Breaking – Totara forks from Moodle and changes relationship

September 3rd, 2015

In a recent breaking news, Totara LMS, a Moodle derivative aimed at the corporate learning market, has forked from Moodle and is changing its relationship with the Moodle Community.

Acc. to the official Totara newsletter:

The relationship between Totara and Moodle is changing

We have made the carefully considered decision that from 2016 Totara LMS will no longer be in lockstep with Moodle. This will free the team at Totara Learning to focus on big leaps forward in usability and modernising the framework for our enterprise customers. Read Richard Wyles’ personal explanation of the steps taken towards this decision and the significant opportunities this brings to the whole partner network and learning management market as a whole.

The factors for forking as mentioned in the newsletter are:

From 2016 onwards we will no longer be in lockstep. Totara LMS will progressively diverge from its Moodle foundations.

Why have we made this decision? There are several factors:

  1. Innovation. A benefit of open source software is the ability to extend the code base of an application and develop it in a new direction. Over the past few years we have added more than 450,000 lines of code comprising a series of modular, interwoven extensions layered on top of a standard Moodle. All the additional features reflect the different needs of our user community and Totara LMS is now almost unrecognisable from a standard Moodle installation. We’ve taken a lot of care to achieve these results with minimal alterations to Moodle’s core codebase. That policy has been beneficial to both projects. However it also comes with constraints, particularly with some feature requests such as multi-tenancy. To do this well requires deep architectural changes. Overall, to continue, and accelerate our rate of innovation we need to start diverging the base platforms.
  2. Modernising the platform. It is our view, and we know it is a shared view with many Totara Partners, that the current product needs a significant investment in the overall UX. Due to the following point regarding collaboration we are unable to make this investment without diverging from Moodle. We are committed to doing the best by our Totara Partners, key stakeholders in our open source ecosystem, and our growing (collective) customer base. Our 2016 release (which will be tagged as Totara LMS version 9.0) will have a major focus on improving the UX design and overall quality assurance.
  3. Collaboration. When there are areas of common interest (of which there are between Moodle and Totara) it is beneficial for both parties to collaborate. We believe collaborative innovation networks are the future of software development. Open source, collaborative software development reduces costs while providing the foundations for more targeted innovative development specific to a company or situation. Everyone benefits from the synergies and economies of wider input. That’s our ethos, that’s what we do within the Totara community and that’s what we’ve endeavoured to do with Moodle. In the wider open source community, forking or uncoordinated development effort often leads to inefficient, duplicated effort, and all the waste that this implies. However, without both parties’ commitment to collaborate it becomes progressively more difficult to stay in alignment. We have been unable to establish any formal collaborative arrangement between Totara Learning and Moodle Pty Ltd.
  4. Who’s forking who? The leadership of Moodle Pty Ltd has made it clear to us that it is their intent to clone recent Totara LMS versions to offer the market ‘Moodle for Workplace.’ In contrast to the millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that we’ve developed to create Totara LMS, cloning in itself does not add further value and does not present a sustainable strategy. Conversely, if Moodle HQ forks Totara LMS to create an ongoing Moodle variant for workplace learning, and they invest in that branch and support it, then this provides customers with more options from which to select. It is my view that the team at Totara Learning are more closely focused on the needs of corporate users, and that our partnership and support models are more aligned to successful outcomes for partners and customers alike.  

Read the full news here: and here: