LMS April Pulse: Sakai, Totara, Canvas, BOLMS And More Software Updates

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Welcome to another edition of software update roundups. You will find new releases, versions and overviews of Moodle, Blackboard Open LMS (BOLMS), Canvas, Totara, Sakai and the top open and proprietary LMS.

Blackboard Open LMS 3.5 MP 2 Release

Launched in April 18th, its most distinctive feature is the “Personalized Learning Designer,” an enrollment tool that streamlines the course evaluation and selection process. Some of the additional PLD feature coming on BOLMS are:

  • Role as a factor (“Enroll as” option) allows enrollment as something other than student
  • PLD data (PLD as enrollment factor) can be packaged in course backups
  • Advanced enrollment report. See enrollments for a given period of time, and other filters
  • Graphical visualization of enrollment activity
  • Improvements over the compatibility of Web Services

BOLMS 3.5 follows the Moodle 3.5 release. (Moodle’s latest version is 3.6.3.). Besides PLD, other new features include:

  • Logs and reporting for Blackboard’s Ally accessibility tool
  • UI enhancements for the Calendar, Close Button, Grade displays and more
  • Accessibility improvements such as control over notification layout, menus and the ability to manage contrast on placeholders, among others
  • Performance and automation improvements from Moodle core implemented
  • Enhancements over the “Snap” theme
  • H5P plugin updated

All BOLMS customers around the world should be running the latest release. See the release notes.

Instructure Canvas

Small new improvements are reported for the Canvas LMS this April. The main one is “Grade Override” on the recently revamped “New Gradebook.” Fields with manually edited grades will stay highlighted under a different color. It applies for any gradable item, as well as final grades.

Other miscellaneous fixes include:

  • Plagiarism addons implemented through LTI can retain records of assignment associations. In case the tool is re-added at a later date, the record will reactivate.
  • Accessibility enhancements accross the board, including the Dashboard, Grades, Rubrics, Theme editor and more
  • Better xAPI with LTI tools
  • Resolved bugs on authentication (tokens), copyright and credit info, course import and file repository

Sakai 19

On early April, a near dozen new features and improvements were announced for the second top open LMS. (See featured video.)

  • Rubric functionality, a long-awaited feature and arguably the most significant update
  • LTI 1.3 Advantage certification
  • Extended Email reminder options
  • New Gradebook workflow with analytics and visualization
  • Roster layout cards
  • More responsive interface for Tests and Quizzes
  • Under-the-hood upgrades including libraries, CKEditor, JSF and JPA EntityManager

Additional documentation is also available for IT admins looking to transition to Sakai 19 from Sakai 12.


Starting this month, Totara will follow a monthly, “Evergreen” schedule of updates that will introduce new features as well as experimental functionality. Organizations can opt-out of the Evergreen schedule if they want to update only for major versions of the LMS.

April novelties in Totara include:

  • Totara hierarches editing with better usability
  • “Save search” option in reports
  • New Seminar cancellation overview report with embed option
  • Improved navigation within learning plans
  • Streamlined workflow for adding new users


Neither Moodle nor the Moodle Users Association had new features launched this month. MUA mentioned some progress in the “Advanced Forums” project, which would borrow some functionality from BOLMS (formerly Moodlerooms) on board.

Other initiatives including MoodleNet (marginal new features for v.0.9.1 alpha this month), Moodle Workplace and the Moodle Educator Certification (MEC) program, reported to continue being on development.

The project is scheduled for Moodle 3.7 in May 13, around when we should also see the next wave of minor Moodle releases, including Moodle 3.6.4 and Moodle 3.5.6. Volunteers are wanted for the Quality Assurance (QA) phase of Moodle 3.7.

Open, non-LMS EdTech


Only “API changes” are announced for H5P 1.12, the latest version of the core.

Followers are encouraged to follow and contribute to H5P’s progress on H5P’s GitHub.

Other EdTech-related updates

Standards for Web Payments

The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, responsible for making sure all the players in the internet ecosystem speak the same language and follow the same rules, is kickstarting a series of discussion on web payments. If fruitful, it would lead to a better, more secure and standardized implementation of payment gateways across the web. A method (“Web Payments API“) to securely store payment information on browsers to speed up online shopping is one of the most interesting initiatives. Participants in a new “interest group” will define areas of collaboration to identify challenges, technological gaps, and eventually a series of specifications to share with the broader community. Among the participants is FIDO, a consortium advocating for simpler authentication methods.

Moonami LogoOur coverage on The Tech and the latest innovations behind LMS and Learning Systems is supported by Moonami, a company that provides a full range of Moodle services combining the flexibility, scalability, and power of Amazon’s world-leading cloud platform (AWS) with fanatical Moodle support. Click here to learn more.

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