Totara Learn vs Moodle vs TalentLMS: What’s the difference?
If you’re comparing Totara Learn, Moodle or TalentLMS while searching for your next workplace LMS or corporate learning solution, you’re probably wondering:
Which learning management system is the best for your organization, industry and budget?
What vendor and platform-specific strengths and weaknesses should you be aware of?
How effective is each LMS for corporate training, compliance and reporting?
To help you select the best option for your organization, we’ve highlighted the key differences between these three popular learning management systems.
⚠ Use our latest comparison tables and functionality overviews when comparing us against competitors.
Some LMS vendors unjustly compare their current product against older versions of Totara (and Totara feature sheets) to favourably position their product.
Please be aware of this bias while researching which LMS software (or any software for that matter) is best for your people.
First, you'll get a quick overview of the pros, cons and ideal use cases for each system. We’ll then explore each LMS in more detail by examining characteristics such as:
Support & hosting
Table of contents:
No LMS is 100% perfect. But based on your organization’s size, sector and structure, some are able to meet your unique needs better than others.
So before diving into the in-depth comparisons, here’s a short summary comparing the unique pros and cons of Totara Learn, Moodle and TalentLMS—including an overview of the ideal industry or organization size in which each LMS works best:
Best LMS for: Large or growing healthcare, government, federal and enterprise organizations looking for a scalable and flexible learning platform that adapts to their every need.
Pros: Customizable with enterprise-level features like hierarchies, multitenancy and detailed LMS reporting. Offers strong community support, and the opportunity to access “switch-on” integrations with the Totara Talent Experience Platform —an all-in-one talent engagement suite that integrates Totara Engage, Totara’s Learning Experience Platform (LXP) and Totara Perform, Totara’s performance management system. Partners can also use Totara’s flexible architecture to build a configuration that is out of the box and quick to deploy, but also able to be changed and deeply customized in the future.
Cons: Development experience and resources are needed to fully implement, integrate and customize Totara Learn. This makes it challenging for smaller organizations - especially those without a dedicated L&D department - to utilize the platform to its fullest.
Totara provides support in the form of dedicated Partners, documentation on the Totara Help site, and the Totara Community and Academy (which offers step-by-step training content and allows you to experience Totara Learn’s features within sandbox-like environments).
Best LMS for: Schools, universities, and educational companies with smaller teams and budgets and access to learning and development resources.
Pros: Free, open-source LMS that is highly configurable with strong in-built features, tools and integrations for academic organizations. Moodle partners and the Moodle community act as the primary support method.
Cons: Implementation requires some development experience and resources to set up and configure. Not built for corporate training contexts, compliance management and enterprise environments.
Best LMS for: Small to medium-sized enterprise organizations that need to quickly configure an LMS and don’t need advanced customizations or customer support. Also ideal for companies that sell content and need an ecommerce component to their LMS.
Pros: Works well “out-of-the-box” and is easier to use and set up when compared to Totara Learn and Moodle (or Moodle Workplace). Offers an intuitive UX for the novice and advanced LMS user as well as in-built course creation content, tools and templates.
Cons: Relatively expensive and unscalable for larger organizations. When compared to Totara Learn and Moodle, options for customizing features and functionality are limited. The primary support method is email. Access to direct support (live chat) is only available through the highest-priced tier at $429/month.
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Totara Learn is an adaptable LMS solution built for enterprise, government and large agency use cases.
This is apparent with features like hierarchies, multitenancy, detailed LMS reporting and analytics and even Totara’s “switch-on” integrations with the Totara Talent Experience Platform—an all-in-one talent experience suite that unites a learning experience platform (LXP) and performance management system.
You’ve probably heard that Totara Learn is similar to Moodle. On the surface, 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 changes tailored to corporate learning. So what is the key difference between Moodle and Totara Learn today?
Totara Learn is an enterprise LMS 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. As Josh Bersin recently noted 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."
Migrating from one learning management system (LMS) to another can be challenging for many organizations. It’s often one of the biggest barriers when selecting an LMS.
Thanks to Totara Learn’s open environment and implementation support network—which includes over 80 global partners—implementation and data migration is efficient and secure.
Glovo, a large enterprise with expanding training needs for over 5000 customer service agents migrated from a proprietary LMS to a Totara-based learning platform within two months—all while adapting to pandemic-driven changes . The platform now supports over 800 courses across 20 different countries.
