With a massive demand for eLearning courses in different areas, it’s now a fact that starting an eLearning platform like Udemy, Coursera, Lynda, etc. could be a highly profitable business idea in 2019. However, this idea also puts the eLearning entrepreneurs in a dilemma – “whether to buy a ready-made eLearning software or custom eLearning development?”
This article looks into both the methodologies and inspects different aspects that drive this decision. We will start by understanding the modus operandi of both eLearning software solutions and discuss their pros, cons, and applications under various scenarios. Hopefully, this article will impart enough information to let any entrepreneur make an informed choice for a profitable business operation.
What is a custom eLearning software?
A custom eLearning solution is developed from scratch as per personalized goals and requirements of an entrepreneur or anyone who wants to implement eLearning for business, training, customer education or blended learning. The application and e-learning platform features vary as per the changing nature of the goals of implementation.
Every business has unique needs driven by the business model, organizational culture, and monetization goals. An entrepreneur cannot find an implementation of such models ready-made. Custom eLearning software development is the best approach for solutions to train employees, customer education, in-house software systems training, etc. In short, you need custom solutions to implement corporate eLearning within an organization.
However, modus operandi of the custom eLearning development remains the same across the band of goals. Irrespective of your goals, you have to follow a similar approach to get your custom made eLearning solution. You can either work on the development by yourself or outsource an eLearning development company to do it for you. In either of the ways, your software will be built from scratch.
What is a readymade eLearning software?
Readymade or off the shelf eLearning software solutions are based on the idea of “one size fits all”. Software vendors apply their own resources, time, money, effort, and research in e-learning platform development and build the solutions from scratch. Vendors sell these developed solutions as ready-made products to multiple clients. Hence, they can put-up economical prices to make up for the development cost and generate profit after that.
In other words, these solutions are made after researching in popular business models, expecting more entrepreneurs to follow the same. From integrating trending features to accommodating popular monetization channels, ready-made solutions stay updated with the latest trends in the market.
Off the shelf, solutions are best when you have an inspired business idea in your mind. For example, you saw Udemy is making some great impact offering micro-courses with the pay-per-course model. You thought starting a site like Udemy in your region will create a similar impact. So, you purchased an Udemy Clone script and built a site with similar features and monetization channels.
If a business like Udemy was your goal, spending fortunes in custom eLearning development would be a redundant idea. Instead, purchasing a ready-made Udemy clone saved you a lot of cost, time and effort. Similarly, the market is full of other ready-made solutions like Coursera Clones, Varsity Tutors Clone, Udacity Clone, and others.
Which one is best: Readymade vs Custom eLearning development?
There is a significant gap between the two terms of cost and usability. Let’s examine the two options on some other crucial aspects and find out which one works best in these conditions.
Which one is economical?
Readymade solutions are generally cost lower when compared with custom development. The obvious reason that custom solutions are developed specifically for a client and they cannot be re-sell to others. While Ready-made solutions are sold as a product and they do not limit the vendor from selling the same solutions to multiple customers.
Moreover, you cannot actually make an exact cost estimate of a custom eLearning software. A software vendor will have to consider the aspects like complexity, resources, the time required, testing, deployment, and maintenance to present an estimation. On the other hand, off the shelf solutions give an accurate estimate with fixed charges for maintenance and support.
Hence, readymade solutions are way economical than custom eLearning development.
Which one is easier to implement?
There are two sides to this aspect. At one side both are easier to implement for the entrepreneur as vendors these days manage everything from development and deployment to maintenance. As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to worry about anything. However, there is this other side where both of them have a huge gap between their costs of acquisition.
Despite the support from the vendors, there are certain factors that even they cannot control. You see, a newborn custom solution is always vulnerable to bugs and errors. These issues are fixed only over time as the software matures after prolonged usage in the field. That means, your business is going to be the field for testing a custom software designed for you only.
Vendors sell the ready-made solution as their products. So they test the software rigorously before releasing in the market. A solution, which has been in the market for quite some time now is more polished and stable. You don’t have to conduct rigorous testing by yourself.
Hence, ready-made solutions are easier to implement and deploy. They are also more stable and bug-free.
Which one is more customizable?
