How to develop an online photography school?
The Fotoshkola photography school is the first edtech project in Russia to focus on teaching photography. Its main goal is to provide convenient, online photography courses, with quick feedback on assignments from teachers. The founder of the school is businessman Arkady Akulov.
The idea for the school came when Akulov himself developed an intense interest in photography, but could not find any reputable online education platforms. Offline classes were held on a rigid schedule, which was inconvenient for him.
So, Akulov applied his experience launching digital products to launch a distance learning platform dedicated to photography. To develop the product, he invited a team that had previously worked on a related Prophotos project, which we were a part of.
Future scaling had to be planned for upfront, because tens of thousands of users would be needed to achieve an acceptable ROI. The minimum viable product, in this case, was not a video recording of courses, but the first version of the Learning Management System (LMS).
With our help, the client's team had to create and launch a classic educational product from scratch, with functions for two groups of users: students and teachers.
Students had to be able to register, choose, and pay for courses themselves, watch video lessons, upload homework results, and receive feedback. Teachers had to be able to see their students’ work, as well as be able to comment and explain what could be improved.
In one year, we launched Fotoshkola.net, a classic online e-learning platform using Ruby On Rails/Ruby. The LMS for the online photography school included the following features:
- Ability to download and watch video tutorials
- Organization of video lessons into courses
- User registration and personal student accounts
- Online payment capabilities on the website
- Restrictable access to new activities until current homework is completed
- Messenger for communication between students and teachers
- Commenting on assignments, with the ability to leave comments/tags anywhere in the uploaded image
Wrapping up the educational product
You’re always at an advantage when you develop a truly new online idea. But, it is temporary, and competitors appear quickly. So, the founders of the school spent a lot of money and time focusing on high-quality filming of the courses, to show that the online training was carried out by experts.
But quality content could not be the only advantage, since tutorials and videos can be found everywhere on the Internet. So, we enhanced the content with the help of convenient viewing, a system for organizing lessons into a course, and a personal account for the educational platform. No other competitor offered these services at launch.
Convenient platform for taking courses in photography
In order to turn high-quality material and teachers’ knowledge into training, it was necessary to organize everything into a single system. Courses needed to present lessons in order, from easy to difficult, so that students could learn at their current level. To do this, we implemented a classic edtech system:
- Users select courses on the website and can immediately purchase access to them. Payment is made through a payment gateway, and different payment options are available.
- Programs can be divided into separate classes with their own grading systems and terms.
- Students receive homework and upload the results. Without doing this, they cannot move on to other classes. There is also no need to wait for other students to complete the course.
- Teachers give feedback in the form of comments on uploaded works and in the messenger with students. In the first case, we made it so that you can leave a comment literally anywhere in the image.
The human approach is the main feature of the photography school. The teacher is not a search engine that answers questions, but a living source of knowledge. Discipline is taught through deadlines, and students are supported and encouraged to discuss assignments and share ideas.
Fotoshkola.net is a combination of a classic edtech solution and an innovative new idea. Its founders managed to clearly communicate the program’s value to their audience throughout every step of the product.
What is the result?
Designing, developing, and testing the interactive portal took a year. After launch, the project team quickly received the first users’ feedback. Evrone continued to accompany the product through several technical updates, but later we transferred it to another contractor for support.
The main metric of success was hypothesis testing. We discovered that there was a huge demand for the product and users were ready to pay for it. Over the first three years, 40,000 students took more than 30 different courses. Of course, rapid development requires a lot of resources, however, the school managed to attract $5 million in investments from Bright Capital Digital. The team used the e-learning startup funding to further develop the school into a large educational community, by adding social functions and improving student-teacher interactions.
Akulov also partnered with several major photography equipment brands, including Canon, Nikon, and Sony. Together with these companies, teachers developed courses that helped people learn how to operate their newly purchased cameras and equipment. According to Akulov, there was a point where every Canon camera sold in Russia came with a coupon for Fotoshkola.net classes.
Educational platform launch tips
This case study describes the nuances of creating classic platforms for online courses. Here are some tips for different stages of development, to help anyone thinking of creating a learning platform with Ruby On Rails, or an e learning business startup.
- Develop the business model of the educational project - think over the monetization, and learn how many users you would need to attract to achieve a viable ROI. This will determine your infrastructure needs.
- Consider all your options - mobile or web development, cross-platform, or native development. The best platform depends on who your users will be, however, most people tend to use mobile devices.
- E-Learning applications differ in the mechanics of material presentation - at the start, you need to determine what methodology you will use.
- Find a team that has experience creating the mechanics you need - for example, developing a personal user account or an entire educational platform. This way, you can combine the quality of development with the value of your idea. Otherwise, you have to spend time explaining to the developers how the product should work.
- Let the development team know about plans for future integrations - at the very least, you will have to integrate accounting, CRM, and a payment gateway for the online education platform.
- While the programmers are creating the MVP, start filling it - your material must be higher quality than what can already be found on the Internet for free.
After the launch
- Start collecting and utilizing feedback from students right away - you must remove the barriers that prevent people from learning as soon as possible and continue to add useful features.
- Do not be afraid of criticism - it is better to learn about problems and fix them, than to lose users because of them.
- Engage the development team when evaluating new ideas - this allows you to select working and resource-relevant features for future updates.
If you are developing an educational startup, training application, or online school and want to know if our team can assist with your E Learning platform development, leave a message in the form below, and we will contact you to learn more about your product and how we can help.