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7 December 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Totara Learn

Jonny McAlister

Jonny McAlister

Head of Sales & Marketing

A comprehensive rundown of everything you need to know about Totara Learn.

The Ultimate Guide to Totara Learn might be a bold claim to make, but we’re very well placed both to make the claim and write the guide. After all, we are one of Totara’s longest-running partners. We’ve been building Totara Learn platforms since 2011.

We’re top-tier Totara Platinum partners and to date we’ve created more than 150 Totara sites for global businesses including Amazon, Samsung and Western Union. We’ve been named Totara’s Global Partner of the Year multiple times and won a host of other Totara awards for our work with clients such as Halfords and Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue.

Over the course of those projects we’ve built a wealth of Totara Learn knowledge and learned all of the recurring questions our customers have asked us about the platform. Let’s share all of that information with you in our Ultimate Guide to Totara Learn.

What is Totara Learn?

Totara Learn is an open learning management system (LMS) suited to enterprise-level organisations. (If that doesn’t mean much to you, it might be worth reading our article ‘What is a learning management system?’ at this point.) The platform is used by more than 1,800 corporate customers around the world to create, manage and deliver online learning in a flexible and customisable environment.

The history of Totara

Totara was founded in New Zealand in 2010, and took its name from a native tree renowned for its flexibility, strength and durability. Chief executive officer Richard Wyles was one of three co-founders who initially used the open source Moodle LMS code as the starting point for a platform geared towards corporate entities.

Totara Learning Solutions currently employs around 100 people and operates offices in New Zealand, United Kingdom and USA.

Is Totara Learn the right LMS for me?

Whether Totara Learn is the right LMS for you will depend on your organisation’s needs. It’s worth bearing in mind that its very reason for being created was in order to make an open source platform like Moodle LMS better suited to the needs of businesses. If you operate in a corporate learning setting, Totara Learn is likely to be a viable option for you.

In putting itself forward as a learning platform for you to consider, Totara talks of four freedoms:

Freedom to innovate

Totara Learn is an adaptable and flexible platform that allows you to innovate and create a platform that does exactly what you want it to do.

Freedom to save

Totara Learn is a cost-effective learning management system when compared to licensed software.

Freedom of choice

You get to choose the right Totara Partner for you and to choose a platform that suits your requirements, rather than following a one-size-fits-all approach.

Freedom to learn

Totara Learn enables you to create the sort of learning experiences you want to deliver to your learners.

In terms of the practicalities of what it can offer you, Totara Learn is a comprehensive enterprise level LMS. As such it offers everything you need to:

Deliver and manage learning

This includes catalogue, course and content management; assessment and achievement tools, social and collaborative learning tools; offline, blended and virtual learning features; and gamification elements.

Organisational and compliance management

This includes compliance pathways, notifications and expiry tracking, custom report building, organisational hierarchies and multi tenancy options.

User management

This includes team management tools, an array of enrolment options, dynamic audiences, access management tools and user account management features.


This includes options for customising the design and navigation of your LMS, personalising elements of each learner’s experience, language packs and other global learning functionality, and adaptive learning tools.

Development and review

This includes talent management and succession planning tools, as well as customisable learning plans.

If you’re still not sure whether Totara Learn will deliver everything you need from your LMS, you might like to read the article ‘Which LMS is right for my organisation?’.

Benefits of Totara Learn

There are lots of Totara benefits. Here are some of the key benefits of Totara Learn that our customers have enjoyed over the years.

Open source

As an open source LMS, it is a very cost-effective option for many businesses. Totara estimates that you will be able to save up to 80% of your costs in comparison to other enterprise-class learning platforms. The absence of software licensing fees is a key factor in this regard.

Easy automation

Totara Learn allows you to automate many tasks, including setting up automated learning pathways. This has the potential to save a considerable amount of admin time that would otherwise be spent enrolling learners on courses.

Learn on any device

With a native mobile app available, Totara Learn works seamlessly across any device. Your learners will be able to complete courses in a time and place that best suits them.

Compliance management

Automated pathways and reminders for refresher courses make it easy to put in place robust compliance measures that mitigate business and safety risks.

Powerful reporting

Totara Learn’s powerful reporting system makes it easy to keep track of how your learners are developing. A data visualisation interface delivers at-a-glance monitoring of assessment scores, completion rates and compliance levels.


Totara Learn is a highly versatile platform. As well as giving you the ability to create an LMS that’s led by your brand, your learners and the courses you want to deliver, it can also be structured to match your organisation’s hierarchy, including multi-tenancy setups for different divisions or subsidiaries.

