Totara Partner Newsletter: September 2015

by Lars

This newsletter is intended to be a concise summary of the news, views, release updates and other notable activity from within the Totara community. We’d like to highlight the great work our Partners are involved in around the world and to bring attention to the growing range of resources the Totara Team will be providing to support you in building and sustaining your customer base.

Welcome to the first monthly newsletter for Totara Partners! (Details)

Lars Hyland

We recognise that our communication has been somewhat patchy to date so we’re working hard to be more consistent and timely with our news and updates.

This newsletter is intended to be a concise summary of the news, views, release updates and other notable activity from within the Totara community. We’d like to highlight the great work our Partners are involved in around the world and to bring attention to the growing range of resources the Totara Team will be providing to support you in building and sustaining your customer base.

In this issue we have a bumper set of important announcements, so we appreciate your time and attention.


Totara Cloud launches 3 September 2015

Learn how Totara Cloud can be used to capture more value from your existing lead base, how to guide customers to buy, together with the full referral process and fees paid to partners.

The relationship between Totara and Moodle is changing

We have made the carefully considered decision that from 2016 Totara LMS will no longer be in lockstep with Moodle. This will free the team at Totara Learning to focus on big leaps forward in usability and modernising the framework for our enterprise customers. Read Richard Wyles’ personal explanation of the steps taken towards this decision and the significant opportunities this brings to the whole partner network and learning management market as a whole.

Totara LMS Version 2.9 release in October 2015

As a result of our decision to diverge from Moodle, we have a previously unscheduled release which will be the final version that includes a full merge of the latest standard Moodle codebase. Read Simon Coggins summary of the expected feature set.

Please let us know if the format, length and nature of information meets your needs or if you have suggestions on how we can make improvements. All feedback is welcome in the Partner Community. You can of course also contact your Channel Partner Manager.

Finally, I’m conscious that as a relatively new member of the team at Totara Learning, I have yet to meet or make contact with everyone across the Partner network. I very much look forward to doing so in the coming months.

Best regards,




Lars Hyland, Chief Commercial Officer


P.S. One last thing...

Are you up to date on Channeltivity? The more accurate your records are the easier it is for our Commercial Team to align our support, allocate appropriate leads and ensure each partner gains the benefits it needs.

Do tell us any news and exciting developments you'd like to share with the community. Thanks for reading – have a great month.

Totara Cloud launches 3 September 2015 (Details)

By Richard Wyles

We are delighted to announce that Totara Cloud launches 3 September 2015. We are carefully positioning Totara Cloud to be a feeder and synergistic with our partner network. OpenSaaS means that it is open source software that is also available as SaaS. It means the customers can move their Totara system to a dedicated service with a Totara Partner as soon as they need additional services. This is a major point of difference over our competitors.

Totara Cloud will have a distinct market positioning as the only SaaS option that enables the customer to retain control over their destiny.

Totara Cloud will be positioned to attract small businesses (many of which will grow bigger). It is designed to attract low value customers just getting started, or wanting to trial Totara LMS or Totara Social. We view it is as a gateway to longer term growth in our overall market share and a defensive strategy to compete against the pure-play SaaS offerings at the lower end of the market e.g. Docebo, Litmos. If a customer is going to purchase a Cloud solution rather than Totara LMS via a Totara Partner, then it’s preferable for all of us for them to purchase Totara Cloud.

Customers are increasingly wary of lock-in, and the lack of freedom they have with a SaaS only offering. In contrast, by offering the choice of deployment options without long-term lock-in, Totara LMS and Totara Social will have unique positions in their respective product categories.

We strongly believe the introduction of Totara Cloud establishes an OpenSaaS strategy that is strongly synergistic to our current business model and ecosystem of Totara Partners. As the Totara brand continues to build across all sectors and selections of deployment option, Totara Partners will naturally benefit.

How will we ensure Totara Cloud complements, and doesn’t compete with, solutions offered by Totara Partners?

