Totara vs Moodle: Open Source Corporate LMSs Compared

By Innovate Learn

August 17, 2020|10 min read

As LMS customisation specialists, we often get customers asking us whether they should go with Moodle or Totara. If you’re looking for a low-cost Enterprise learning management system, chances are you’re considering Moodle and Totara Learn.

In this post we’ll answer common questions, guide you through the similarities and, perhaps more importantly, highlight the main differences, to help you decide which is right for your business. If you just want the key takeaways, and (spoiler alert!) the reasons why we think in most cases you’ll find Totara is the best fit, jump straight to the summary.

Before we get started, here’s a bit of background history to help provide some context around how the platforms have got to where they are today.

A Brief History of Totara and Moodle LMS

Moodle was originally developed, way back in August 2002, to help online educators create online courses/elearning. When Totara first entered the market just over 8 years later (in January 2011), as a “custom distribution of Moodle designed for the enterprise”, it brought with it a new set of features, including Audience Management, Hierarchies, Learning Plans, and Competencies.

The inclusion of what were previously common customisation requests by Moodle’s corporate users, saw Totara quickly establish itself as “Moodle for Business”, and gradually become the de facto open LMS for leading businesses across the globe in industries including healthcare, retail, finance, and manufacturing.

In 2015, Totara first announced the decision to progressively fork from Moodle, diverging to allow for greater innovation, usability and modernisation of the platform. It was around the same time that rumours started circulating that Moodle was itself looking to create its own clone of Totara, something that came to fruition in late 2018 with the announcement of ‘Moodle Workplace’.

Present day, and although Moodle has over 200million users worldwide compared to Totara’s 17million, Totara’s 10 years’ experience in the corporate market means that many legacy/core Moodle customers are still opting to migrate to Totara rather than upgrading their existing Moodle platform, or moving over to Moodle’s corporate offering.

Choosing Between Totara and Moodle Workplace

Knowing the background of the platforms, it’s no wonder people can have a hard time understanding the differences between the two – and in deciding between them as to which LMS is going to be the best choice for their organisation.

So, next up we’re going to take a look at some of the key feature differences to help you decide between the two.

Case Study: Baltimore Aircoil Company

Innovate’s first Totara customisation project came about in 2017, after the Baltimore Aircoil Company (BAC) approached us wanting to provide a more modern learning experience and blended approach for their global learning programme, BAC Academy.

Key to their selection process was an LMS that would be scalable across other departments and learning needs as the company grew in the future. Although we initially considered recommending Moodle as a platform that we were used to working with, we soon realised that it wouldn’t support BAC’s complex hierarchical structure and reporting requirements, and so we recommended Totara Learn as a solution.

As you no doubt expect, both platforms have a very similar feature set when it comes to the majority of standard LMS features such as user, course & content management, gamification, assessment, learner personalisation, and GDPR compliance management.

Uncustomised, Totara Learn also offers a little bit more than Moodle Workplace when it comes to team management, design/navigation, hierarchy and user account management.

However, it’s in a number of key areas that ultimately set Totara Learn apart from Moodle Workplace. We’ll break these down below.

Reporting Capabilities

Reporting is one of the main reasons organisations use an LMS, and both platforms provide basic capabilities that include built-in course and admin reports, a custom report builder, scheduled custom reporting, and organisation and position content restrictions.

Totara Learn goes beyond these basics to include additional team learning and development statistics, graphical reporting, and advanced/audience-based content and reporting restrictions as standard.

Compliance Management Features

Compliance management is one of the main feature set differentiators between corporate and educational learning platforms (the latter generally having little or no compliance management needs).

Again, Totara has a much more complete set of features than Moodle Workplace, with adaptive programs of study, recertification management, and scheduled learner and manager reminder capabilities in addition to the study program and certification features shared with Moodle Workplace.

Offline and Blended Learning Features

If your learning blend includes any form of offline or virtual classroom training, then being able to manage everything within a single platform will make life much easier for your learners and trainers alike.

Though both Totara Learn and Moodle Workplace support event booking management and waitlisting, Totara has a whole host of additional features that make it the standout choice of support for blended learning is important to you.

Additional Totara learn feature include:

  • Event and session attendance tracking
  • Multiple attendance management
  • Sign-up sheets
  • Customisable approval workflows
  • Room and asset management
  • Manager reservations
  • Custom seminar notifications and messaging

Social and Collaborative Learning Features

With Totara Learn you’ll get live chat, forums, peer-based assessment, messaging, wikis and course grouping. Moodle Workplace also provides support for group conversations and has forum summary reports and export capability.

One important thing to note here, however, is that where Totara’s LMS may be considered to fall a little short, it’s sibling LXP – Totara Engage – more than comes to the fore, and is available, fully-integrated with Totara Learn, for those that need such extended learning experience platform capabilities.

Extended Enterprise

Totara Learn vs Moodle LMS: Download a full feature comparison fact sheet

Our friends over at Totara regularly update a great overview comparison between Moodle and Totara. The latest version (released in April 2020) also includes Moodle Workplace.


Totara Vs Moodle: Final Considerations

Finally, if you’re still not decided between the two, here’s a quickfire look at some of the other consideration factors to help you decide which platform is likely going to be the best for your business.


As you’re probably already aware, both Moodle and Totara are open source learning management systems, and as such, offer excellent value in terms of total cost of ownership – with annual licence/subscription costs being much lower than is commonly found with proprietary platforms.

Both Moodle Workplace and Totara Learn platforms are distributed via a network of partners who can also provide additional LMS services, and will generally also be able to support you with any learning content needs that you have.

Customisation & Support

If you’re a small-to-medium sized business then a Totara SaaS solution offers excellent value and provides scalable flexibility to migrate onto the full enterprise platform as/when you need.

A Software-as-a-Service solution is currently unavailable for Moodle Workplace, although there is a standard Moodle Cloud offering. If you have bespoke integrations or other customisation needs, then you’ll find you need to work with a solution partner, and costs can vary massively.

Both Moodle and Totara have thriving online communities, help sites and academies, so whichever route you go, help is at hand.

Development Roadmap

Last, but by no means least, is the development roadmap – the plans the developers have for the platform going forward.

Roadmaps are constantly changing, but right now, it would seem that Moodle is largely focused on getting Workplace caught up with Totara’s corporate feature set.

Totara, on the other hand, is working on the release of version 13 of Totara Learn, highlights of which include further reporting enhancements, a new mobile app, and full multi-tenancy support. Plus there are a whole host of other updates coming down the line in support of the new LXP (Totara Engage), and performance management tool (Totara Perform) – which will launch alongside version 13 later this year.

Moodle vs Totara Learn: The Best Corporate LMS

Both Moodle and Totara’s flexibility, versatility and low-cost of ownership make them an excellent choice for organisations of all sizes.

However, Totara Learn’s enhanced reporting and support for blended learning, plus the forthcoming multi-tenancy improvements (not to mention fully-featured LXP and performance tool integration options), mean it’s likely to be the open learning platform we recommend for clients long into the future.

If you’re considering a new LMS, we’re here to help. Our turnkey Learn Cloud LMS is perfect if you’re just getting started, or if you need something a bit more bespoke, we’d love to talk through your requirements.

Got another question about Totara and Moodle that we’ve not answered in this post? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the Author

Innovate Learn

Founded in Manchester (UK), in 2010, with a mission to make people’s lives better through learning, Innovate has since gone on to help organisations across the globe overcome their biggest employee learning, engagement and performance challenges.

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