10 November 2021

Jonny McAlister

Head of Sales & Marketing

With multiple upgrade opportunities every year, how do you stay on top of the various versions and decide when to make changes to your LMS?

New LMS versions come thick and fast. Moodle releases a new major version of Moodle LMS every six months, while Totara typically releases one major upgrade each year. So, if you’re investing in open source learning software, how do you ensure you’re not left with an outdated or unsupported version of the LMS?


Update regularly, upgrade strategically

Sometimes there is confusion about the differences between updates and upgrades. An update is a new and improved version of the existing open source software you’re using. An upgrade is a move to a new iteration of the software or an entirely new piece of software.

An update typically deals with security patches and bug fixes. It makes sense to update your LMS as soon as practically possible after an update has been released.

An upgrade will usually bring improvements to the platform and an array of new features. It probably won’t make sense to upgrade every time a new version becomes available. You might upgrade to access a particular new feature at the earliest opportunity or shortly before support for your existing LMS expires.


Support expiry date

An important thing to keep an eye out for is the support expiry date for the open source software you’re getting. This is the period for which the software developer, in our world Moodle or Totara, will continue to provide bug fixes and security updates for the software. This tends to be for a period of three years for releases that have long term support (LTS). Sometimes there are different expiry dates for different aspects of support, so it’s essential to make sure you’re aware of that at the outset.

Although with open source software you can continue to use the platform in its existing format indefinitely, it makes sense to plan an LMS upgrade to coincide with support expiring on your existing version. Protecting your organisation against emerging security threats means regularly moving to a newer version of the LMS you’re using is an obvious decision to make. You get more flexibility over the timing and circumstances of the upgrade with open source learning software than with licensed software.


New features and new technologies

Apart from protecting your LMS against security threats and getting rid of bugs as they are found and fixed, it also makes sense to make sure you’re not missing out on any new functionality that would be beneficial to your organisation.

For example, the benefits of a new reporting feature that will save huge amounts of admin time across the organisation are likely to outweigh any upheaval from an upgrade. In that case, it might make sense to upgrade your LMS at the earliest opportunity.


Future-proof your LMS

A key consideration when deciding when to upgrade your LMS is how your open source learning software is customised to your requirements. A few years back, upgrading a heavily customised LMS was not too far removed from starting all over again. Nowadays, if the bespoke development is done properly, you can build your LMS in such a way that the upgrade is a very smooth process and your customisation can easily be retained.


Advice on when to upgrade your LMS

Another way to stay on top of LMS versions is to study product roadmaps, see what the software developers have in store and plan ahead for your upgrades. That’s something we can help with.

We’re Totara Platinum Partners and Core Product Contributors and Moodle Premium Partners and active contributors to the Moodle community. As such, we’re well placed to advise on what’s coming down the road and how best to manage your LMS upgrades and updates. Just fill out the form below for a chat about that.

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