  1. Totara Cloud is entirely standardized, including themes available, limited integration options, limited site administration settings, zero customizations, and zero extra third-party add-ons.
  2. Less features than the open source subscription download (i.e. Enterprise) version. We want to encourage “off-ramps” to migrate Cloud customers to partner services. Totara Cloud will not include Performance Management (i.e. Appraisals, Goals, and 360 Feedback) as well as general Site Admin capabilities. We will review what features we need to attract new customers that otherwise wouldn’t select Totara products.
  3. Totara Cloud has a maximum # of users of 2,000.
  4. If a Partner refers a customer to Cloud they are also free to offer value-added services such as course development, configuration services, additional support etc.
  5. Partners will receive a referral fee if an introduced prospect becomes a paying customer.
  6. Partner referrals will be tagged so that if the customer wishes to migrate from the cloud service we will introduce back to that Partner as a subscriber.
  7. There is nothing exclusive about this. Partners can and do offer bundled hosting services and are in doing so can offer the full spectrum of services.

Resources to support the Totara Cloud service:

  1. Totara Cloud Website - Customers can review and order one of several Cloud Plans.
  2. Referral Process - How to ensure a referral is properly linked to the Partner.
  3. Brochure - Describes the key benefits of the Cloud service.
  4. Infographic - visual summary of the Cloud service.
  5. The Freedom of Open Source SaaS - Interview with Richard Wyles
  6. Demo site - Click on ‘Create a new account’ and follow the instructions to create a user account.
  7. Totara Cloud Partner Discussion - We welcome your comments and feedback here. 

Focusing on our mission – an open source “fork” of Moodle (Details)

By Richard Wyles

awardSome of you in our partner network will be aware that my history with Moodle (and Mahara) goes back over a decade. It began for me in 2003 when leading a large government funded consortium project that ended up involving 20 universities, polytechnics, and institutes of technology. This represented a large section of New Zealand’s education system making a major shift to open source. Outcomes included the very first enterprise scale deployment of Moodle in November 2004. I worked with a great team and good things followed… my eyes were firmly opened to the benefits of collaborative networks and open source licensing as major enablers to accelerate innovation. I am, along with many others in the team, very privileged and grateful to have been part of the Moodle community for a large part of my career. I am proud of the small part I played towards the success of the Moodle project.

Fast-forward a few years to 2011 when we released version 1.0 of Totara LMS as a custom distribution of Moodle designed for the enterprise. Our vision for Totara is specifically focused on the requirements of corporate, industry and vocational training in contrast to Moodle's educational orientation. Totara came about because of the repeated problems we had trying to customize Moodle for government and corporate clients. Our investment in Totara LMS made it possible to quickly set up a complex site for corporates in fewer steps than installing and configuring elements individually or repeating similar customizations on Moodle.

A distribution in this context meant an extended version of the standard product, and continuing collaboration and code exchange with the originating Moodle community. As well as building on top of Moodle our ethos has been to contribute wherever possible; patches, security fixes and entire features. The upcoming Moodle 3.0 is an example of the diffusion of innovation, with Moodle HQ incorporating Totara developed features; Learning Plans and Competencies.


Why are we forking?


From 2016 onwards we will no longer be in lockstep. Totara LMS will progressively diverge from its Moodle foundations.

Why have we made this decision? There are several factors;


  1. Innovation. A benefit of open source software is the ability to extend the code base of an application and develop it in a new direction. Over the past few years we have added more than 450,000 lines of code comprising a series of modular, interwoven extensions layered on top of a standard Moodle. All the additional features reflect the different needs of our user community and Totara LMS is now almost unrecognisable from a standard Moodle installation. We’ve taken a lot of care to achieve these results with minimal alterations to Moodle’s core codebase. That policy has been beneficial to both projects. However it also comes with constraints, particularly with some feature requests such as multi-tenancy. To do this well requires deep architectural changes. Overall, to continue, and accelerate our rate of innovation we need to start diverging the base platforms.
  2. Modernising the platform. It is our view, and we know it is a shared view with many Totara Partners, that the current product needs a significant investment in the overall UX. Due to the following point regarding collaboration we are unable to make this investment without diverging from Moodle. We are committed to doing the best by our Totara Partners, key stakeholders in our open source ecosystem, and our growing (collective) customer base. Our 2016 release (which will be tagged as Totara LMS version 9.0) will have a major focus on improving the UX design and overall quality assurance.
  3. Collaboration. When there are areas of common interest (of which there are between Moodle and Totara) it is beneficial for both parties to collaborate. We believe collaborative innovation networks are the future of software development. Open source, collaborative software development reduces costs while providing the foundations for more targeted innovative development specific to a company or situation. Everyone benefits from the synergies and economies of wider input. That’s our ethos, that’s what we do within the Totara community and that’s what we’ve endeavoured to do with Moodle. In the wider open source community, forking or uncoordinated development effort often leads to inefficient, duplicated effort, and all the waste that this implies. However, without both parties’ commitment to collaborate it becomes progressively more difficult to stay in alignment. We have been unable to establish any formal collaborative arrangement between Totara Learning and Moodle Pty Ltd.
  4. Who’s forking who? The leadership of Moodle Pty Ltd has made it clear to us that it is their intent to clone recent Totara LMS versions to offer the market ‘Moodle for Workplace.’ In contrast to the millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that we’ve developed to create Totara LMS, cloning in itself does not add further value and does not present a sustainable strategy. Conversely, if Moodle HQ forks Totara LMS to create an ongoing Moodle variant for workplace learning, and they invest in that branch and support it, then this provides customers with more options from which to select. It is my view that the team at Totara Learning are more closely focused on the needs of corporate users, and that our partnership and support models are more aligned to successful outcomes for partners and customers alike.  

