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Certifications are very similar to programs, with both facilitating the creation of adaptive learning paths, where completion dependencies can be defined and the order and flow of the courses learners complete can be controlled.

However, unlike programs, certifications are only valid for a certain period of time, after which the system will prompt the learner to re-certify. This is useful for skills that need to be updated, or where a learner may need to demonstrate compliance with changing policies, practices, or regulations. 

A certification includes completion dates and time frames for enrolled learners to complete each stage of the certification. Personalised and customised messages and reminders can also be configured to be automatically sent to enrolled learners and their managers.

Learners can be enrolled on certifications based on their organisation, position, management hierarchy, individually or via an audience, with different completion criteria may be set for each group if required.

Creating a certification 

  1. Select Certifications from the Site administration menu.
  2. Select Add a new certification.
  3. Complete the Details section.
  4. Add certification Content.
  5. Add certification Assignments.
  6. Create certification Messages as required.
  7. Set the Certification period.
  8. Select Save changes.

Manage certifications page

Alternatively, site administrators, site managers and course creators can create new certifications via the Course Catalogue:

  1. Go to the Course Catalogue via Find Learning within the top navigation

  2. Select Create and choose Certification from the dropdown list.

  3. Complete the Details, ContentAssignments and Messages sections as required.

  4. Click Save Changes.

Editing a certification

Once a certification has been created it is still possible to make changes by editing the certification, although be aware that if a certification is live, any changes made will impact on the assigned learners.

  1. Go to Certifications within the Site administration menu.
  2. Select the name of the category (or sub category) in which the certification sits

  3. Select the corresponding Settings icon () for the required certification, or select the certification name to open it, then select Edit certification details.
  4. Edit the certification Details, Content, Assignments and Messages as required, as described below.
  5. Select Save changes on each page to save any edits or Cancel to disregard.

A certification can also be deleted, moved up or down the certification listing page, or moved to another category within the category certification listing using the corresponding Edit icons.

Certification category listing

Adding certification details 

The Details section includes basic information about the certification and core settings for display and availability.


Select which course category the certification should sit under.

The category selected has no impact on which courses can be selected within the certification and is for site organisation and navigation purposes only.
Full name

The name or title of the certification.

This will be displayed in the certification overview area and within the Course Catalogue.
Short name

The short or abbreviated name of the certification. The display of a certification short name is limited across the site.

The short name must be unique.

An optional field to provide a certification ID number.

A certification ID can be used to match external systems for data exchange purposes
Available From

Set a date from which the certification is available to learners.

This won't affect actions for users already assigned to the certificate, for example these users will still receive certificate messages.

If Available from and Available until dates are set, learners will be able to find and enter the certification during the period specified by the dates but will be prevented from accessing the certification outside of those dates.

Available UntilSet a date until which the certification is available to learnersAfter the date specified, the certification will not appear on any certification listings or be accessible, except to administrators.

The summary or certification description text is displayed in the search certification page and when a learner is viewing the details of the certification. 

This text can also be used within the Course Catalogue.
Summary files

The summary file is displayed in the list of certifications.

Summary files might include certification descriptors or relevant images files relating to the certification.
End note

The certification end note displays when the learner has completed the certification.

VisibleWhen checked, the certification will appear in certification listings and search results, and learners will be able to view the certification contents. When unchecked the certification will not appear in certification listings or search results, but the certification will still be displayed in the learning plans of any learners who have been assigned to the certification, and learners can still access the certification if they know the certification's URL.

This option is only displayed if audience-based visibility is not enabled on the site.


Select which group of users can see the certification in the Course Catalogue and within any list of certifications.  Choose from:

  • All users
  • No users
  • Enrolled users only, or
  • Enrolled users and members of the selected audience(s).

Please see Audiences for more information on creating audiences.

Audience-based visibility must be enabled via Advanced features for this option to to display.

Current iconChoose a certification icon from the available list.  Icons can be displayed within certification lists and within the Course Catalogue

Add new icons via Courses > Custom icons under the Site administration menu.

