The most recent events in the world demonstrated clearly that the future of the education industry is in bringing it online. This is already obvious to everyone, and now the questions that industry keeps asking itself are: “How to provide the same level of involvement and communication?” and “How to preserve the same level of knowledge for the students with distance education?”
At the same time the challenges that educational institutions faced also triggered a nice boost in standardization and unification of the course materials, self education, online tools enrichment, opening the perspectives for the new startups and businesses in the educational industry. There’s so much potential here like tutors ranking and feedback systems, class scheduling and booking, live rooms for courses, exams applications for students, work tracking programs, electronic libraries and books scanning and much more. If you also add here the smart devices that are already the part of our everyday life, then the education efficiency can be topped. Imagine you could learn foreign language by talking to Alexa, or get reminders about classes on your smartwatch. IoT is bringing even wider range of ideas with all smart blackboards and smart cards. Education was gradually adapting the online technologies even before, keeping the third place among all apps downloaded on Apple Store (per New Market Trends in Educational Applications). No matter if you are making an app for teachers or students, or maybe just a supplementary accessory app, it will be for sure in demand, so from starters you are in a better position compared to other industries.
Since education is also much dependent on the governments, it seems that states would be obliged to adhere to the digital principles and start investing into full or at least partial transfer of education into the mobile tablets like iPads and personal computer environments. Maybe it will bring us to the unified world catalogue of educational material available to people from all of the world. At least let’s hope for it.
In the following blog we will try to focus on the available options for the educational institution as well as available niches for startups. We will not stop on how to develop the educational platform, you can read about the full process in the article “Educational Software solutions”, but would rather stop on the regulations and standards to follow in case you are collecting and storing the child information and how much it costs to get a software that would bring you revenue and provide the proper return of investment. This article should help you to pass the research stage and bring you closer to launching the education platform either for your existing business or as a startup avoiding complicated terms.
So let’s start
Principles for the education software
Before jumping into the development, you have to think through the approaches and principles that you are going to bring to your online platform no matter what it is. In order to determine those, I suggest to turn to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and see what they already have to suggest. Despite the fact that most educational institutions can not guarantee the end result and the sufficient level of education to their customers that can be both children and adults, there are certain principles and processes that can help them to encourage their students to learn, proving the high level of knowledge this way. These principles were unified and collected within the ISO 21001:2018 Educational organizations — Management systems for educational organizations which aimed to help educational providers in achieving that goal. If you already adhere to this principle, it’s important to make sure that your online software also follows them and takes all measures to ensure the high quality of end result to online customers. Here it is important to understand that ISO 21001:2018 is not a checklist for your business or software to follow, it’s more the set of regulations that you can take and translate into different flows. Let’s take a look into a couple of those and see how they can be translated into the educational system.
Are you planning to create an educational app? Want it meets ISO standard?
One of the main focuses of the ISO standard is the optimized communication process where its main purpose is obtaining the opinion, proper convey of information and coordination of the communication between participants. This means that our potential software has to incorporate this goal by not only giving functionality to communicate but also functionality to keep this communication efficient. Let’s say you already have an instant chat messenger in your platform where a tutor or a consultant can communicate with one or several students, which means you have already ensured the communication process is organized. Now in order to also meet the principle of “obtaining opinion”, there can be a chatbot that would send encouraging messages to those students that never ask questions, collecting the passive feedback. E.g. a bot can ask: “You are keeping quiet, are you still here?” And present buttons “Yes” and “No”. This way you can measure users’ involvement. Or the system can ask “Are you enjoying this class? Tell us what you like” and present a text area where a student can express their opinion. A trivial but a really good way to collect opinions is the commenting during live streams. If you online platforms allow live streaming of tutors or teachers, online live commenting would allow people to express themselves raising the interactivity of the course.