With an “ open core ” software model, adaptability at scale to evolve with emerging needs is a key strength of Totara Learn.
This is why companies like Indeed have switched from a proprietary learning platform to Totara’s open core LMS.
As the #1 job site in the world, the company’s training requirements were evolving at an aggressive rate. Capitalizing on Totara’s adaptable architecture, they used customizations, plug-ins and other features to allow employees to schedule training into their calendars directly from the LMS.
This removed an extra step of admin and integrated the platform into the normal employee experience.
Partners can also use Totara’s flexible architecture to build a configuration that is out of the box and quick to deploy, but also able to be changed and deeply customized in the future.
Alongside access to numerous APIs and plugins that form an integrated technology suite for organizations, Totara Learn ships with a whole range of in-built functionality that focuses on employee development, reporting, engagement and performance.
Example APIs that are currently supported by Totara Learn include; LDAP, OAuth2, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, MS Teams, Zoom, GO1 and more.
Totara Learn also integrates with a company’s existing applications, like Human Resource Management systems (HRM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
The HR Import tool , for example, enables organizations to sync an existing user base with their new Totara instance. This means that people, position and organization data from existing enterprise HR systems can automatically update and transfer to Totara Learn.
Support & hosting:
Totara Learn is supported by a global community of partners, dedicated developers and users.
In-line with Totara’s adaptable nature, you have multiple support and hosting options:
A self-hosted LMS: Your organization uses its existing IT infrastructure to host a new learning platform (you can also self-host using your own infrastructure and use partners for support and maintenance)
Platform as a service: The Totara partner will provide complete support and adapt your platform based on your specific scalability and security requirements. This approach suits large or growing organizations with dedicated learning and development resources
Software as a service/Totara Cloud: Totara Cloud is a cloud-based SaaS LMS that is a turnkey solution with terms as short as three months. There’s nothing to install, so implementation is quick and cost-efficient, but your team will have access to fewer administrative and configurative features. The LMS will also be hosted on a shared infrastructure (servers used by other clients) to reduce the cost of your investment
Signing up to the Totara Community (which enables you to communicate and share best practices with other professionals in your sector) grants you access to the Totara Academy.
Inside the Academy, you can access in-depth tutorials, resources, courses and even product-related certifications for administrators, course creators and partners.
Sandbox-style feature and workflow simulations also allow academy members to experience Totara Learn, for free.
Totara Learn pricing is based on the number of users—you pay a fee for the number of active users your learning platform needs to support.
Totara Learn customers also benefit from cost savings when purchasing any of Totara’s other two products under the Talent Experience Platform: a learning experience platform (LXP), called Totara Engage and Totara Perform, a performance management system.
Once selected, a Totara Partner will provide a range of expertise and support—this encompasses implementation, hosting, consulting, training, integration, sandpit staging environments and more—to tailor the system to your unique needs.
Totara’s partners are also well-supported:
If a partner has a code issue or bug to report, Totara will resolve any technical issues in the core code and prioritize issues coming through partners
A dedicated R&D and developer team resolves issues and collects feedback to shape the product roadmap for the future. Innovation is driven by need and want rather than capability, so no partner or subscriber’s voice is given precedence over another
Dedicated support is available to Totara partners through the community, academy, marketing support and co-branded resources
Moodle was originally developed to be a free, open-source LMS alternative for formal educators, administrators and learners in need of a flexible system. The LMS also offers collaborative learning environments that empower academic teaching and learning.
Schools, universities, and educational companies with smaller teams are drawn to Moodle’s LMS because it has no licensing fees. This, however, doesn’t mean that costs aren’t involved. As we'll explore in the pricing section, when opting for a more bespoke and functional learning platform, one has to pay sooner or later.
A note on Moodle Workplace: The budding platform diverges from Moodle’s origins. It is not an open-source LMS like the platform it was built on, follows a paid dual-licensing agreement and can only be accessed by premium Moodle partners. There is also very little user feedback on third-party review sites about the platform.
The free version of Moodle isn’t a turnkey solution. Multiple users have reported that implementing the platform can be technically challenging and difficult to navigate due to the UI of the LMS. So you’ll definitely need support to implement your Moodle platform. When it comes to Moodle Workplace, customers are on a single code base and can't customize their own installation . This means you have to go through a Moodle-approved partner.