Graphic files will be resized to 35 x 35 pixels automatically

ImageChoose an image to associate with the certification.This image will become the background image if this certification is added as a certification tile in a Featured Link Block.  This image will also display in the Course Catalogue.
TagsAssociate tags to the certification.Tags can be added as filters or search terms within the Course Catalogue.
Allow extension requests

When enabled users can submit extension requests for this certification which can then be approved or denied by their manager. If a user has more than one job assignment with different managers, an extension request notification is sent to all of the user's managers and any of them can approve or deny the extension request.

Program/certification extension requests need to be enabled on the Advanced features page to be able to allow or disallow extension requests for a certification.

Custom fieldsAny custom fields that have been added to the site for certifications will be displayed here.Certification custom fields can be added via Programs > Custom fields from the Site administration menu.

Editing certification details

Creating certification messages

Customised, automated messages can be created and emailed to all users assigned to a certification. An optional message for the managers of each assigned learner can also be added, depending on the message type selected.

When adding messages to a certification, open the Messages tab in the relevant certification and follow the below steps:

  1. Select the required message type from the Add a new drop down menu and choose Add.
  2. If relevant, set a time based Trigger for the message being sent
  3. Add a Subject line and Message body, using variables as required.
  4. Select Send notice to manager to send a message to the manager of a learner at the same time the learner message is sent. If a learner has multiple job assignments with more than one manager, the message will be sent to all managers.
  5. Add a Subject line and Message body for the manager notice, using variables as required
  6. Select Save changes to save the message(s).

If a subject is not provided i.e. the field is left blank, the manager subject is populated with the default language strings for each message type.

The Enrolment message and Exceptions report message is added by default for every certification.

The subject of the message will be displayed to recipients within their Dashboard.

Certification message types

Message types

Message name


Enrolment messageA message is sent to the learner when they are assigned to a certification.
Exceptions reportA message is sent to site administrators when there are new exceptions on the certification. An exception occurs when the system is not able to process an action related to the certification, e.g. the completion date is set for 30 days from the position start date, but this field is empty for a user assigned to the certification.

A message is sent to a learner if they are unenrolled from a certification.

Program due
A message is sent to the learner a set number of days, weeks or months before the learner is due to complete the certification.
Program overdueA message is sent to the learner when the certification completion date for the learner has passed.
Program completedA message is sent to the learner when they complete the certification.
Course set due

Sent a certain length of time before the current course set is due. The due date is calculated by adding the course set Minimum time required to the date the user started the course set.

Course set overdueSent a certain length of time after the current course set is due. The due date is calculated by adding the course set Minimum time required to the date the user started the course set.
Course set completedThis message will be sent whenever a course set is completed.
Learner follow-up

A message is sent to a learner a set period of time after they have completed the certification.

Recertification window open
Sent when the learner has entered the period when they can recertify.
Recertification window due to closeSent when a recertification period is about to expire.
Failure to recertify messageSent when a recertification period has expired and the learner will need to repeat the original certification.

Variable substitution

Variables can be inserted into the Subject and/or body of a Message so that they will be replaced with personalised or the relevant values when the message is sent. Variables should be inserted exactly as shown.

%userfullname%Replaced by the recipient's full name.
%username%Replaced by the recipient's username.
%programfullname%Replaced with the full name of the certification.
%completioncriteria%Replaced by the completion criteria set in the Assignments tab.
%duedate%Replaced by the date assigned to the user to complete the certification.
%managername%Replaced by the learner's manager's name. If a learner has multiple job assignments with more than one manager, a list of all manager names will be generated, separated by commas.
%manageremail%Replaced by the learner's manager's email address. If a learner has multiple job assignments with more than one manager, a list of all the manager email addresses will be generated, separated by commas.
%setlabel%Replaced with the course or competency set label or name.

Setting recertification details 

The Certification section defines how long a certification is considered active and when a learner must complete their recertification.

Recertification date

This setting determines how the expiry date is calculated when a user completes the certification or recertifies.  Choose from:


Use certification completion date

When a user completes one of the certification paths (original or recertification), the expiry date will be calculated based on the date that the completion occurred.  The active period is added to the completion date.Over the span of several recertifications, this option can cause the expiry date to drift backwards (when completed early) and forwards (when completed overdue).