Another principle of the ISO 21001:2018 regulation is that all content of your institution starting from the general information about you used on marketing materials to your actual curriculum should convey information clearly. The learner’s performance data should be as transparent and clear to the learner as possible. Since we are talking about globalization of education, even the process of putting a mark to a student can be confusing and misleading because different countries use different assessment systems. E.g. USA would put an “A” mark to the best performed work, while in Eastern Europe you get “12” as top grade. Add here different methodologies on grades depending on student age (e.g. most of the countries do not put grades to junior school students at all). So the platform you are using has to convey explicitly how the assessment of student knowledge is done. Apart from listing it on your website, it is also important to make sure all participants of the course understand it. This can be achieved by providing the users with the onboarding process. One of the platforms we worked on realized this by introducing a student success timeline. The timeline was designed to look like the progress bar, with clear indication of student steps to achieve the higher grade. E.g. If a user answers all questions of several tests correctly they get a “Top Student” badge and have progress bar drive them to the next level , where now they need to get a “Master” badge. This gamification allowed to involve students, to have them learn the material and to pass through the tests to confirm their knowledge. Later on the tool was extended to marketing purposes where by sharing the link to the platform they could get one help tip during the test.
To sum this up, in order to make sure that your software is successful, you need to provide the efficient way to encourage your students to learn. So when designing or writing the specifications of the software, your business analyst, designer or tech writer has to adhere to these principles.
Intellectual Property and Personal Data Security as an instrument to ensure the safety of your educational materials
Bringing all educational materials online exposed the lack of intellectual property regulations in software. The course materials are among the most frequently hacked and the numbers on stolen content are close to the entertainment industry. Having said that the online educational platforms have to ensure that they have taken all precautions to preserve the copyright so that their users are not afraid to generate new content. But even with this consideration in mind, you have to realize the reality: once the content gets into the internet, it becomes at risk of becoming available without paying for it. The best you can do here is to introduce as many safeguard options as possible. So when we are talking about keeping your IP safe, we are really talking about how to add as many possible features to protect content from copying as possible.
From the functionality that can help protecting your content can be the next:
- Allow your users to add their own copyright policy. This would be especially useful for the companies that sell online courses or educational books.
- Block the Copy functionality for your content. Yes, this is possible. This way anyone who wants to highlight the text and click Copy, won’t be able to do this.
- Add watermarks with the name of your website or author of the course. This would ensure that the photos and texts reused from the materials available on your platform will be referenced. Of course some people can bypass it by cutting the watermark out in Photoshop, but this would require extra effort from them. And scammers are lazy people.
- Timestamp the content of your users. No matter if your website allows posting of text, image or video materials, it’s a good idea to timestamp it. It will become useful in case the duplicated material will appear on another resource and will help you prove that the content belongs to your website.
- Make sure that there’s non paid access to the content. It’s a common practice to provide the trials before users actually subscribe to a course. But another way of doing this would be to expose only several paragraphs of your content or first minutes of the videos instead. This way the max that can be stolen is a few bits of your material.
Apart from providing the functionality itself, it is important to teach your users to use it effectively and make sure that they are not the ones corrupting their own content. Here the premade copyright template that your users can simply reuse would be beneficial, or the tips you leave across the website that they can refer to when they don’t know what to enter into the copyright field. Allowing users to upload their own watermark in addition to yours would provide double safety and customization. Teach them to show their face on videos, cause this lowers the chances for the videos to be stolen, etc.
Another thing that has to be taken seriously is Personal Data Security. Here the information you collect can be divided into two parts: information about children and information about teachers. So the natural question is: How to keep the collected data secure and what regulations you need to be compliant with?
Сoncerned about the security of application user’s Personal Data?
Education businesses are managed by the next laws:
- FERPA, which manages the access to student’s education records as part of their educational process. Essentially it says that all children’s educational records belong to parents and when a child turns 18, he/she is the owner of those records. In terms of software, it inherits here the possibility to children or parents to opt-out from the public sharing of the info on their educational plans. So, automatic sharing of the pupil’s success can not be introduced into the system by default but rather should explicitly ask a user to enable this option.
- COPPA – The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act regulates the access to children data by mobile applications, websites and games. Important item for software here is to require a clear consent from parents for children under 13. Here it’s a good practice to pop out the alert, where you ask the user to indicate their age. If the age is below 18 then require the parent to confirm the child’s access by creating a separate user profile for the parent.