The thumb rule of developing any kind of business software is making it customizable for future needs. That means the software should easily accommodate an easier way to modify the code, add new features, remove useless features, and revamp the UI. Customizable software allows code access so that any skilled developer can do the modifications.
Though you develop custom software considering your current needs for e-learning platform features, it will consider customizable only when it allows easy modifications without breaking the current codes. It must follow a standard coding practice so that anyone can identify the codes and perform the modifications.
On the other hand, you can assure a customizable readymade software by checking if they offer open-source code access and follow modular codding practices. There are various SaaS-based ready-made solutions in the market. Be advised that they are not customizable and neither do they offer the source code access. So only, open-source code and self-hosted eLearning solutions are customizable.
Hence, both the approaches are deeply customizable if vendors are offering source code access to modify the code base.
Which one is friendlier to third-party integrations?
The concept of third-party integration works on the principle of “not re-inventing the wheel”. When the same solution is already at your disposal from the market, you can just use it instead of developing it from scratch. Having said that, you can use a ready-made third-party solution in your project through Application programming Interface Integration (API Integration).
For example, if you need an LMS for your eLearning marketplace, you can integrate Moodle or any other LMS. You don’t have to develop your LMS from scratch unless you have a very unique requirement.
A custom eLearning development with source code access can be made friendlier to third-party integrations. With standard code practice, anyone can integrate feasible APIs to fit in third-party solutions. However, this has to be done right from the beginning while preparing the blueprint of the software.
The vendors also follow the same approach while developing their ready-made solutions from scratch. You can test software for the same before picking one. You can look for other options if one solution fails to offer the same.
While most of the off the shelf eLearning software are friendly to API integrations, custom solutions can also be made the same. For example, we offer on-demand API integration services for our Udemy clone script and Varsity tutors clone script because we have made them friendly to the third-party integrations. Both options have different alternatives when it comes to third-party integration. You just have to find a suitable vendor.
Which one offers easier upgrades?
The term ‘easier upgrades’ is relative. It depends on various factors that drive the selection of a solution. Before scanning the two approaches for ease of upgrades, you must comprehend the meaning of the term “ease” for you.
- Do you want the ease of access to the source code to perform upgrades by yourself?
- Do you prefer the ease of receiving upgrades through OTA from your vendor?
If ease of access to the source code is your priority, custom solutions are better in this regard. You can expect a similar level of ease in source code access for the ready-made solutions if you go for self-hosted turnkey solutions. However, if you want your vendor to offer the upgrade through OTA, SaaS-based ready-made solutions are your best bet.
Where custom e-learning development gives you the freedom to modify the source code and do the upgrades by yourself, ready-made solutions are the easiest alternatives to get vendor originated upgrades.
Please note that installing updates in ready-made solutions could be a tricky job if you have done customizations from your side. You must take the aid of your vendor to install the upgrades on a customized readymade eLearning solution.
Which one offers a better competitive advantage?
When you are using software specially design and build for your business needs, it lets you have some unique features that others might not even think of. You can develop exclusive features to gain competitive advantages over those who don’t have your custom platform.
On the other side, ready-made solutions do not offer that kind of exclusivity. The features they offer to your business, are also shared with many others in your domain. You have to align your business process around the ready-made features.
However, readymade solutions these days have gone highly cutting edge. Besides the regular common features, one can also customize these solutions to add unique features as well. If you have the source code access of your readymade software, you can develop unique features on the top.
Hence, custom solutions offer the best competitive advantages if you have a unique business idea and e-learning platform features in your mind. If vendors offer the source code, you might expect a decent exclusivity from ready-made solutions as well.
Software development is a huge market and so is the eLearning business arena. With growing needs and innovation, readymade solutions these days are offering experience and control similar to custom eLearning solutions. In my opinion, you must prepare a list of your goals and requirements first. After that, you should look out for a ready-made option that promises to meet those requirements readily. Next, you can inspect if you can implement the missing requirements through customization.
I would prefer a ready-made solution if it’s meeting my requirements and offering the customizability to add the unique requirements on the top of it. However, I would definitely go for custom eLearning solutions if a readymade solution is able to accommodate my primary business goals by any means. At last, the ultimate goal should be offering the best user experience and better ways to serve the stakeholders. Don’t hesitate to spend a little extra on custom development if a readymade solution can’t offer that.