, Udemy includes everything that its diverse users need, when they study at this giant digital learning hub.
Some of these features include:
- Responsive and user-friendly layout that looks perfect in all screen sizes
- Instructor-friendly course management features
- Multiple platforms for ease of learning (i.e. website, mobile apps)
- Several payment options for ease of payments
- Features to create multimedia-rich course content
- Course completion certificates, rewards, and other gamification features to encourage the learners
These are just a few of the many features included in Udemy that make it the platform of choice for e-Learning.
At the time of writing this article, it’s used by 40 million students, which proves that it’s an excellent choice to use as an example while developing your own e-learning platform.
With that premise, let’s now take a look at how you can set up your own Udemy-like online education site, a.k.a an online course marketplace.
How to Set Up an eLearning website like Udemy?
We’ve divided the whole process of creating your site into 6 separate parts for ease of understanding. Setting up a course marketplace is a huge endeavor. You have to invest a significant amount of time, effort, and money in order to establish, promote, and make your site successful.
Hence, having a step-by-step process, a checklist of sorts can help you follow each part of the process for smooth and error-free development.
In a hurry? Grab the hot-to-trot 20-point checklist that outlines the steps and go through it whenever you get time.
Here’s how you can go about it:
#1. Choose your niche and build a basic website framework
An e-Learning website is like an ecosystem in itself – there’s so much that you can do with it, and there are numerous features to make all those things happen.
If you aim to build a full-fledged online course marketplace from day #1, you’ll be overwhelmed and none of your plans will materialize.
Therefore, your first step should be to create the framework for your primary site. By this, we mean a version of your site with minimum features that must be present in any e-learning site.
In order to develop such a site, you must first determine your niche. You should be sure and specific about what you’re going to teach and which features you will need to teach it in an effective manner. Once you know that, you’ll be able to think more clearly about other design and development-related aspects of your site.
For example, decide whether you want to focus on one particular subject, say, music, and dive deep into it, or you want to cover an overview of a lot of subjects.
While choosing your niche, ask yourself questions like –
- Whom do I want to teach? What is my target audience?
- How many subject matter experts, or instructors, do I have, who can assist me in teaching?
- What are my deployment timelines? By when do I want to make this website up and running?
- How many courses do I have ready and how many do I have to build from scratch?
- What are my student enrollment targets?
- What should be my monetization strategy? (More on this in the next step)
- What is my budget?
…and so on, until you have a clear picture of what your course marketplace website should look like.
Further, to build a primary framework, you need to decide your tech stack, i.e. the technology that you will be using to build your online education platform.
There are three aspects of a website – backend, frontend, and database and server infrastructure.
The backend is the server component, from where you control how the platform works. This includes creating and managing courses, handling payments, instructors, emails, and all the other tools you have on your platform. Some of the common languages used for backend development are Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, Java, and .Net.
Your database is where your website data is stored in the cloud and delivered to your users. This will depend on the platform you choose to build your website. If you opt for a cloud-based platform, they have their own databases and storage services. If you choose an open-source platform, you can choose open-source database management systems like MySQL.
(Side note: You need not know/learn these languages yourself, you can discuss them with your website developer to know which one will fit your platform requirements. Choose a tech stack that will enable you to handle your platform on your own, once the basic framework is set up and ready.)
Now that you have your initial framework in place, let’s talk money.
#2. Decide your monetization strategy
Monetization refers to how you plan to make money from your e-Learning site. There are several different options that can be explored in this regard.
The first monetization strategy is the Pay-Per-Course model. Under this arrangement, you can sell each of your courses at a fixed price, and the students can purchase them as per their requirements.
Some websites also tweak this strategy a bit – they group similar courses together and sell them as a package.
Either way, this strategy works best when you’re selling various courses of different subjects. No surprise that this is the model adopted by Udemy.
- Monthly subscription
Instead of charging a fixed price for each course, you can provide access to all of your courses in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. As long as one maintains their membership on your site by paying the fee, they can access all course content.
This strategy makes sense in the scenario when you’ve developed multiple courses belonging to the same subject that can turn someone from novice to expert.