- PPRA – The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). This act essentially says: if you want to have a survey collected from children, the results of it must also be available to a parent.
- GDPR – a recently developed and popular document that outlines the principles of data security that all websites should keep to if they have at least 1 user in European Union. Here you either need to limit access of European Union to your platform, which also doesn’t guarantee that you won’t end up having one, or you need to be compliant. The compliance requirements are very vague but at the same time the tech industry already elaborated the checklists for it. For example, the “I accept terms and conditions” checkbox should not be checked by default, another example, you have to tell users and get their consent if you are using their cookies (this is why you see those annoying banners on almost every website now), user should have “Delete” button to remove their presence on the website and all related data. Password validation should require the complex set of symbols instead of weak combinations, etc.
To sum up these sections, make sure that you have the features that make it as hard as possible to steal the content and teach your users to apply those tools you provide to them for their content security. Go through all compliance and regulations checklists to make sure you adhere to the best principles of personal information protection and that you will not get fined on release. Always check the third party services and APIs you integrate with your software so that they do not use your software as the way to collect and misuse the data.
Marketplace as the way to bring tutors and students together
Now, when we have identified the principles you have to keep to, as well as defined which regulations you have to be compliant with, let’s get to possible softwares that would benefit the industry.
One of the first stages that a potential student faces is: “Where do I find the institution/tutor/school, etc?” And the internet is the first place they turn to in finding the answer to this question. The second question they would probably ask is: “How do I choose between all the variety of services and companies that are there at the market?” Online educational marketplace can help your potential users in answering these questions.
The average marketplace’s main idea is:
- You are a tutor and you are looking for pupils to teach
- Students are looking for a tutor to help them pass through exams, improve knowledge, learn new things.
The marketplace is a platform where these roles meet. Tutors have the possibility to create their own profiles and students can look for the tutor they need based on advanced customized search, read feedback from other students on this teacher and see his/her experience. Based on that students can chat with the teacher and hire them for the job.
The second stage to this would be the ability to provide the service online, like online streaming where two can have a call and talk to each other. The ability to give out online homework , track hours for each session, and open additional material are also nice features that would provide an end-to-end educational process within one platform.
And the third stage to this is enforcement of the control system where the platform takes care about the payments, tracks the attendance of users and manages the possible conflicts between the two roles.
Which part of the system to concentrate on, is something for you to select. If you have enough budget you can go for all three of them. Localization plays an important role, because online educational markets can be good for one country, and can be unacceptable for others. It’s also important to understand the payment options that your system should support. While pay per hour is a general approach, there are also per course and per student payments that some tutors suggest.
The marketplace idea is not obligatory targeted for teachers and students. It can be institutions or universities and students/professors. It can also be the courses authors and libraries/journals, writers and media, anything that involves two roles that need to be brought together.
The general list of functionality that the marketplace should have:
- User profiles with the outline of all experiences, services, portfolio.
- Ability to post a request on the marketplace. E.g. “I’m looking for a tutor to provide daily English language teaching”
- Search by job requests and by profiles
- Ability to apply to the Job Requests, or invite teachers to the Job Requests
- Private chats where roles can talk prior to starting the educational course
- Open jobs, this is where users can hire one another with agreed and defined terms
- Complete job once the service is provided and automatic charge for the service with online payments
- Feedback forms should become available on completed jobs and should not be visible to one another until they leave their feedback. The feedbacks should be available on users’ public profiles
- Report functionality should provide the ability to users to report the offensive or abusive content.
- Social Sharing would help you with the marketing and spread of your application
More features and their detailed description is available on this Ondemand App page.
Are you interested in educational Ondemand App?
Technology: the best way would be to develop
- WEB educational marketplace
- Android educational app
- IOS educational app
Even though we recommend to start with the web, mobile is a nice addition to have here. Most of the students try to discipline themselves into learning behind the desk. However, since mobile phone is the thing you always take with yourself, this is an additional way for you to keep your student and tutors involved and spend more time on your platform.
Budget: around $50,000+ from scratch but there are also ready made on demand solutions available that allow to save costs.