Regular updates and bug fixes

A new major version of Totara is released once a year, with minor releases every month. That means you never have to wait very long for new features, security patches and bug fixes.

What can I do on Totara Learn?

Totara Learn gives you the freedom to manage and deliver learning in a way that’s right for your organisation. This means you will be able to:

Create courses and manage learning content

Use drag-and-drop functionality to build your own learning content and courses, or import learning content and resources from other providers. Content management options are available for a wide range of content types and formats.

Manage seminars, events and workshops

Totara Learn includes an array of options for easy scheduling and management of events. This includes self-service or workflow-based options for bookings; tools for assessing and managing demand, venue and equipment requirements; and attendance tracking.

Manage assessments

Check on your learners’ progress with a wide range of assessment tools. Change the submission requirements, deadlines and attempt limits to suit your assessment criteria. You can also build workflows around marking and grading to make life easier for assessors and increase consistency levels.

Collaborate with learners

Totara Learn gives you a platform for social and collaborative learning. With live chat, workshops, messaging, wiki, group assignments and forums, there are plenty of ways to communicate with your learners or bring them together to collaborate. The opportunities for collaboration can be extended through the use of Totara Engage and the Totara TXP suite of products, which we will discuss in more detail below.

Reward your learners

Totara Learn’s Open Badges integration allows you to reward learners for completing an activity or course. Use the certificate generator to issue branded certificates or automatically issue shareable badges that document the learner’s skills and achievements — useful for motivating learners, encouraging healthy competition and offering an instant overview of someone’s capabilities.

Where is Totara Learn used?

As we’ve mentioned, Totara Learn was initially developed with business in mind and it remains an enterprise level learning management system. Here are some of the sectors in which it is particularly popular.

Totara Learn for finance

Totara Learn’s scalability and flexibility is well suited to adapt to the hierarchies of financial institutions. We’ve worked with Western Union, Bravura Solutions and other finance businesses to create platforms tailored to their needs.

Totara Learn for charities and non-profit organisations

The scalability we mentioned above is also appealing to charitable and public sector bodies, as is Totara Learn’s potential to adapt to even the most complex of organisational hierarchies. And for charities, the option to deliver offline and blended learning makes it a great option for organisations with employees in countries with unstable internet connections. Plan International, Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue and the Office for Nuclear Regulation are among the charitable and non-profit organisations we’ve worked with to create Totara sites.

Totara Learn for tech

Tech pioneers want the best learning technology at their disposal. We’ve built platforms for both Amazon and Samsung. Both tech giants wanted to develop an LMS to train third-party retailers selling their products. Totara has the functionality, control and scalability to achieve that.

Totara Learn or Totara TXP?

For businesses that want to go beyond managing and delivering learning in favour of a platform that also builds an organisational culture, drives continuous improvement and increases staff engagement, morale and retention, Totara TXP is an excellent option.

As well as Totara Learn, Totara TXP also includes the performance management platform Totara Perform and the learning experience platform Totara Engage. They combine to create a suite of tools that allows you to deliver flexible, engaging and performance-driven learning in a way that improves your organisation and its people.

Find out more about both of these platforms in our article ‘Do you need a TXP instead of an LMS?’.

Versions of Totara Learn

As we mentioned above, there are typically new major versions of Totara Learn released once a year, with minor updates released every month. It makes sense to update to the latest minor release of the version you are running at the earliest opportunity in order to take advantage of security and bug fixes.

Upgrading your LMS to a new major release should be planned to coincide with expiry of support for your current version; the release of a new major version with Long Term Support (LTS); or the release of a major version with new features that your organisation wants to use immediately.

Totara Learn themes

Totara Learn prides itself on being highly customisable, and your choice of theme plays a significant role in that. Totara Learn’s theme selector gives site administrators the option to create a different look and feel using the change theme settings. The flexibility of themes varies from being able to make minor changes to the branding through to significant variations in the appearance and functionality of the site. You can choose from an off-the-shelf Totara Learn theme or a custom Totara Learn theme that’s unique to your organisation.

One option to consider for your Totara Learn theme is our Spark LMS theme, which delivers a cost-effective combination of LMS design, user experience and functionality best practice. As well as the engaging design and time-saving features that come as standard, you can also choose from a range of premium add-ons to get the functionality you need from your Totara Learn theme.

Totara Learn pricing

Totara Learn is available via Totara Partners like us for a cost-effective subscription fee that prices up favourably in comparison to licensed software. There will be additional fees for any design work, bespoke development and managed hosting required to get your LMS doing exactly what you need it to do.

