As we approach the release date for Totara 9, the most highly anticipated major release of Totara LMS (and the first since the announcement of the fork from Moodle), here at HowToMoodle towers we’ve been having a dig around the preview site getting to know all of the exciting new features it’s bringing with it. Now we want to share these with you, and bring you up to speed with what you can expect from a Totara 9 release!
Totara 9 and Evergreen
Before we see what’s coming, let’s first clarify how Totara’s releases will be working. Totara 9 will include a wide array of new and improved features, functionality as well as look and feel. This isn’t all of what’s coming though, and there is a bigger list of new things coming soon that are being worked on right now. The great thing is that you won’t have to wait until the next major release (Totara 10) to get them. These features, as they become ready, will be released on the regular “Evergreen” releases of Totara. Read more about this from Totara themselves, at their blog: The future of Totara LMS.
What’s coming in Totara 9
Seminar Management – What’s in a name?
The first thing to notice with this new release of Totara LMS, is the change in name of its flagship scheduling tool activity. Face-to-face is dead, long live Seminars.
The change in name reflects the variety of uses for this activity module, as well as any potential uses for the module in the future.
|Pre-Totara 9||Post-Totara 9|
But it’s not just the name, a whole load of new features and improvements have been added. We’ve collated our favourites here for you to have a sneak preview at.
Navigation, Appearance and Language
Seminars have had a promotion, they now sit on their own level within the Site Administration menu, so no more trawling through plugin settings to change notification templates, updating rooms or adding custom fields.
Options in the settings pages have been tidied up, including declare interest, approval options, and Event date/time section, which all provides a clearer structure. The wording of some menu options and settings has also been improved to be clearer and more succinct.
Restricting the sign-up period
Within the Event settings, there is now a new option to select when the Sign-up period opens and closes. This is optional, but will provide great benefit to those wishing to restrict the period that users can sign-up to sessions Events.
Two-step approval options
Manager approval was always a popular feature in the Face-to-face activity, and now with Seminar this has had a great extension. “Approval Options” retains the ability for No Approval, Self-Approval (accepting T&C) and Manager Approval, but with two great new features:
- Allowing users with the “Trainer” or “Editing Trainer” role to approve sign-ups.
- Requiring Site-Level or Activity-Level “approvers” to approve the sign-up, as well as (or instead of) the Staff Manager.
The addition of these mean you can delegate more responsibility to the trainer, rather than solely relying on Staff Managers to approve. As well as having the two-step approval for extra assurance, or the back-up of other approvers in the manager’s absence.
Select Rooms and Assets at date level
Room Management has had a lot of improvements made, and now has a sister-tool “Asset Management”. Assets can be created in much the same way as rooms, so that you can allocate resources to different Seminar Events.
The big improvement is that both Rooms and Assets can be managed centrally, and filtered & selected at date level, which really boosts the scheduling ability of Seminar. This means that if you have lots of rooms, you can check ahead on which ones are available on your date, or find out when your required room will be free. (The same for Assets as well, if you really want that flip-chart, you can track where it will be!)
As well as this, you can bring up the details of each room/asset and see the summary of each item as well as any upcoming Events that are utilising them.
Another very welcome addition, is the ability to add a new room/asset at the Event level when selecting the Room, whereas pre-Totara 9, all the room management had to be via Site Administration.
Google Maps Location Custom Field
If you offer training in various locations, and delegates could benefit from having the map and directions available, Totara 9 has got you covered. A nice new addition to the Seminar custom fields is “Location” which allows you to show the address to the user via Google Maps.
Downloadable Sign-in sheets
Who could’ve known something so simple was in such great demand? Downloadable sign-in sheets are now available from each Seminar Event.
Adding/Removing Attendees Improvement
There have been some nice improvements to adding and removing attendees from an Event, now making it a two-step process:
- Choose the attendee(s) to add/remove from the user list
- Choose the notifications to be sent to the user and their manager, and select any custom fields for adding or removing.
a) If adding users, you can by-pass manager approval
b) For both adding and removing users, you can choose whether the notification is sent to the user and their manager
c) If removing users, you can provide the cancellation note (and any other cancellation custom fields).
A new button has appeared in the Options of a Seminar Event – Cancel Event. Whereas previously your only option to cancel was to delete the whole event, now you have a cancel button allowing you to send the appropriate cancellation note to all that are booked, as well as the Event Cancellation notification.
New Report Sources
As well as all of the above, there are 9 new report sources added to Report Builder to ensure all reporting needs for Seminars are taken care of. Some are replacements/improvements of Face-to-face reports, and some are brand new additions. New sources include:
- Seminar Assets
- Seminar Asset Assignments
- Seminar Rooms
- Seminar Room Assignments
- Seminar Events
- Seminar Interest
- Seminar Sessions
- Seminar Sign-ups
- Seminar Sign-in sheet
Dashboards have had a couple of small, but very much in-demand tweaks. There is now the ability to allow availability of a dashboard to either:
- No one
- All logged in users
- Only to the following audiences
This is great for when you want one dashboard for everyone on the site, and prevents the need to create unnecessary dynamic audiences to capture everyone.
The other really key feature that will be a huge timesaver, is the ability to clone a dashboard. So if you want to apply the right styling and theming across all of your dashboards, but want to show different content, you won’t have to waste any time creating multiple dashboards from scratch. One click of a button and it’s done!
In a user’s profile there’s now an option to add their “Job assignments”, this is because Totara 9 can support users having multiple job roles. You can give it a name and assign an ID to match it when importing HR data.
Creating Learning Plans for members of an audience isn’t new, but the addition to have “dynamic creation” is new for Totara 9. With this enabled, when a Learning Plan is created for an audience, it will apply for current members, and also for any future member that are added to the audience.
This will be a big time-saving benefit to those that like to assign Learning Plans in this way.
There are two new blocks coming with Totara 9 – Last Accessed Course, and Current Learning.
Last Accessed Course will show you the last course you have accessed (yes, really), the time it was accessed, and your current completion status. This is a useful extra navigation tool for getting back to the last bit of learning you were doing.
Current Learning gives you an overview of the Courses, Programs and Certifications you are enrolled on, your current status with them and when they are all due. There are coloured alerts for when you are overdue, or due to complete soon.
If viewing Programs or Certifications, you can expand on these to show the course sets and which individual courses need completing. This is a really nice addition and much needed block for many dashboards.
Moodle 3.0 features
As well as all of the above new features, Totara 9 is based on Moodle 3.0 and with that brings extra additions found in this Moodle release (including 4 new interactive question types for the Question Bank). To see the whole list of Moodle 3.0 additions, you can see our blog on it here.
As you can see, there is plenty to get stuck into with Totara 9, and even more to come with future releases. If you want to learn about the Totara 9 release, or Totara LMS as a whole, get in touch with our experts on 0330 660 1111 or click here. Alternatively, sign up to our free Totara LMS webinar to find out how this platform can benefit your organisation.
Download our Totara 9.0 infographic here for a quick summary on the new, exciting features!