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Headline review: Totara 13 launch

Podcasts and Audio | 08.10.2020

The Kineo team take on Totara Learning's most recent release - Totara 13.

Andy Costello, Monika Capik, Tom Duffelen and David Shaw talk us through the new updates, any big surprises, the features that have us most excited and how it compares to competitors - and we've covered it all in a succinct 20 minutes.

Grab a brew and join us!

*Recorded via Teams, so bear with us on the audio quality in places!

Andy Costello  0:00  

Welcome to Kineo's independent review of Totara's new T 13. Release, where we share our early thoughts on what this latest version of Totara means for the learning technology industry, for the managers of your businesses, and of course, for learners themselves. We'll also be looking at how the two new modules of Totara, Totara perform and engage integrate with the more established and better known Totara learn and what these new features say about Totara's direction of travel. My name is Andy Costello, head of customer solutions at Kineo. And I am joined by

David Shaw  0:31  

I'm David Shaw, lead solution architect,

Monica Wojtanowicz  0:34  

and Monica Wojtanowicz. I am the LMS consultant in Kineo.

Thomas Duffelen  0:37  

I'm Tom Duffelen, I'm a solutions consultant at Kineo.

Andy Costello  0:43  

Thank you, everybody. So let's get straight to it. T13 follows on unsurprisingly from T 12. And it's fair to say Obviously, we've been waiting for it for a while all been looking forward to it now it's here for its October release. I suppose the biggest question is what are the big, big headlines? What's the big sort of features that you've noticed? And that you've been most looking forward to start with you, David?

David Shaw  1:06  

I think it's the kind of the three dedicated modules that we now get with Totara. So with learn and engagement before it kind of allows an organization to really focus on their workforce to create a world class collaborative suite of tools, which really help help our clients and kind of expand what they currently do with older versions of Totara. Thank you.

Monica  1:34  

Yeah, I would agree with that. I think I'm, I'm quite excited about perform. I think it allows us to, again, follow learners throughout their entire journey with their organization. And and rather than just focus on on the learning focus on on their development. So you know, the Performance Management module is just quite exciting to be able to just show that longevity in a learner's in a learner's record.

Paul Westlake  2:03  

Great, thank you, Tom.

Thomas Duffelen  2:05  

So I'll echo what the others said, the biggest change to Totara is the the additional modules that have come in engage and the perform plugins, which expand Totara out from just being a learning suite into a into a talent suite. But one thing I would want to make sure doesn't get lost in the ether at all is that as part of Totara 13, they've also delivered a native mobile app, which is something the market is crying out for. I think it'd be really easy. And I think that's where this this webinar is going to focus podcasts gonna focus massively on the the additional modules and perform and engage modules. But it's also important to call out the app as a as a major headline piece here as well.

Paul Westlake  2:45  

Yeah, longtime in the coming, I suppose. And I think that's, that's a really good point, we'll look at the the app. I know you've raised it in discussion before. But just going back, take a step back to the to the talent piece, which I know you've mentioned, what does that mean? Does that say speaking any volumes for Totara's direction of travel? And how does engage and perform specifically tie into that? Why does this make it a talent platform more than more than anything else?

David Shaw  3:13  

I think it engages its giving the learners the ability to create shared content, which they haven't had before within Totara and that's a really important kind of collaborative piece of work for, for employees to kind of take part in, kind of empowers them to share their knowledge within a corporation and not rely just on the HR department or the l&d department to be pushing out company training within within an environment.

Paul Westlake  3:44  

Okay, and there's a snapshot, what does engage going to meen to learners. Monica,

Monica  3:53  

I think it's just gonna add that, that component of, you know, peer review and self directed learning. I think that was that was something that was that was missing from Totara learn package. There was functionality around forums and chats, but this really builds it out and allows learners to recommend training for each other, like rate, that kind of thing, and an influence the training that, that they take, alongside that they're allowed, they're now you know, able to make playlists and different workspaces. So they can, you know, pull content together that's similar, and then effectively influence the way that that the content, the content is taken, and, and the quality of the content. So I think that's a massive step. And and it's not just for internal employees, but also, you know, it speaks to a bigger market and opens up Totara functionality to, you know, different audiences as well.

Paul Westlake  4:50  

fantastic good news then. Tom, you mentioned the app. Just before we do that, I wanted to ask you about the biggest prize and I know that in discussions you mentioned the improved theme and branding. Could you expand a bit about that? and why that's a big surprise.

