Totara: Another Interesting LMS

January 4, 2011

Interesting LMS sounds like an oxymoron. A Learning Management System (LMS) is often a teaching administration system, used to keep track of courses, students, and class assignments. That might be necessary, but it doesn’t excite many of us.

So what might make an LMS interesting? How about social media? Schoology launched its LMS plus social net last year. I’ve posted about Schoology previously, although the most recent post identifies a set of challenges I think it will be hard for Schoology to overcome.

Now there’s Totara: “designed to meet the learning management needs of busy enterprises and to deliver the benefits of open source software.” Totara is a distribution of the free/open source LMS Moodle.

Here are some questions about Totara, most of them with answers. I hope to be able to fill in the missing answers soon. The first question may well be the most critical, in terms of providing the kind of credibility and supporting services that enterprise clients will look for in a provider.

Who is behind Totara? Kineo and Catalyst, the former specializing in e-learning and the latter in open source. That said, neither firm is a stranger to the intersection of learning and open source: each had previously worked with Moodle. Totara was founded as a joint venture between Kineo, Catalyst, and Flexible Learning Network. FLN has since become Kineo Pacific.

What’s the difference between Moodle and Totara in terms of software features? There’s a handy (PDF) comparison table. Not surprisingly, most of the differences take are extensions of Moodle for the enterprise. For example, Totara seems to allow far richer individual development plans than does Moodle 2.0.

Do I download Totara, or is it a hosted service? Up to you, the client.

So can I get started right now? It doesn’t look like it, but it shouldn’t be long (January 2011 – hey, that’s this month), and there are demo webinars and recordings thereof.

Does Totara have social networking features? Now this I’m not sure of. Moodle, and hence Totara, does have some social media features, in that it includes blogs and wikis.

Anyone care to comment on Totara and social networks, or about any other aspect of Totara?

2 Responses to “Totara: Another Interesting LMS”


  1. Hi Andrew,

    I’m one of the developers of Totara, so I might be able to help answer some of your questions.

    Totara is being launched at the Learning Technologies conference in the UK on 26th January. Shortly after that we expect to have a demo site up and running so people can try it out.

    In terms of social networking features, obviously all the standard Moodle features like forums, chat, blogs and wikis will be available in Totara. We have also added role-specific dashboards which provide a ‘stream’ of recent events on the site similar to Facebook’s news feed.

    We are also planning on improving the integration between Totara and Mahara.


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