Development time: 3-4 months from scratch, around 1 month with ready made solution.
Courses and Books libraries as a unified online database
Another great example of the systems that education can get a good use of is all kinds of databases. You probably know about Udemy or Coursera as the most popular e-learning lists of courses that they are on the web. However the niche is not fully covered by them and you can still be a good competitor to those systems. The best way to compete here would be to choose the expertise to base on. E.g. you can be a platform only to educate maths, where you gather only math courses. The general trend shows that users are more inclined to go with the specialized systems versus broad all supported platforms. If you also focus on certain geographic locations or certain users like “only advanced content for professors”, this would allow you to market yourself better.
Another trend for such kind of systems is concentrated over the combination between educational portals and career opportunities. The aim of this is to serve as the sole place for users to educate and apply the received knowledge on practice.
The three main points you have to keep in mind is: educate, verify knowledge, give opportunities to apply knowledge. And similar to marketplaces, databases can be of anything, not just courses, but also the listing of certifications, institutions, teachers, students, educational applications, etc. Think of the content you already have within your school and monetize it by creating the database of paid content.
Quizzes play an important role in the development of e-learning systems.They verify the knowledge that the learner received and measure the level of the course efficiency. This is usually done either with a questionnaire or exam. From a technical point of view there’s nothing challenging here but content is super important. It’s also a good practice to give several attempts to pass through the quizz and in case of failure to give a discount for purchase of additional materials.
The general list of functionality that the e-learning listing should have:
- Course/Book/University details page, where users can ready about the course, see university curriculum, terms to apply.
- Ability to purchase the book, course, etc. A good way to do upsales here would also be to suggest the quiz or guide help
- Search by courses. The secret to having a proper search here is the correct categorization of the courses. Most of the users do not even use the keyword search to find the lessons they are looking for. In most of the cases, they open a category or a subcategory and browse available courses there.
- Quizzes to verify the knowledge of users based on completed courses.
- Feedback forms should become available on completed jobs and should not be visible to one another until they leave their feedback. The feedbacks should be available on users’ public profiles.
- Report functionality should provide the ability to users to report the offensive or abusive content. This is a must have for the Apple Store application.
- Social Sharing would help you with the marketing and spread of your application.
Feel free to review this case study – Courserooms – for the full and detailed outline of the functionality that such applications involve. More info specifically on the E-learning systems is available here.
Technology: The best way would be to develop both WEB and Mobile applications.
- Web would be beneficial since browsing for courses usually implies that users will be putting their time to research, and for such kind of cases users usually use laptops.
- But the mobile applications are critical for the already purchased courses to keep them involved.
Educational android apps as well as ios ones are also very popular among teenagers versus adults. So also mind the target audience of your platform.
Budget: around $35,000+ from scratch
Development time: 2,5-4 months from scratch depending on the initial set of features within the application
Application to inform your students for language, summer and other schools
What if you already have a business in education? How do you bring it online? Considering the problems that COVID-19 has promised to cause us for a long time, this is the right time to think how to benefit from it. Even though the application you can go with mainly depends on your sales and business processes there are a few of them that can be generally perceived.
First thing you need to identify is what aim you are putting for your school to be resolved with the web or mobile application? Usually it’s one of the next:
- Proper informing of your employees and students;
- Ability to provide online education instead of old school offline education;
- Provision of additional materials;
- Facilitation of the educative process and keeping records of your business.
Once you know the aim you are putting, it would be easy for you to define, which functionality your application should have. Let’s see some of the samples for each of the purposes.
Informing of students and employees as well as provision of additional materials.
Some of the schools have the pretty loaded onboarding process, accompanied with lots of information given orally or with brochures and printed materials that get lost within the first day. So more and more schools introduce the online portals to their students using which they can keep their students informed. If your business is built around the content and making it available to students, this is especially critical. The application can be gamified by adding some of the badges that users have to get, quizzes, etc. The materials database is very similar to what was outlined in the section “Courses and Book libraries as a unified online database”
Technology: Recommended to have Mobile Apps, since this way you’ll make sure that the info gets to students. And as you know all of them never leave their phones alone. Also recommended to support both platforms: iOS and Android.