Thomas Duffelen  5:05  

I suppose it's a surprise because there's an awful lot of new features that have come into Totara for the things that come in with with perform and engage and as part of that they are really overhauling the brand. This is something we've seen culture begin to do over the last, the last couple of iterations. But for Totara 12. There's an increased focus on tile based visuals, a tile based recommendation blocks, we've seen an expansion of the tile based catalog that was really successful in Totara 12. And they've added a lot of sort of neat little tweaks to their core branding, nice little sort of graphical flash overs and sort of just ways that the system is presented. So at Kineo of course, we, we would apply our own theme to, to Totara. But what Totara has increased in branding does is makes that easier for us, and it makes our theme that sits on top of Totara's is called the more swish basically,

David Shaw  6:08  

I think they did on top of that the the improvements, in general to the look of reports as well, the graphical reports, they put in whole new engine in around the graphing for in the reporting engine. So actually, the graphs look better and perform better. You know, from a scalability point of view, 

Andy Costello  6:29  

visual data representation etc 

David Shaw  6:31  

 absolutely yeah,

Thomas Duffelen  6:32  

I think that's absolutely huge a huge point as well, Andy, I think that what that's doing is it's opening up the the reporting and Totara to a wider audience. I think those of us that have intimate knowledge of Totara have all been always been aware of quite how detailed and quite how much data you can extract from the system useful data by adding really impressive graphical interfaces to the report  I think it opens up the accessibility of that data, it means that more people more system users are going to be able to use the data coming out of Totara in a meaningful way. 

Andy Costello  7:04  

And more readily understand it, I think this is it the picture is obviously so vital but it can also be a huge stumbling block, because it's quite intimidating if you if you're presented with a load of info, but if you you know, you're presenting in a much more user friendly format, that's a huge leap forward. Monica, I saw you nodding vigorously there to some of the things Tom was saying about, about the look and feel, etc. Is there anything you'd like to add?

Monica  7:27  

Well, I think I'm on top of the features, I think it's important to to note that Totara's done a really good job. Um, you know, this time around in this version specifically, to train us up and and to give us a load of really, really great resources to help with this, you know, with with creation of reports to help with creation of workflows and that kind of thing. So I've been quite surprised and impressed with the level of training that we've gotten. So props to them.

Andy Costello 7:56  

Right, good. It's good to hear fantastic share the love. Brilliant. So moving on to the next question I had was most exciting features. Tom, you've already touched on it, the native app was was big for you. So let's let's go into that a little bit more and what it what it means sort of on a broader scale, why is this important? And why is it important now, do you think?

Thomas Duffelen  8:14  

I think there's a there's a number of reasons why it's important, a native app solves a number of key problems, the first one that really springs to my mind and I think this could be a bit of a personal experience. When I've spoken to a number of potential clients of Totara over the last year, who have really needed to diversify their learning geographically, they needed to roll out learning in India, particularly and in South Africa. They simply happen to be the places I've I've dealt with, and in some of those economies smartphone is far more prevalent than than a laptop or desktop, I think it's reasonable to say that a lot of workers where we all have access to a desktop or laptop, of course, a lot don't. But in economies like India, I think their smartphone is far more prevalent. So clients I've worked with have been well actually have have had an app as a necessary, a necessary feature for learning management system, because large dispersed workforces in some of these economies needs to be able to access offline, which they can do for an app. And they need to be able to access it through their own their own smartphones need potentially be able to do it on the go. If they're people working in retail or manufacturing or medical industry, you need to be able to access it when they're at work and receive notifications through through their app to their phones of when learning is available for them to do because again, they can't necessarily rely on emails, they don't necessarily have access to them in the same way we did. Great, thank

Paul Westlake  9:47  

Thank you. David what would you like to add about the exciting features.

David Shaw  9:51  

And I think for on top of the the app, it's and it's about kind of an external integration as well. I think the integration into teams is a really important thing. And it's a really useful thing that's been added in that kind of gets mentioned on the side but actually, the the allowing it to be integrated into everyday business flows. If you use teams as we do, then I, I can see that being really useful way to get people to kind of see and engage with, with the learning on the site, because they don't have to go to a separate, you know, place to go and find learning, it's actually integrated into their everyday work.

Andy Costello  10:33  

workflow. Yeah. Yeah. And who isnt using virtual conferencing and communication in one form or another at the moment. Absolutely.

