29 November 2021

Kenny McCormack

Senior Solutions Architect

With at least one new version of most platforms available every year, how often should you upgrade an LMS?

Deciding when to upgrade your learning management system (LMS) is something of an art form. There are lots of different factors at play – we will explore them in more detail in this article – and you need to weigh them all up to decide on the best time to upgrade an LMS.

With so many things to consider, we’re not going to be able to give a definitive answer on exactly how often you should upgrade your LMS. But, by way of a short answer, we can say you should upgrade your LMS at least once every three years.

That’s because three years is the usual support period for an LMS with long-term support available. After that, you’re likely to be running a version of the software that is no longer protected by security updates and bug fixes, so it makes sense to move to a newer version before that happens. Running an unsupported version of Moodle LMS or Totara Learn opens you up to unnecessary security risks.

Beyond that three-year window, we’re back to those various considerations. Let’s look at some of them in more detail.

 

Don’t upgrade for each new release

It doesn’t make sense to upgrade every time there is a new release. With major releases sometimes coming every six months, you could spend all of your time planning LMS upgrades and get very little else done.

 

Upgrade to Long-Term Support versions

We strongly recommend that any LMS upgrade is planned to coincide with a new Long-Term Support (LTS) version of the platform. Not all releases have LTS, so we encourage our customers to upgrade to a version that will offer a full three years of support.

Upgrading to a version that doesn’t have LTS is likely to leave you needing a further LMS upgrade in 12-18 months. You can check the support cycles for Moodle and Totara products to see which versions offer LTS.

 

Upgrade your LMS to get new features

One reason to ignore our advice about upgrading to a Long-Term Support version is if you’re desperate to get your hands on a new feature. If the new feature is going to make your life a lot easier or save your organisation a lot of time and money, you might consider upgrading earlier than would otherwise be the case.

You can draw upon our knowledge of the Moodle and Totara product roadmaps to stay up-to-date with which new features are on their way, then time your LMS upgrade accordingly. By doing that, you will be able to avail of new features when you need them while also sticking to LTS versions whenever possible.

Upgrade an LMS during quiet periods

An LMS upgrade is a major project that is likely to require at least some downtime for your platform. Any third-party plugins or bespoke features will need to be tested to make sure they will work with the new LMS version. With that in mind, how often you upgrade your LMS will depend on when you can afford that downtime.

For example, you can’t launch into a LMS upgrade during a busy assessment period. You will need to plan ahead so that the upgrade coincides with a natural lull in LMS usage.

 

Don’t upgrade an LMS as an early adopter

While early adoption of shiny new versions is valued in tech, we urge our customers to opt for a little more caution and wait for the first point release of any new version. In other words, don’t jump straight in with version 4.1; wait for version 4.1.1 to arrive. This will give the opportunity for any early bugs or security issues to be patched, so you can maintain a stable and secure platform.

 

Upgrade to benefit from new browser capabilities

Upgrading to a recent LTS version of your LMS will give you access to support for the latest browsers. With Internet Explorer 11 soon to be discontinued, both Moodle and Totara have been able to advance their offering to take advantage of the capabilities of newer browsers. If you’re on an older, unsupported version of Moodle or Totara, your learners are missing out on what both platforms can offer via modern browsers.

 

Don’t confuse an LMS upgrade with an LMS update

Everything we’ve discussed so far relates to upgrading an LMS, which is moving to a new version of a platform. This shouldn’t be confused with updating to the latest point release of your current version of a platform. Updates are something we provide as part of our service. If you’re running version 4.1.1, you just need to get in touch via our support portal when you’re ready to move to version 4.1.2 and we will schedule your update.

While there is no fixed release schedule, Moodle usually releases a new point version with security and bug fixes every 5-6 weeks. Totara releases a new point release every month and often includes enhancements to features as well as security and bug fixes.

LMS updates are usually straightforward and don’t require any of the planning or careful consideration needed for an LMS upgrade.

 

Talk to us about when to upgrade an LMS

If you’d like our advice on the timing of your LMS upgrade, just fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.

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