Taking a closer look at Moodle and Totara

There are two big names in the Australian Learning Management System software industry: Moodle and Totara. Moodle is the world’s most popular LMS, with over 130 million users globally. Totara, founded in New Zealand, is a world leader in LMS software designed for workplace learning and development.




Moodle is the world’s open source learning platform and has been empowering educators to improve education since 2002. Moodle Founder & CEO, Martin Dougiamas, sparked the idea of computer-based learning while completing his PhD in the late 90s. The original versions of Moodle were created to assist online or blended learning in schools and universities. However, the software has evolved to accommodate the needs of organisations and has become the most popular learning management system for small to medium sized businesses and non-profits. The name Moodle is the acronym for ‘modular object-orientated dynamic learning environment’. It was believed ‘M’ originally stood for ‘Martin’ in the early days.


So, what does Moodle do?

Essentially, it is a virtual classroom where learners can find, access and interact with all resources they require for training, learning and up-skilling. On a Moodle site, learners can complete courses and educators can track progress and measure results. In the education space, Moodle gives learners the opportunity to learn independently or revise work in their own time, with flexibility.


Why Moodle?

Moodle has become the world’s most popular learning management system because of its intuitive and user-friendly interface, making the software simple and easy to use. One great advantage is the ability to streamline communications, especially important with the cluttering of email. Inboxes are filling with unimportant mail and readers are becoming increasingly resistant to messages delivered via email. Email is also a distraction because of the high volumes of marketing content being sent daily and so, an internal portal for communications relevant to workplace learning content may improve business outcomes. With everything online, collaboration is effortless on Moodle, and, in reality, almost all learning management systems. Resources, files, folders, quizzes, exercises and reports can all be sent, received, access and used on Moodle.


Totara was founded in 2010 by three partners who were already experts in learning management system technology. Catalyst IT, Kineo and Flexible Learning Group all realised the opportunity in the market for LMS software designed specifically for workplace learning and development. And so, Totara was born. Their ethos and focus is on the freedom open source delivers; freedom to innovate, integrate and extend. Freedom to manipulate code and customise the software. The name Totara originates from a native New Zealand tree that has long been revered by Maori and early European settlers for its diverse qualities and uses – aligning strongly with Totara’s ethos. Totara, unlike Moodle, has several software alternatives, with the most popular being Totara Learn and Totara Social.


Totara Learn

Totara Learn is an award-winning open source learning platform, developed to educate and manage people in the workplace. This LMS was built upon the idea that in today’s world, the success of a business is dependent upon knowledge, skills and experience of employees and thus, learning and development is particularly important. Totara Learn enables employers to deliver learning effectively through individual learning plans which reflect specific needs for each employee’s role, training needs and objectives. Similarly to Moodle, performance and result tracking is available, reports can be automated and the user-interface is customisable.


Totara Social

A striking difference between Moodle and Totara is Totara Social; software that has been specifically designed to enable and enhance internal communication. It’s an open source Enterprise Social Network designed to manage and connect people to the knowledge and resources that exist within an organisation. Social networking and learning is essential for collaborative online work that is effective in reaching objectives. In the public world, social media has created spaces for sharing resources, content co-creation and communication. This environment generates better work outcomes and so, organisations require a secure place for online interactions within the workplace to occur. Thus, Totara Social was born. The software opens the flow of knowledge and is a catalyst for collaboration throughout an organisation.


And there we have it, two big players in the Australian LMS software market. Yes, there are so many more out there, but these have great success stories and are trusted by millions world-wide