David Shaw  10:39  

 I mean, it's huge these days, isn't it? So, you know, just having something where you're working every day and looking at every day, little reminders popping up or being able to look at what you should be doing within it? Or what if you're using engage what your colleagues are doing as well as I think you? Yeah, yep. Monica,

Monica  10:58  

I forgot. I would agree with David. I think that that the MS teams, integration is from the perspective of functionality. It's, it's, it's very interesting, but also, I think it's it from my perspective, as an LMS. consultant, it's going to be very interesting to see how people use it. And how it changes changes the workplace. As you said, it's very pertinent at the moment, because everyone's using one form of zoom or or teams. So integrating that with learning. It's just really, you know, it's a new frontier, really, and it's very exciting to see, to see that in play and see what kind of what kind of information people extract and how they use, how they use what they see within Totara.

Andy Costello  11:44  

Great, thank you. Yeah, yeah, good points. I wanted to also talk a little bit about prehaps a little bit more  controversially, but but it's a big competitive market LMSs and platforms, learning platforms? How do you think T 13 is going to stack up against in the market and against some of the big players? What difference? Is it? Is it going to make do you think against some of the the more established platforms that we know? Who'd like to have a go at that?

Monica  12:11  

I can start with that one, Um, I think it's it's been the trend. Yeah, in the last 20 years that loads of learning management systems are integrating with HR systems with recruitment systems. And I think that Totara is unique in that they've built, they've built these these modules on, which makes a difference, because I think for learners, a lot of times, it was quite confusing. If you integrated an HR system, or payroll system with a learning management system, many times that integration wasn't necessarily smooth. And so they felt like they were using two systems. And it came with loads of functionality that they maybe didn't always need, or, or know how to use. So because Totara started from scratch, essentially, in the last two years and built these modules. You know, with Totara's functionality, you can choose how you use the functionality as well. So you're not necessarily strung to using it in the way that they've created it. That's one of the aspects to to robust systems coming together, there's always going to be more complicated than building something from scratch and iteratively adding to that as people use it. So I think it's, it's users are gonna find it a lot simpler.

Andy Costello  13:29  

Great. Thank you, Tom. Or David, who wants to have a have a crack at this one as well.

David Shaw  13:35  

Okay, so I think I think it stacks up really well. I mean, one of the big selling points of Totara is actually it's open source nature and the flexibility. That means that we can offer, you know, bolt ons, we can customize areas of it, we can give it a very kind of strong theme. So we can make it not look exactly like Totara. You know, when we can be client branding and those sorts of things. So actually, those things, give us some advantage over some of those, you know, more entrenched, bigger scale systems that are out there. Yeah, just the flexibility really, that the open, the open source nature of it gives us 

Andy Costello  14:22  

great, Tom 

Thomas Duffelen  14:24  

Well, that was exactly my point as well. But I think with that flexibility also comes an ease of migration as well. I think that's another another key key part is that the flexibility is is so important for Totara clients and has been I mean, this is historic stuff, not just not just related to Totara 13. But that offers the ability to really personalize a system both to an organization and to the user. But that flexibility also allows us for control over the database and full control over the the open code Totara which means that we can onboard people we can bring clients into the Totara system we can we can migrate data easily for people and an onboard onboard client in an ever easier manner.

Andy Costello  15:16  

That's really helpful. That's I think that's really useful. Answer the question, what does it mean to take your partners like us, all the things we can do, you know, many we can broaden our scope of conversations, etc. And one thing just wanted to touch on is that, you know, industry buzzwords, are interchangeable. And there's always a new set every year. You know, remember, when mobile learning was the big thing and then micro learning last year, it's only a matter of time before quantum learning becomes a thing. Or, of course, all the last few years, we've heard a lot about learning experienced LXP's, learning experience platforms, and has been an array of various different LXP’s each one, perhaps challenging one another for their definitions of what an LXP is, but it's still a noise that people are making, and it's still something people want to hear about and learn about. How does T 13? stack up against an LXP or even as an LXP? Does it have an LXP features to it? Could that it consider as playing into that learning experience Sweet, she wants to have a go that

David Shaw  16:17  

I can have a quick start with that one. I think the definitions of LXP are as you say, are really wide ranging, but but there is actually still that really important kind of need for that simplistic, not simplistic, but the compliance training and actual tracking and marking what people have done as an LXP, collaborative engagement platform. And so I think the Totara suite gives us Totara Learn which has got that important compliance tracking, structured learning environment, with engaged tagged on to it gives us more of an LXP you know, kind of experience to people so that they can talk and have that more free flow learning experience there. That's a good starter. Tom, did you want to say something?