Budget: around $10,000+ from scratch
Development time: 2 month from scratch
Have an idea of terrific mobile app?
Online educational process
You have to make sure that your business can work from home. In order to gain that it is recommended to build a platform where your teachers can live stream their lessons and class can join to study it. The most important thing here is to make the impression that people stay involved and participate, so live streaming with the cameras and screen sharing are most important for users. Even the tests have to be available with the live broadcasts. From the functionality that you might think of is:
- Login process to authorized students and teachers
- Live streaming
- Chat during the streaming rich with emojis
- File sharing during the streaming
- Blackboard, which teachers can allow certain pupils to draw on
- Management of student’s microphone and camera by teachers
- Home assignments sharing
Technology: Recommended WEB, since the educational process requires discipline and for that you want to ensure students are using their laptops and are sitting behind the desks. At the same time some off class activity should be provided with mobile applications.
Budget: around $70,000+ from scratch
Development time: 4+ month from scratch
You can find some more ideas about the mobile applications in the article “Best Types of Educational Apps You May Want to Develop”
Facilitation of the educative process
Technology can be very useful in facilitation of the educational process and can really automate almost everything. The best way to continue with it would be to define which part of the school process is the most challenging and time consuming for your school and based on that you can define the way to move forward with. Based on my experience most of schools are asking for the next automation:
- Ability to create a curriculum and calendar of out of class activities
- In time informing of attendees about the lesson/event start
- Assignment of each lesson to the teacher
- Track of attendance of each lesson
- Ability for teachers to put grades to students
- Personal grades tracking
- Parents access to grades
- Personal chats
Students and teachers management
- List of students and teachers
- Ability to add a student to the system and manage their personal details.
Technology: Recommended WEB, since most of the management features are done with personal computers. Mobile apps are more nice to have options.
Budget: around $70,000+ from scratch
Development time: 4+ month from scratch
Interactive training apps
A huge part of the market in the education industry is taken by the training applications that use different kinds of interactive methods to help their users to learn faster and more efficiently. Such applications usually do not require any compliances and are pretty easy for development. If you have the method of study that you have proven to be efficient, especially for memorizing things, the development of mobile applications for it would be a nice boost for your method to spread.
Flashcard applications allow us to memorize and test knowledge pieces. And they can become digital. The category of a flashcard can be solely focused on a certain industry, e.g. Aviation (Sample of such application) or the set of industries. You can also allow users to create the custom flashcard. The features set here is :
- Select category and subcategory
- Pass through flashcards
- Swipe left for correct answer, swipe right for the wrong answer
- Get the final score, save score for later to compare the progress.
Another flashcard application sample can be an addition to your offline study material. For example, one of our customers had the offline flashcards to learn the language with a QR Code. On scanning the QR, the mobile application can voice the cards for children, so that they could learn how to pronounce it. This interactive way is especially popular among children that find speaking to the phone entertaining. This keeps them involved into the learning process.
And such applications would be useful to entertain and educate your kids during the coronavirus outbreak.
Learning of religious books, training material etc.
The religious books are usually very complicated in their learning due to deep structure and the necessity to follow a certain number of times you read certain pieces of it during certain day times. An application for this would be a good way to track your progress.
Technology: Mobile applications are recommended here since they are mobile and convenient for quick access to the applications
Budget: around $20,000+ from scratch
Development time: 2-3 months from scratch
IoT applications to optimize the schooling process
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the technology that makes regular things smart. It has found its way in lots of industries and thousands of people already benefit from it. IoT supposes several pieces: hardware (it can be a pen, blackboard, door, chair, anything you would like to digitalize) and software, which is essentially a program to manage the hardware with a computer, tablet to a smartphone. These tools have so much potential for schools: this can save student’s time to find the material they have, provide the ability to each teacher to measure the student’s progress, provide access to all data across schools, etc. Apart from utility, IoT also can help with keeping schools safe and sustainable by using smart cameras and HVAC systems, smart doors, lightning, and climate control. You can read more on how IoT can be used to keep institutions safer in this article.
