It used to be a take on Moodle, then it decided to follow its own path. Now, it seems some of Totara’s lessons are worth listening.
The open source LMS catered to corporate learning released Totara 12 last December. A series of visual and experience enhancements should help users discover the many performance improvements built underneath. Many will look familiar to Moodlers. Not only because Totara has not removed its source DNA completely. The top LMS today (Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, and Sakai on the open source category) understand the importance of clean and intuitive environments powered by up to code technologies and standards.
It all begins at the home page. Like Moodle 3.6, great efforts have gone into making the dashboard more useful. Not by knowing what’s best, but by letting the user figure it out. Blocks allow for rich content and deep customization of the Tiles, for a more relevant dashboard.
Where things begin to take a course independent from Moodle is in the redesign of the progress bar. Not only it will update as soon as a course activity is done, but it will reflect partial completion. Furthermore, the creation of course sets (known as Programs) allows placing several courses into one progress bar. An equally aesthetic and technical feat.
The extended navigation editing capabilities highlight the skills needed to create rich learning experiences with the platform. Managers can make sure the choices stay simple and avoid second-guessing. Or they can go a more encyclopedic route and put everything on menu.
This ties with the feature set that seeks to make curriculum design more effective. The Totara Learning Plan expands on its definition originated in Competency Based Learning, allowing for Competencies, Courses, Objectives and Programs.
In sum, a surprising and welcome release that will hopefully inspire open source LMS development.