Thomas Duffelen  17:13  

Yeah, absolutely. We look at I mean, there is broad scope and broad definitions of what LXP’s are. And, you know, you hear all kinds of definitions, I've heard an LXP described as a Netflix for learning, which I don't think is quite, quite correct. But if we look at some of the key sort of concepts and key problems that LXP's look to look to fix, then we can see that Totara engage does that and does some of those extremely well. So if we look at, for example, a resistance in an organization to formal learning, then Totara engage brings that in it brings in informal learning, it brings in peer to peer learning. It helps organisations organise and groups of dissipated learning, it's where we've got knowledge in an organisation that might exist, but perhaps isn't accessible because people are gatekeepers of that knowledge or because people simply don't know where to find it engage helps us collate that knowledge from from peers and, and and group that into one place that can then be accessed. And it hits key key features of an LXP, it's social its self driven, it allows people to upload content. It fosters a digital community of practice that allows people with, with shared interests, both formal and informal, to get together in a digital sphere, and collate and share knowledge. And then Foster's reward and recognition through that as well by liking and sharing and, and recommending content. And I think one of the other key features of an LXP is that it does deliver on very, very well this is the the increased focus on personalization, and the machine learning recommendation plugins. It take all this user created knowledge, curated knowledge. And it pushes it out to people pushes it out to people based on what they like, based on what they've previously done. And based on on a personal it journey. So I think it hits a lot of key spots of an LXP.

Andy Costello  19:20  

that's really at the heart of the whole learning experience is that personalisation tailoring the learning journey. And the social elements as you say as well sharing curating, creating, aggregating one last point from each of you and what you're most looking forward to, to to about the platform when we you know, begin working with it in earnest, and what you think our customers might be most looking forward to it. So starting with Monica this time,

Monica  19:43  

I'm really excited about Totara perform. I'm I'm really looking forward to seeing again, our our potential clients, our clients, being able to follow learners through their entire trajectory in our organization and tracking that.

Paul Westlake  19:58  

Fantastic. Thank you, David, what about you? 

David Shaw  20:02  

Id go with engage, I think engage is going to be a really important piece the curation of content for people in the self driven learning kind of routes that people can follow. I think it's a really interesting area that we've tried to encourage before and now we've got more tools to use to do that. I think that'll be a fun thing to work on.

Andy Costello  20:24  

Fantastic. Thank you. last thoughts with you, Tom?

Thomas Duffelen  20:28  

I think for me, it's the holistic approach, it's the being able to solve the broader range of problems. And if you look at the folk on this call, you know, ultimately, our hearts, we're all learning professionals. You know, we all care about how people learn. And we want to work with organisations to improve learners within those organisation improve learning journeys. And I think coach for engage a Totara 13 opens through perform through engage opens up additional channels and additional tools for us to really broaden our range of solutions, our range of problems that we're looking to solve for organisations. And helps us helps us do that. So I'm just looking forward to those broader conversations.

Andy Costello  21:09  

And the native app, of course, which is

Thomas Duffelen  21:11  

a native app, of course. Yeah, absolutely.

Andy Costello  21:13  

Brilliant. Well, thank you, everybody. And thank you all for listening and tuning in. If you'd like to get in touch with us, you can do so on Twitter @Kineo. On the internet, of course, you'll be able to link to us through through this, this broadcast as well. I'll be able to email its But that's all for us for now and do engage with us. Do chat with us. And do ask us any questions if you want to find out more. But in the meantime, all the best and thanks very much.

Your speakers are

As Head of Customer Solutions, Andy leads the Kineo EMEA sales team and brings a 20-year industry track record of Learning Technology expertise. Andy is passionate about driving exceptional customer service and develops close partnerships with clients, ensuring they achieve success not only for standalone projects but long-term strategic goals. Andy also plays a key role in consulting on projects and account relationships across Kineo, is regularly featured on our podcasts, and is a sought after speaker at industry events.
David designs technical solutions that are fit for purpose and function effectively in the client’s target environment. Working closely with the client, he gathers and analyses client requirements and documents the LMS solution to ensure the solution has impact.
As the LMS Consultant for the Kineo Bid Team, Monika designs client solutions at proposal stage and ensures a smooth handover to our Production team post sales. She works to provides technical advice of specification and implementation of learning platforms, including mapping of different learner journeys. Prior to working on the Bid Team she worked as a Solution Architect and has 15 years of experience in L&D and learning platform solutions globally.
With a background in education, Tom implements effective Totara Learn solutions across a broad range of business and government sectors. He also provides onsite Totara training.