The complexity about the development of IoT projects lies in testing and making hardware and software work together. Usually the hardware has a middleware that communicates directly with the mobile application or web application and here it is extremely important that the connection protocols are secure, reliable and well documented. You have to also think of the middleware updates with the mobile/web applications. In case the IoT integration supposes also the supply of necessary devices for pupils or employees, it is recommended to go with Android tablets or phones, because they are generally cheaper and give better access to Android core systems making more functionality available for mobile apps.
It’s also worth mentioning that IoT would probably be the main technology to apply in context of social distancing and health safety that will now become part of our lives considering the coronavirus. The cameras measuring safe distances, trackers and calendar builders with the access restrictions on reaching the limit of people for a square meter is something that IoT can handle really well.
Let’s see a couple of IoT project ideas
#1 A pen marker that scans the text and highlights it as a note directly into a laptop, tablet or a smartphone saving time for pupils for rewriting thousands of text extracts and later on allowing them to navigate the notes easier with a search.
#2 Blackboards that allow to save what was written directly to the laptops of students making sure that everything that was written on the blackboard is kept as notes rather than lost.
#3 Smart cards in the phone that allow access to different school facilities like school buses, classrooms, libraries, etc. raising the safety of the educational process.
#4 Things tracker to prevent children from losing or forgetting things at school. This looks like a small tag that you put on the backpack, exercise book , anything you might lose and if you forget to take the thing with you, a tracker will ping you and remind you of it.
There are many other things that can be developed with IoT because the potential is unlimited and in a few decades we might be already living in a world where all things we use daily are connected to the internet.
Technology: Android and iOS applications are generally more used for the IoT because they are more mobile. In other words, you can take the smart thing and the phone everywhere, while laptops are harder to keep with yourself all the time. Considering that there’s no need for extensive interfaces for IoT systems, mobile screens are usually sufficient. Android for education in IoT can provide the best quality/cost.
Budget: around $30,000+ from scratch
Development time: 2-3 months from scratch
The quarantine revealed an important trend for education: it has to provide an alternative way of keeping the educational process while people stay at their homes. Another problem it brought up is that schools and institutions have to now adapt to the health safety of students by providing social distancing, additional disinfections, etc. Since technology and the internet can help with the solution to most of these troubles, it is natural that the education involved companies will start the smooth transition towards online technologies , which would bring the demand for the new platforms.
Going online means also bringing all the principles and regulations used offline to your platform. It means that the regulations of data security will now become prime. Intellectual property would also get more voice because keeping your content safe on the internet is not the same as keeping it offline.
Among the opportunities that the market opens are:
- Educational marketplaces and on demand service applications
- E-learning and courses databases
- Corporate LMS
- Informative applications for schools
- Interactive tutoring and training applications
Considering above said the answer to the question: “How much do educational apps make” would be the response with the same profit level as any offline school.
Already have an awesome idea of educational app?
- Allow your users to add their own copyright policy. This would be especially useful for the companies that sell online courses or educational books.
- Block the Copy functionality for your content.
- Add watermarks with the name of your website or author of the course.
- Timestamp the content of your users. It will be useful if the material will appear on another resource and this will help you prove that the content belongs to your website.
- Make sure that there’s non paid access to the content. Instead of providing the trials before users actually subscribe to a course expose only several paragraphs of your content or first minutes of the videos.
- Educational marketplace. We recommend to start with the web, mobile would be a nice addition to have.
- Courses and Books libraries as an online database. The best way would be to develop both web and mobile applications.
– The web would be beneficial since browsing for courses usually implies that users will be putting their time to research, and for such kind of cases users usually use laptops.
– But the mobile applications are critical for the already purchased courses to keep them involved.
- Application to inform your students for language, summer, and other schools. Recommended to have Mobile Apps, since this way you’ll make sure that the info gets to students because all of them never leave their phones alone.
- Online educational process. Recommended web, since the educational process requires discipline and for that, you want to ensure students are using their laptops and are sitting behind the desks.