A lot has been going on over at Totara Learning this summer so we decided to interview their Chief Technology Officer, Simon Coggins, to get the low-down on some of the developments that might affect customers at Lambda Solutions.
Recently, Totara Learning 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.
Here is what Simon Coggins had to share with us.
What new innovations, improvements and developments can Totara users look forward to with this change?
Totara LMS has been based on Moodle since the very beginning. It’s a fantastic platform that offers a lot in terms of course creation and management. In the past few years, we have added hundreds of thousands lines of code comprising a series of modular, interwoven extensions layered on top of a standard Moodle.
All the additional features in Totara LMS (such as reporting and audience management) reflect the different needs of our enterprise users. Totara LMS is now almost unrecognizable from a standard Moodle installation.
We have now reached a stage where a lot of the features the corporate market need are in place and we want to take our platform to the next level, rounding up the experience that our users have. Our primary aim is to modernise some of the underlying Moodle foundations in order to make the Totara LMS extensions cleaner and easier to use.
By reviewing the overall framework, we will be able to continue adding significant features, such as multi-tenancy, which requires deep architectural changes across the platform. It is our view, that in order to accelerate our rate of innovation, it is necessary to start diverging the base platforms.
What changes should Totara Partners expect?
Our next release, Totara LMS version 9.0, will have a major focus on improving the UX design and overall quality of the experience. We have made this a priority and resourced the effort accordingly. Version 9.0 will herald a fresh start, no longer constrained by our Moodle roots. We know it is a shared view with many Totara Partners that the overall framework needs investment in usability and consistency of the user experience.
As with all of our developments, Totara Partners will be invited to get involved in the process. We'll be collaborating with them in the Totara community to ensure our changes align well with the needs of our Partners and customers.
What effect will this have on Totara customers, if any?
Our aim is to maintain backend compatibility while we add new abilities and functionality on top, so we won't remove anything our customers currently rely on. The main effect is our customers will see a better 'out-of-the-box' experience, modern workflows and a smoother learning interface.
Totara's existing and new code will remain 100% GPL licenced, giving our customers complete freedom and control over their system to use and modify as they wish.
What happens to Moodle users who may want to migrate to Totara?
Anyone will be able to upgrade from the Moodle's latest release to Totara’s latest release, and we will aim to support upgrades from Moodle for the next several years.
What about Totara users that have Moodle Plugins for Totara? Will they still function?
While we have never officially supported Moodle plugins in Totara LMS, in practice most of them have always worked without any problems. We won’t be making any changes to Moodle’s API's, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to work as they do now.
Where does this leave your relationship with Moodle?
We will continue collaboration with the Moodle community when it makes sense to do so. As well as building on top of Moodle, our ethos has been to contribute wherever possible; patches, security fixes and entire features.
Ultimately, what is your vision for Totara LMS? What kind of experience do you want to create for users, and ultimately, organizations?
Our vision for Totara Learning is specifically focused on the requirements of corporate users and vocational training. Within those markets, our mission is to offer supported open source to change how learning technologies are developed, delivered, and purchased. The diffusion of knowledge and skills is incredibly important for business, not-for-profits, health authorities, government departments, etc. So, we are very focused on delivering the freedoms, agility, and value that open source offers.
Our platform offers a huge amount of functionality and our aim is to improve automation, make it seamless, and easier to use. By improving the LMS experience, organizations will be able to achieve their learning goals faster, and more effectively.
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 hope this has answered any questions you may have had about our recent news. If you’d like to know more, get in touch with one of our Totara Learning experts.
Simon is responsible for leading Totara Learning’s technology strategy. He is the lead software architect for all Totara products and oversees the research & development units. Simon has worked on Moodle since 2009 and was involved in the establishment of Totara Learning in 2010.