Totara Learn hosting

Hosting is an important consideration when planning your Totara Learn LMS given the potential impact on site speed and performance, user experience and security. We are certified Totara hosting partners, which is testament to our record of providing reliable, robust hosting for Totara Learn sites. This is one of two main options available to you when you’re considering how to host your Totara Learn site.

Managed Totara Learn hosting

Our managed hosting service for Totara Learn delivers 99.9% uptime, less stressing about hosting admin, and regular server and application security updates. You’ll also benefit from our longstanding experience of LMS hosting setups.

Self-hosting Totara Learn

The other option is to host your Totara Learn site in-house. Self-hosting is possible but it will increase the administrative and financial burden on your team, particularly in relation to running and maintaining the servers. It also means the buck stops with them if anything goes wrong (which might not be ideal if they don’t have experience in LMS hosting). You will need to ensure that you have a hosting environment of a suitable specification to effectively host a learning management system.

Totara Learn features

There is an impressive amount of learning technology features packed into this LMS. It’s hard to pick out a handful of examples, but here are some of the most popular Totara Learn features that have made life easier for the learning and development professionals we work with.

Report Builder

Totara Learn’s powerful report builder makes it easy to get your hands on the data you need. Editable embedded reports; eye-catching and easy to interpret graphical reports; and scheduled reports are just a few of the ways to share important information with relevant stakeholders.

Team Overview Dashboard

Team management is made easier by features including the team overview dashboard, team statistics and learning plans. Give line managers everything they need to support and develop their teams.

Learning Pathways

Totara Learn’s learning pathways are a very popular feature for maintaining compliance levels and automating course enrolment based on each user’s role, department or experience.


There are various content creation and management options available in Totara Learn, but SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is probably the most popular. You can easily upload and share learning content across different SCORM compliant systems.


Although Totara Learn is equipped with a range of different assessment and evaluation features, it is the quiz activity that is perhaps the most frequently used of these. You can choose from a variety of question types, scoring and grading options, and feedback and review options. Using the HTML editor, you can customise and embed media within your quiz. And once you’ve created a question it is saved in your question bank for easy use in future quizzes.

Dynamic Audiences

With its rule-based audiences, Totara Learn gives you the ability to target custom groups of your audience based on data within the LMS and other data sources. For example, you could very quickly identify and enrol on a course all users working in Department A who haven’t completed Course B in the past two years.


Integrations with HR systems, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, OAuth2, Single Sign-On and many other platforms and technologies help you to get even more from your LMS. The flexibility to sync with other software your organisation uses helps you to create an LMS in the image of your organisation and create time-saving synergies between different systems.


One of the key Totara Learn benefits is the high level of customisation it affords you. From the very obvious things like themes and branding through to making it easy for each user to see the last course they accessed, the platform is full of personalisation and customisation options. The Dashboard can be edited so that it shows only the information that matters most to your learners.


Totara Learn is designed to meet international web accessibility guidelines. The most recent versions of meet WCAG 2.1 A and AA standards in the vast majority of areas, and Totara is working towards AA compliance across all products.

Do I need a Totara partner?

Yes, Totara’s model is dependent on Totara partners like us to build sites. The reason for that is to protect organisations like yours by ensuring that only companies with the Totara know-how, project management capabilities and e-learning experience to deliver projects effectively are able to do so.

Totara Partners are a relatively select group of learning technology companies that are certified by Totara to provide expert support and guidance on themes, customisations, coding, bespoke development, UX design, hosting, integrations, implementation and all other aspects of Totara platforms.

In terms of our credentials, we’ve proudly held Totara Platinum Alliance partner status (the top tier of Totara partners) since 2011. Since then we’ve won awards including Totara Open Source Contributor of the Year and Best Totara Project.

Totara Learn demo

If you’d like to see some of the Totara Learn features mentioned above in action, or get a more visual feel for how those features work, you could book a Totara Learn demo. There are a couple of different options available to you.

Totara live demo

Totara offers a live demo of Totara Learn and the rest of Totara TXP for you to explore the platform. You will have to fill out a few details in order to get access to the live demo.

Guided demo with us

If you’re looking for a bit more insight about features, someone to answer your questions and some expert Totara knowledge, you might prefer to join us for a demo. We’ll walk you through the LMS, showing you the features and functionality that are of most interest to your organisation as we go.

Fill out form for a Totara Learn demo

If you’d like a guided Totara Learn demo, just fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.



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