In such a situation you can create various tiers of membership with different prices and courses depending on the level of knowledge one can gain from them.
Some eLearning sites also choose to charge no fee at all and offer their content for free.
However, they monetize their content with ads. The ads are included in all webpages and learning material, much like they’re included in videos and blogs.
This strategy can be deployed in combination with any of the other strategies given above, but be cautious – your ads should not spoil the learner experience.
You can also use it if you want to offer your course content for free but want to recover the cost of running the site.
- Donations/External Investment Support
Finally, you can choose the option of donations. Wikipedia is a good example of an informative site that is running on donations, so it’s definitely possible for you to sustain your eLearning business using this model as long as you provide good content that helps people get better at something. In fact, sometimes this model works better than monetizing your site with ads.
However, this method does make you dependent on your donors.
#4. Get a domain name and hosting
Once you have zeroed in on your niche, decided your required features, and monetization strategy, the next step is to get a domain name and a hosting solution for your site.
Keep following things in mind while choosing them:
- Domain name
For your domain name, choose a name that is memorable and brandable. Such domains are short (generally shorter than 9 characters), easy to remember, and easy to be typed without having to look up a dictionary.
If your domain name aligns with the purpose/niche of your site, even better. But that’s not necessary as long as you’re getting a domain that is easily memorable and brandable.
Also, stick to .com domains only. The domains of other TLDs (i.e. .org, .net, .info, etc.) are available, but people generally fire.COMs first in the browser URL after hearing about a brand. It also helps your word-of-mouth marketing if your website is using a .com domain.
For hosting, keep in mind that e-Learning sites are different from any other kind of site in terms of resource consumption.
The sessions of these sites last much longer than the sessions of any other kind of website, and depending on the size of your market you may have hundreds or even thousands of active sessions at any point in time.
Moreover, if your courses are going to include video content then each of the sessions will also be consuming a lot of bandwidth.
So you should get a dedicated hosting server for your e-Learning site instead of a shared hosting plan. Also, the host you choose should be reliable.
There’s no point getting a dedicated server from a hosting company that can’t provide robust customer support or has a bad reputation regarding its uptime.
#5. Choose a platform for setting up your website
Once you’ve chosen your domain name and hosting, it’s time to start building your site. In order to do so, you must choose a Learning Management System (LMS) first. An LMS is a software that is used to upload your course content, enroll students, add instructors and let them interact with each other.
As mentioned before, there are two types of LMS platforms – cloud-based and open source.
Cloud-based platforms are those that give you a full-fledged course marketplace development solution and have all the features you need inbuilt. These platforms are useful if you want to set up your websites in a short time span or do not want the responsibility of managing an independent platform.
However, in this scenario, you have to conform to the framework of the platform and do not have a lot of freedom to design your own website. Also, cloud-based platforms usually cost a lot more than open-source website development. Some examples of cloud-based LMSs include Canvas, Teachable, Thinkific, etc.
Open Source LMS platforms
Open-source learning management systems empower you to build and customize your website from scratch without any constraints. You are free to develop and scale your platform as you choose.
However, these platforms need much more involvement from your end when it comes to managing them. You are responsible for every single aspect of the site, from website security to setting up payment gateways, to marketing your courses.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular LMS options that are available today:
LearnDash is an open-source learning management system that is based on WordPress – a platform used by nearly 40% of websites in the world. Thanks to WordPress’s popularity, and user-friendliness, LearnDash makes a for wonderful LMS to build a website like Udemy.
The key benefit of using it is that you can choose from the widest range of themes, plugins, page builders, and other tools to build your e-Learning site. You can also take advantage of its extensive documentation, robust support, and ease of use to build your site.
The best part? It’s open-source, so you can customize it to suit your needs as you grow.
LearnDash also has a vast community, tons of resources, and strong development teams, which can guide you through the development of your Udemy-like course marketplace.
Ease of use, thousands of customization options, smooth learning curve, and strong community support are some of the reasons why LearnDash is so wildly popular.