There are those in the Moodle community who don’t understand why Moodle isn’t just as great in the corporate context as it is in the educational setting, why Totara is separate, or why Totara has a different business model. They won’t understand the decision to fork and we expect some criticism from some within the Moodle community. We have closely considered this decision over the past few months. The primary reasons are points 1. Innovation and 2. Modernisation noted above. It has not being driven by any desire to compete with or detract from Moodle. We’re firmly focused on disrupting enterprise vendors - such as Saba, NetDimensions, SuccessFactors, and Cornerstone onDemand - through offering software freedom and delivering superior value to users of enterprise learning technologies. The decision to forge a new direction is simply based on the need to deliver the best product we’re able – fit for purpose for modern workplace learning, guided by the needs of our partners and customers. 

As we look ahead, it’s incredibly exciting to see the collective impact that arises from fully charting our own direction - bringing together the talented team at Totara Learning and our extended innovation network of Totara Partners and customers. 

We do appreciate that you’ll have further questions, so please get in touch through your Channel Partner Manager, post in the partner forums, or contact me directly at [email protected]

Totara LMS Version 2.9 – October 2015 Release (Details)

By Simon Coggins

Related to our decision to diverge from Moodle we are bringing out a previously unscheduled release – Totara LMS Version 2.9 – scheduled for release at the end of October 2015.

Totara LMS v2.9 will be, as before, interwoven extensions layered on top of a standard Moodle. However, please note that this is the final release where we will fully merge the Moodle codebase. After that, the 2016 release of Totara LMS will be named Totara LMS v9.0 (as it will be our 9th major release), and we will progressively diverge from Moodle core. 

For clients wishing to switch from Moodle to Totara, any customer on Moodle 2.9 or below will be able to upgrade via Totara 2.9 as normal. For clients on Moodle versions higher than 2.9 upgrading is likely to become more complex. We will put some effort into providing scripts to support an ongoing upgrade path for Moodle users, although this is likely to become more of a challenge over time. For Moodle users that are currently considering Totara, we recommend Totara LMS v2.9 as a “cross-roads” release.

Release highlights

Totara Connect (ref: TL-7246)

Totara Connect is a single-sign-on and user identity solution for multiple Totara instances. Connected sites can share user accounts and logins allowing for either all users or selected audiences to navigate between the connected site seamlessly using single sign on technology. It is now possible to connect your multiple Totara LMS or Totara Social sites to a single Totara LMS site that will act as an identity server.

Global Report Restrictions (ref: TL-6684)

Global report restrictions allows you control what a user is able to see when viewing a report, allowing you to limit it to records relating to just users in selected audiences, positions, hierarchies, or even individual users. Restrictions are applied to all reports by default, but can also be enabled or disabled on a report by report basis. Uses include:

  • Let an organisation view one or more reports but only see the records that belong to users of that organisation.
  • Limit access to records belonging to a subset of users (such as all suspended users) to a specific group (such as site administrators), without having to modify each individual report.
New Report Builder export plugin types and better performing plugins (ref: T-6621)

A new plugin type has been introduced, Report Builder Exports. All existing export types have been converted to this new plugin type and at the same time performance of exports as a whole has been improved.