Thanks to its open-source software, Moodle has strong capabilities for customization. The level of configurability you get with the software, however, is often dependent on how advanced or unique your needs are.
Customizing styles, sizes, images and branding is easy enough, but making deep and complex functional customizations—like changing entire dashboards and course catalogs to meet organization-specific requirements—is challenging.
As one experienced Moodle user shared on an Elearning Industry “Moodle alternatives ” article, “You’re essentially stuck with the layout Moodle gives you and even if you did hire developers to make some of these changes, you would run into so many roadblocks that you would be forced to rewrite the whole system.”
Moodle offers a range of different community-contributed plugins and certified add-ons (maintained by volunteers) that integrate into your learning ecosystem. These certified add-ons are primarily centered around plagiarism checking for examiners, course creation, live conferencing and student-teacher collaboration.
Support & hosting:
Moodle offers multiple support and hosting options:
A free to download and on-premise “do it yourself” package: You download, install, host and modify your own Moodle learning platform. Support is limited to community help and documentation
Moodle cloud: Moodle hosts your learning platform on their server. This option is free for 45 days and designed for those searching for an “out-of-the-box” academic learning platform that doesn’t require much in the way of customization
Moodle partner support: Similar to Totara’s partner implementation and support system, certified Moodle Partners help you with training, hosting, implementation and ongoing development.
If you go the “do it yourself route”, you get Moodle for free. Moodle cloud, however, is priced on a per-user and hosting storage basis.
While downloading and installation are free, if you want the platform to grow with your organization, the associated costs of hosting and support packages—which are more likely to be based on the number of hours/calls rather than per user—can add up.
Simplicity is a key strength of TalentLMS. The proprietary, cloud-based system specifically caters to small businesses and organizations that have relatively basic requirements regarding flexibility and customization of their platform.
Multiple users have praised TalentLMS for its ease of use, but have reported a lack of robustness in features such as certification management and reporting, and a steep rise in costs when more users are added to the platform
Implementation and ease of configuration is an undeniable advantage when choosing a proprietary platform like TalentLMS.
As an out-of-the-box LMS, it is easier to use and set up when compared to Totara Learn and Moodle (or Moodle Workplace).
The system also offers an intuitive UX for the novice and advanced LMS user. If you don’t have dedicated L&D resources and aren’t in a high-growth phase or sector, TalentLMS might be ideal for you as less technical expertise is needed to operate the system.
While easy to implement, TalentLMS is a relatively inflexible solution when compared to Moodle and Totara Learn due to its proprietary nature.
As a customer, you can tweak courses and styling, but are ultimately tied to TalentLMS’s roadmap. There is no simple, cost-effective way to create bespoke solutions or customize features and functionality.
TalentLMS also allows you to split your account into separate instances called “Branches,” but again, your ability to customize Branches is limited to the color scheme, logo and background.
TalentLMS offers a variety of in-built integrations and third-party applications that the app can connect with. These integrations range from the usual collaborative tools like Zoom to eCommerce payment processors such as Paypal, Shopify and WooCommerce.
Premium and customized integration services are not easily available.
Support & hosting:
Like most LMS companies, TalentLMS offers a library of instructional help and documentation. Vendor support and hosting options, on the other hand, are noticeably limited.
TalentLMS is exclusively hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers. There are no options for on-premise or partner hosting.
Unlike Totara and Moodle, TalentLMS offers email as the default support option for most pricing tiers. Direct access to the support team (restricted to live chat support) is only available in the Premium tier ($429/month).
TalentLMS pricing is divided into fixed tiers based on the number of users:
Free: 5 users, 10 courses and email support
Starter: $59/month — 40 users, with the same functions as the free tier
Basic: $129/month — 100 users, single sign-on support, plus everything from the previous tiers
Plus: $249/month — 500 users, custom reports, automations, SSL for a custom domain, plus everything from the previous tiers
Premium: $429/month — 1000 users, live chat support, plus everything from the previous tiers
Totara Learn vs Moodle vs TalentLMS: What’s best for you?
And that concludes the comparison between Totara Learn, Moodle and TalentLMS!
Now that you have a better understanding of which LMS is best for your organization, sector, budget and user requirements, you’ll have an easier time choosing the right system.
If you need help choosing an LMS, use the following free resources below: