Totara for Teachers – the workplace LMS goes educational

Published: July 6, 2015

Our resident Totara expert Ben Wagner explains how using the LMS in schools can help improve your staff’s training and CPD.
For those that haven’t heard of it, Totara (pronounced “To-Tra”) is a workplace-focused LMS used by organisations around the world for compliance training and continual professional development (CPD). It’s based on another open source LMS, with additional extensions on top to add the feature set required in a modern workplace environment. The idea behind the system is to reduce barriers to training and ensure that learning can take place at any time, anywhere, ensuring that staff can keep on top of their training.

In a similar vein, schools are employers, and need to ensure that teachers can complete their CPD and compliance training. A lot of schools lack ways of making this easy and electronic, which can lead to an irritating and painful experience for staff.

Totara has several key benefits that can help with deploying training to staff. One of the main features is the audience tool, which allows you to set up dynamic groups. These update automatically on a regular basis to reflect changes in an organisation’s structural hierarchy. Training can then be assigned to these audiences for them to undertake. This is very useful when someone is new or promoted, as the system can automatically assign the training they need, making this feel more targeted and personalised. For example if a teacher becomes a head of department, Totara will automatically assign them the training associated with their new position, and motivate them into completing these courses.
Additionally, Totara contains social learning tools like forums and chatrooms. These can help with mentoring programs and peer-led learning, encouraging the more senior teachers to share their experiences with junior staff. The ability to easily share information online creates a more specific, cultivated space to discuss methods or ideas that pertain to your school in particular, rather than relying on the unwieldy online hunt for information. Totara also has tools to help book and arrange face-to-face training, which can be great for drop-in training sessions and mentoring.
One of the most useful features of Totara for the management team is the reporting tools on offer. There is a flexible report builder built into the LMS that allows reports to be generated on a number of different data sources in the system. These are easy to set up, even if you don’t have a technical background. As well as creating reports, a view of the report (and the ability to filter the data) can be delegated to any member of staff, making it easy to share information with middle managers. These can also help with the drive towards compliance within an organisation, the biggest help being the ability to subscribe to a report and get it e-mailed to you on a weekly basis.
Totara is also ideal for deploying different learning techniques, for example you can use the “flipped classroom” approach with your INSET days. The teachers can do the “absorption” of learning in the normal work week, and then use the INSET day to discuss and digest the information. The system also suits mobile learning, making sure that staff have access from anywhere and have no barriers to their training.
Totara is an active project receiving constant updates. In addition, for a lot of clients we develop custom features to suit their needs. The most popular of these are custom dashboards, helping users to see where they stand against compliance standards in a quick and easy-to-view format.
If you’d like to learn more about Totara or receive a free demo please get in touch.