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Berlitz move to open source and future proof their learning

Berlitz is the world’s premier language and intercultural communication specialist working in 500 locations in 70 countries, with over 6,000 staff worldwide and with nearly 140 years’ experience in helping others to learn.

The Challenge

For internal employee learning and development, Berlitz found that it was constrained by a legacy Learning Management System (LMS) that no longer met its needs. But as Liz Thomson, Director of Technology Enhanced Training and Development points out, ‘moving LMSs is like moving house’ and upgrading was a challenging project for her small team to tackle. 

However in 2013, the costs charged by the current provider became unsustainable, as did the platform’s outdated functionality such as the reporting suite, which is business-critical. Berlitz needed a change, not just to protect training budgets in the short term, but to future proof its L&D offering going forward.

The Solution

After looking at a number of proprietary LMSs and open source platforms including Moodle, Berlitz was attracted to Totara and its continuous, community-led development.

An added bonus for Berlitz was the ability to add custom development where required. ‘We loved the idea that the system was always evolving based on the needs of its users,’ recalls Thomson.

Berlitz LMS - Totara Learn

Having met Learning Pool** at the annual Learning Technologies event, Berlitz was struck by the expertise of the team and their tailored approach. ‘They really listened to our specific requirements when some other vendors just paid lip service to what we needed.

Following a formal tender process, Learning Pool was selected due to their insight on how Totara could work for Berlitz, along with a flexible approach and transparent pricing model.

The pricing was competitive, which is always a key consideration of course. But crucially, it was transparent which created a strong relationship based on trust right from the start. This is always important, but was a particular priority for us after such a long relationship with our previous supplier. We knew right away this would work as a partnership, not just a supplier/buyer transaction. - Liz Thompson, Director of Technology Enhanced Training and Development

Totara was then configured as the global LMS for Berlitz, with a fully branded and tailored front end, within a timeline of just 11 weeks to be ready in time for the scheduled deactivation of the old system. This required Learning Pool’s implementation team to work closely with the Berlitz IT department to ensure a smooth launch with no hold-ups.

The launch

It was important for Berlitz to build anticipation around the launch of the new Totara Learn-based learning management system to help staff feel engaged with the new system and its training content. Three months before the launch, Berlitz began drip feeding out internal communications and, closer to the time, delivered Adobe Connect sessions showcasing the LMS and its benefits for both managers and learners.

The training team also worked closely with both Learning Pool and Berlitz’s own marketing department to create an appealing front-end design for the system.


Totara Learn had an immediate impact on Berlitz’s training worldwide. With so many learners, the organisation increasingly delivers more virtual training, but had never been able to track and manage this properly.

This has all changed now that everything happens within Totara, providing easier access for learners and helping make things as ‘simple and intuitive as possible.’  The new platform has helped to deliver cost savings of over £80,000 a year.

Learning Pool has also customised the reporting engine to generate the required management information and analytics at the press of a button. This has saved countless hours of exporting and manipulating data in separate spreadsheets.

Because Totara is so logical, it has opened up people’s horizons and they are taking the LMS and running with it by themselves. For example, someone created a whole blended programme based on their experience of what worked best for them in preparation for a particular qualification. They took existing e-learning content, links to Adobe Connect sessions, details of face-to-face training and online reference material, and built something that is so clear for learners that he has hugely increased participation and engagement. All off his own back, which is amazing! - Liz Thompson, Director of Technology Enhanced Training and Development

The Future

Thomson is excited about the potential of Totara, backed with the ongoing support of the Learning Pool team. Berlitz is now creating mobile-specific learning content that can be responsively delivered via Totara on iOS and Android. The organisation is also exploring using Open Badges to introduce an element of gamification to their training.

The straightforward upgrade process means that Berlitz can introduce new features and functionality when the organisation is ready. Performance appraisals, for example, currently sit in a separate internal system, but Berlitz will be switching to version 2.7 of Totara in order to align appraisals and performance management more closely with learning activity.

**This work was undertaken by Mind Click prior to its acquisition by Learning Pool