Use certification expiry date

Calculate the new expiry date based on the previous one. The first time this is calculated, it adds the active period to the assignment due date if there is one, otherwise it uses the date the certification was completed.

If the user is overdue or expired, it adds the active period to the date the primary certification was just completed (as if the user was newly assigned), so that certifications are active for a minimum of the active period.

Over the span of several recertifications, this option can cause the expiry date to drift forwards (when completed overdue) but not backwards.
Use fixed expiry date

This option causes the expiry time to be calculated based on the specified assignment due date (if available, otherwise the first completion date), and subsequent completion expiry dates will be calculated using that same base date, regardless of whether they are late or early.

The active period is repeatedly added to the base date until the first future date is discovered. The Minimum active period is available only with this setting, and must be at least as big as the Recertification Window (see the Minimum active period help for more information)

:Over the span of several recertifications, this option will prevent the expiry date from drifting forwards or backwards.

Active Period

Determines how long a certification, once complete, will be active or valid before it expires.

Certification is active forEnter a numerical value in the field and select Day(s), Week(s), Month(s) or Year(s).-
Minimum active period

When Use fixed expiry date is set, this option specifies the minimum length of time that the certification will be guaranteed to be active. If a user completes their certification and there is less than this amount of time until it would be due to expire, the expiry date is pushed forward by another whole active period

For example:

  • Erik is assigned to the Coding and Integration Standards certification in July with an assigned due date of 1 December. He completes his certification in August so his certification status will be set to expire on 1 December of the following year. This will make his actual active period about 16 months (12 months active certification plus the four months between August and December).
  • Amal is enrolled in the same certification and completes her recertification in November while the two-month window is open.  Her certification would therefore be set to expire on 1 December of the following year, making her actual active period around 13 months (12 months active certification plus one month into the recertification window).
  • Taylor is enrolled in the same certification, and fails to recertify by 1 December. They subsequently complete the primary certification in April. Their certification would be set to expire on 1 December of the same year, meaning the active period is only around eight months.

Editing recertification details.

Recertification Window

Specifies the period before the certification expires that a learner can start recertifying. When the window opens, all course and activity completion data will be reset, including courses and activities completed by RPL.

Set the Period window opens before expiration by entering a value in the field and selecting either Day(s), Week(s), Month(s), or Year(s) from the dropdown.

Click Save changes before navigating away from the page.

Certification and recertification settings

Tracking and editing certification completion

The Program Completion Editor must be enabled via Advanced features via the Site administration menu for the Completion tab to appear within a certification.

Please see the dedicated Certification completion editor help documentation page for more information.

Setting a default image for all certifications

Each certification within Totara Learn can be represented within the Course Catalogue by a custom image as set within the certification Details.  A default image, for those certifications without a custom image, can be set at the site level by following the below steps:

  1. Select Certifications from the Site administration menu.
  2. Click on the Set default image for all certifications link.
  3. Drag and drop or upload an image in the Default image field.
  4. Select Save changes.

Certification list page with default image link

Certification editing capabilities

It is possible to assign a variety of editing permissions within the certification functionality. Any user with one or more of the following capabilities will see an Edit certifications details button whenever they view a certification.

By clicking on this they will then see the Overview tab, followed by additional tabs based on the capabilities they have assigned to them as follows:

  • totara/certification:configuredetails: For the Details
  • totara/certification:configurecontent: For the Content tab.
  • totara/certification:configuremessages: For the Messages tab.
  • totara/certification:configureassignments: For the Assignments tab.
  • totara/program:handleexceptions: For the Exceptions tab (this applies even if there are no exceptions currently).
  • totara/program:editcompletion: For the Completion tab
  • totara/certification:configurecertification: For the Certification tab.
On this page

The Totara Academy has a whole course dedicated to using Programs and certifications in Totara Learn. Here you can learn more on how to use programs and certifications, see best practice, and give it a go yourself.

Provide feedback about this page using the link in the bottom right of this page. 

Still have questions? Why not post them in the forums of the Totara Community?

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