Another open-source option, but different from WordPress because it’s a proper LMS platform and not a CMS that can be turned into LMS with help of plugins.
As far as features are concerned, it gives you everything that you may need to set up your site – features to incorporate multimedia content in each lesson, user-friendly instructor tools, student progress tracking, robust security, and scalability.
Moodle is also free of cost, which is the cherry on the top. It’s used by some of the world’s most renowned universities, and that’s because it has proved its worth over the course of its existence.
But that doesn’t mean it’s free from shortcomings. A key limitation of Moodle is that it’s not as easily customizable as WordPress. You need to have at least some knowledge about coding if you want complete control over the customization of your Moodle site. This involves a steep learning curve.
Plus, it’s also not as easily scalable as WordPress, so you may have to customize it considerably with help of coding, as your needs grow with the number of your students running into thousands, just as many of the universities using it have done.
Now we’re moving into the territory of some paid offerings. Canvas is a premium, cloud-based LMS solution developed by the US-based company Instructure.
Professional UI, awesome course management tools, in-built discussion forums, great personalization, and branding features are some of its major features. It also comes with in-built document hosting and sharing features so your students can share whatever documents they want to share without having to use any external file-sharing services.
The cons of Canvas LMS, on the other hand, include the unavailability of a video conferencing feature, a notification system that could have been much better, occasional glitches in the audio recording feature, and occasional delays in the delivery of messages. Pricing is another point of concern, which starts at $380 annually.
Finally, we’ve Teachable, another cloud-based LMS, which is a little less costly than Canvas.
It comes with a drag-and-drop website builder, student progress and course management features, multimedia support, advanced pricing options, reporting & analytics, course content importer, sales page templates, multi-language support, and pretty much everything else that you may need to create a single or multi-instructor e-learning site.
Teachable is also different from other platforms on our list because it’s a hosted service, which means that their team takes care of everything for course creators.
The shortcomings of Teachable include the inability to upload large videos (you need to post a YouTube URL for that), some knowledge of coding required for customization, less freedom in the choice of quizzes that you can create (only multiple-choice or true/false quizzes allowed) and the text editor that’s not too rich in formatting features. Teachable pricing starts from $348 per year.
These are but a few examples of learning management platforms. For more options, you can take a look at this article – 6 Best LMS Platforms for Online Education Websites.
#6. Developing Your Udemy-like Website
When it comes to working on the actual website development, you can either hire a developer or, if you are one yourself, build it on your own.
If you decide to hire a developer, you need to sit down and tell them exactly how you want your e-Learning site to be developed. Have several in-depth discussions with your developers to figure out timelines and chalk out a development plan.
Or, if you plan to build it yourself, draft a plan of how your site is going to look and work and start your development accordingly.
Choosing your tech stack, consulting with your investors, and deciding your platform can give you more clarity about this stage as you’ll be able to map the features and functionalities with practical considerations such as turnaround time and budget.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Udemy-like Website?
Everything costs money to build, and eLearning sites are no different. If you don’t consider your budget in the beginning while developing your site, you’re bound to overspend and burn out your resources.
Considering that you plan to set up your site on your own, on an independent open-source platform like WordPress, these will be the tentative costs you will need to consider.
|Domain name||$12 – $15 (recurring)|
|Hosting plan||$90 – $100 (recurring)|
|LMS||$0 – $360|
|Development cost||Variable, depending on your features and requirements|
That’s a very basic break-up of the costs. Your expenses will vary depending on the platform you choose, the features you want to incorporate, any additional services you enlist, such as content delivery networks, and many other factors.
This is a brief primer to get you started with creating an online education website similar to Udemy.
Setting up an online education platform is a huge commitment and needs to be handled precisely.
Udemy is unarguably one of the most successful e-learning platforms in the world, so modeling your online course marketplace based on it is a safe bet. Education platforms are sprouting left, right, and center these days, so pick a unique niche or find a way to make your niche unique, to ensure that your platform stands out.
I understand that your requirements may differ from the ones we have mentioned here, but I hope we have answered most of your initial questions about setting up your own Udemy-like website. If not, feel free to share your doubts in the comments section below!