New ability to clone report builder reports (ref: TL-5818)

It’s now possible to clone a Report, taking a copy of the report, its source, columns, filters, and settings. Take a report, clone it and then make the changes you need. You can quickly make different versions of a report suitable for different purposes or people without needing to start from scratch.

New Program completion block (ref: TL-6023)

Let your users see their progress in a program on any screen with this handy block. The block can be limited to select programs. Thank you to Catalyst IT for this contribution.

New options to disable adding / removing of users from dynamic audiences (ref: TL-5097)

Audience management is now easier thanks to two new settings that can be specified on each dynamic audience. You can now set a dynamic audience so that users will be added when they meet the condition but not removed when they no longer do. You can also set it up so that no new users will be added as members regardless of meeting the conditions, however if a current member no longer meets the conditions they will be removed.

These settings can help avoid unexpected changes in audience memberships, or serve to lock a dynamic audience so that users are frozen with no users being added and none being removed.

New ‘fixed date’ custom field type (ref: TL-2565)

The fixed date field differs from the current date field in that it is not affected by timezones. The new field type is suitable for uses such as birth dates, anniversaries, employment dates, and other universal events.

It is designed for sites that have users in multiple timezones to reduce confusion that can arise when a user sets a date value in one timezone, and for which the value changes depending upon the timezone of other users viewing it. Sometimes it’s necessary to make it a universal fixed event.

Accessibility improvements

There are dozens of accessibility improvements, and staying abreast of WCAG 508 compliance needs is an ongoing focus area.

Performance improvements

Programs, audience assignments, and scheduled reports among others have received performance improvement patches.

What next?

Look out for further details in the community forums in the next few weeks.

Totara Social in 2 mins

New Partners (Details)

The Totara Partner network has been steadily growing through 2015. Our focus has been on spreading our international presence. We are very pleased to welcome the following new partners to the Totara community:

MindQuest Learning (USA)

Tech 2000 (USA)

iQense LLC (USA)

GP Strategies Corporation (USA)

Up Learning B.V. (Netherlands)

HowToMoodle (United Kingdom)

Creative Leap Ltd (New Zealand)

Enovation Solutions (Ireland)

e-learnmedia, s.r.o (Slovak Republic)

Case Studies (Details)

We’ve had a new influx of case studies come in from around the world in the past few weeks, representing some great brands and uses of the Totara LMS to deliver real learning impact.


FA supports the development of football through a seamlessly integrated education platform (C&G Kineo, UK)

Total case studies = 7

Shamano logo

Shimano provide flexible product knowledge to Europe-wide independent retailer network (NEO, Netherlands)

Total case studies  = 1

  Budapest-based energy company FŐTÁV improves efficiency of training delivery with LMS platform


Hungarian telecoms company UPC switch from closed to open source LMS (Veloxnet, Hungary)

Total case studies = 2


Somerset County Council transforms personal and team development with online appraisals  (Learning Pool, UK)

Total case studies = 3

Case studies make a huge collective difference to building market confidence in Totara across all sectors which can only work to increase the flow of projects and subscriptions, so please contact your Channel Partner Manager so we can help increase your presence on the Totara website.

New on our Website (Details)

The Totara Team have been busy! Check out the following available on our website. Do contact your Channel Partner Manager if you’d like to re-purpose anything for your own use.


We now have an extensive 4 part guide to best practice in Social Learning. These join guides on Performance Management and Open Badges. We are keen to build this library so any Partners wishing to co-author a resource do get in touch with your Channel Partner Manager to discuss ideas.

Blog Posts

The Freedom of Open Source SaaS - Totara Cloud

Read our interview with Richard Wyles.


Talking Social, Blends and More: Lars Hyland Interview 

A friendly introduction to our new CCO.

4 steps to social learning superstar

4 Steps to Social Learning Superstar 

A summary post highlighting our 4 part series on Social Learning.

How to Avoid the Worst Performance Appraisal Ever 

Advice on effective performance management and our full guide.

Do take the time to share any or all of these to your own customers – and let us know when you have items of your own you’d like us to promote.

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