Totara vs. Moodle™: Which LMS is Right for You?

By November 12, 2019 No Comments

When evaluating eLearning solutions or Learning Management Systems (LMS), you’ve likely come across a few open-source options. An open-source LMS offers huge benefits due to its incredible flexibility, interoperability, multiple hosting options, and custom configurations that allow you to design a tailored training and education program. 

Moodle™ and Totara Learn are two globally leading open-source solutions that support eLearning for multiple industries from Education to Government, Healthcare, Nonprofit, Associations and more, collectively empowering hundreds of millions of learners worldwide. There are no systems more flexible than Moodle™ and Totara Learn, and each of these solutions offer unique benefits to support specific learning and development goals. But how do you determine which open-source LMS will be the right solution to help you build and streamline your learning ecosystem?

As leading service and solutions providers for both platforms, the experts at eThink are often asked by organizations which solution they should choose to support their learning programs:  Moodle™ or Totara Learn. In this post, we’ll break down the key similarities, differences, and unique benefits of each platform to help you determine the right solution for your organization.  

It’s important to note how these products were developed when initially evaluating them. For starters, Totara Learn is actually built upon the solid codebase of Moodle™, allowing both products to utilize the same course creation capabilities and extensions along with the same content management solutions including SCORM, LTI, Assessments, Glossaries and static files.  

Moodle™ vs. Totara

                                       Moodle™ Login Page                                                                           Totara Login Page

Applications & Industries

Moodle™ has often been used to provide different forms of online learning, including distance and hybrid learning, to organizations in a variety of sectors including traditional education institutions like colleges and universities as well as corporate learning. Totara Learn, however, provides solutions that are better suited to structured corporate learning for industries like Healthcare, Banking, Finance and Government. Totara Learn is also well suited to extended enterprise use cases. 

It is important to note that both platforms are able to serve as a training solution for virtually any sector to some extent. However, in many cases, one usually makes more sense to use than the other based on your needs and goals. Moodle™ allows educators to have access to a platform that allows them to track and monitor learning within their own organisation. Totara, on the other hand, is an enterprise-level LMS which caters to the needs of businesses rather than the needs of education institutions like schools or universities. Although Moodle™ is used by many corporate organizations, Totara has some built-in additional corporate-specific functionality that many organizations find helpful. In this respect, the best way to choose between these solutions is to match your LMS requirements with the capabilities of the products.


Open-source learning platforms are modular products, meaning they allow functionality to be extended by incorporating third-party plugins and modules. Additionally, open-source LMS users can even contribute to the open code and write plugins themselves, allowing for the rapid development and adoption of new functionality from developers around the world.

Moodle™ and Totara Learn both allow you to gamify your learning by issuing badges, certificates, leaderboards, and other interactive activities through the use of plugins and modules. Unlike closed-source solutions with proprietary functionality, open-source solutions offer superior flexibility by allowing admins to incorporate leading tools into their training programs. With the ability to “plug-and-play” with various tools and content designed to educate and engage your industry’s learners, these solutions help build a learning environment to meet your needs without the shackles of a closed product. 

User Management

When it comes to user management, both Moodle™ and Totara give learning administrators the ability to create and manage users. However, Totara Learn extends this by allowing you to allocate a learner a job “position” and “organisation” (department), meaning you can assign learners courses and programs based on job roles and report using hierarchical structures within the company as well as on individual learning via user profile fields. 

Totara Learn also has a “Find Learning” catalogue feature that allows users to search, filter and source content in multiple ways directly within the platform. There is also the ability to group courses into programmes (collection of courses to complete), along with “certifications” for re-certification of annual compliance courses. 


Competency-based education (CBE) is the practice of creating customized learner paths and then tracking assessments, learner engagement, and progress to improve training efficacy. When it comes to CBE, Moodle™ particularly excels in this area over Totara Learn.

Moodle™’s extensive set of capabilities allow for roles to be constructed with varying capabilities, with certain courses and features exclusive to specific departments or learner paths and avoiding the need to force your programs to fit a generic model. This strategy is an incredibly effective and beneficial feature of an open-source LMS, allowing you to create highly personalized education programs for your team.


Both products offer a fully responsive mobile browser experience. If having a mobile learning application is a requirement, then Moodle™ is the platform of choice as they offer the Moodle™ Mobile App. Totara’s mobile app is due for release next year. 

Mobile applications allow learning managers to utilize a web-based product directly on the learner’s cell phone or tablet. The Moodle™ Mobile app is completely customizable, allowing an organization’s to brand it to meet specific branding and color guidelines.  It also has the ability for offline caching, which is beneficial for learners taking courses on the go while in low bandwidth areas. 

Reporting & Additional Tools

Totara Learn is great if you are looking for a platform which allows you to generate custom reports using its own built-in report builder, which also allows a designated leader or “team manager” to see an overview of their teams’ developments. Although Moodle™ does not have a custom report builder like Totara, eThink has developed hundreds of custom reports in Moodle™ and custom builds additional reports at no cost for our clients. 

Additionally, Totara Learn currently has a built-in appraisal tool allowing you to not only use the platform for learning but also corporate development as well. Employers can use the system to both identify talented employees with leadership potential and recommend either internal or external training in order for those employees to eventually progress to leadership positions within the organization.  

Both platforms have the ability to be extended using a number of freely available or third-party plugins, meaning some of Totara’s built-in features can also be applied to Moodle™ using third-party plugins.

Choosing the Right LMS

You’ve probably heard that Totara Learn is similar to Moodle™ . In many ways, that appears true: both learning management systems use open-source software, are adaptable to user requirements, and use a partner network for implementation and support. In 2015, however, Totara forked from Moodle™  to make deep architectural improvements tailored to corporate learning and the workplace environment.

So what is the key difference between Moodle™  and Totara Learn today?

Totara Learn is an enterprise LMS (and part of Totara’s Talent Experience Platform) that enables large organizations to scale, adapt and connect learning to performance and collaboration with an LXP and performance management system. Moodle™ , on the other hand, is the go-to LMS for smaller academic organizations and educators, with features and functionality to support workplace learning as well. However, global industry analyst Josh Bersin recently emphasized the flexible architecture when talking about Totara, “Many companies want a system where they can do what they want with a flexible architecture. Totara’s enterprise-scale and open environment give customers this needed flexibility.”

Ultimately when evaluating these two solutions, it really comes down to your needs, budget, and the unique characteristics of your organization. What features do you REALLY need? What is your organization size and location(s)? Are you an enterprise or an educational entity?  

Fortunately, eThink can help you choose which product – Moodle™ vs. Totara – is the better fit, and also support you in leveraging one of these systems to create a tailored learning program based on your specific needs. If you’re evaluating these solutions, feel free to contact eThink with your eLearning questions, or click below to request an individual demonstration. 

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To learn more about each of these platforms, check out our comprehensive LMS guides below. 


Or for further reading on choosing the right LMS for your organization or institution, check out:

By November 12, 2019