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Courses contain the activities and resources that learners will access to undertake their training. A course is typically a single page broken into sections by topics or weeks with links to the activities and resources that the learner should complete. 

(This video is taken from the Courses and categories course in the Totara Academy, where you can access more resources and learning materials - including other videos). 

Creating a new course

Site administrators, site managers and course creators can create new courses as follows:

  1. Go to Courses > Manage courses and categories under the Site administration menu.

  2. Choose the Category you want you course to belong to (this can be changed later).

  3. Select the Create new course link.

  4. Complete the mandatory Course settings.

  5. Click Save Changes.

Manage course and categories

Your course is now set up and ready for content.

For more help with Courses, please see Managing courses , Configuring courses and Course content.

Course settings

Course page settings control how a course behaves in terms of, for example, enrolments, availability, file upload restrictions, course name. It is the first page viewed after creating a course.

Course page settings can be edited through the Edit settings option on the Course administration menu or directly from the course categories page by clicking on the editing icon next to the course name.

Mandatory fields are indicated by a red asterisk.


Course full name

This is the name that is displayed on the top header of every page in your course and also in the course listings page. The name should be descriptive enough so learners can easily identify the course in which they are working.

The course full name does not have to be unique across your Totara site, allowing you to reuse course names/titles if required.
Course short name

Enter the institutional shorthand for your course.  The short name also appears in the navigation bar at the top of the page. 

This can be the same as your course full name, however must be unique across your site.
Course category

Your Totara administrator may have set up several course categories. For example; 'IT', 'Managing People', 'Health and Safety', etc.

A course can only belong to one category.
Course Type

Select from; E-learning, Blended or Seminar.

This is used to help browsing the Enhanced catalogue but does not control what activities are available in the course page.
Course start date

This setting determines the start of the first week for a course in weekly format. It also determines the earliest date that logs of course activities are available.

If the course is reset and the course start date changed, all dates in the course will be moved in relation to the new start date.
Course end date

Optionally set an end date for the course.

This field can be disabled by default in the course default settings page.

This will not remove users from the course but the course will not be listed in their current learning list after this date.

Course ID numberThe course ID number is used to provide a link between Totara and your organisation's backend data systems. Most HR or training management systems have a unique identifier for each course. Totara has its own unique identifier, which will be different from the external/ HR system.
This field is used by Totara to store the external system's unique ID so Totara will know which course the external system is talking about when synchronising courses and enrolments.


Course Summary

The summary appears in the course listings page.  Use the dropdown field to select your formatting option:

  • Totara auto-format
  • HTML format
  • Plain text format
  • Markdown format

A concise one-paragraph summary will help communicate the essence of your course to your learners. 

A longer description can provide detail on what a learner will learn over the course of the training and what will be expected from them to successfully complete the course.

Course summary files

Course summary files are the supplementary files or images required to describe or detail the course.

Course summary files are not displayed in the Enhanced Catalogue.

Course Format


Totara Learn provides a number of options for the general format of a course. Choose to order a course chronologically by week, conceptually by topic, or socially with a single forum as the central organising principle.

  • For the Weekly format, set the start date and the number of week.
  • For the Topic format, set the number of topics.
  • For the Social format, set the course start date.
Course managers can change the course format at any time.
Number of sections

Use this to set the number of sections your course will have. If you need to change this later, you can.

Increasing the number results in sections being added to the bottom of your course page; reducing the number results in sections being removed from the bottom of your course page, and any content in them hidden.
Hidden sections

When you hide an upcoming topic section to prevent your learners from jumping ahead, you can choose to display the title as a collapsed section or simply hide the topic altogether. Displaying the collapsed sections gives your learners a road map of the upcoming topics or weeks, so it’s probably a good idea to leave this on the default setting.

Course layout

Determines whether the whole course is displayed on one page or split over several pages.


Available course formats

The course formats options are:

Course formatDescriptionNotes
Demo formatA simple format with minimum styling organised into sections.-
Single activity formatThe course will support one activity within a single section. When the course is accessed the activity will automatically launch/open.This format is often used with SCORM or Seminar activities.
Social formatA social format course consists of a single forum which acts as a central area for the whole course.This format is useful for less formal courses or for non-training uses such as maintaining departmental sites.
Topics format

A topics based course supports a non-date driven learning environment where contact can be added to related sections.

If your course design is concept-oriented, and learners will be working through a range of concepts but not necessarily according to a fixed schedule, this is a good choice.

The number of topics can be changed at any time.

Weekly formatWith this format, you specify a course start date and the number of weeks the course is set to run. Totara Learn will create a section for each week of your course and the current week will be highlighted. You can add content, activities and resources to each topic section.If you want all your learners to work on the same materials at the same time or the learning is date driven, this is a good format to choose.

Course sections

Course sections are displayed in the centre of a course page and contain activities and resources.  Course sections can be renamed (Edit section name icon), moved (), hidden or deleted after editing has been turned on.

The ability to move course sections is controlled by the capability course:movesections, which is allowed for the default role of trainer.

Course section editing options

If Restrict access has been enabled for the site, access to the section (including all activities and resources within it) may be restricted for learners.

The number of course sections in the centre column may be changed under Course settings or by using the plus or minus icons at the bottom of the course page.

When deleting a course section all activities inside the section and their user data will also be deleted. This operation cannot be reversed.

Use the Always link course sections option to provide a link to course sections within the Navigation block.  This can be enabled from within the Site administration menu via Navigation > Navigation settings.


Current icon

Choose an icon to represent your course from the dropdown menu.

A course icon will display in a list of courses within a block, when added to a custom report or when added as a display option within the Enhanced catalogue.

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

Graphic files will be resized to 35 x 35 pixels automatically.

Force languageSelect the language for the course.This ignores any user language preferences and changes all standard navigation and in-built text.
Number of announcements

Use this setting to determine the number of course news items displayed on the course page.

Announcements are created within the News Forum.
Show gradebook to learners

This setting allows you to select whether learners can see the gradebook. If set to No, it doesn’t stop instructors from recording grades, but simply prevents the learners from seeing them.

Show activity reports

Activity reports are available for each participant that show their activity in the course. As well as listings of their contributions, such as forum posts or assignment submissions, these reports also include access logs. This setting determines whether a learner can view their own activity reports via their profile page.


Files and uploads

Maximum upload size

This setting limits the size of files you or your learners upload to the course. Your system administrator sets the maximum size for the system, but you can choose to make the limit smaller than the system maximum. You can also further limit the size of files that your learners upload as assignment submissions and for other activities.


Completion tracking

Enable completion tracking

If enabled, activity completion conditions may be set in the activity settings and/or course completion conditions may be set.

Mark as in Progress on first view

The course completion record for the user marked as in progress when the user views the course rather than when the first course completion criteria is met.


Enrolled audiences

Use the Add enrolled audiences button to enrol all members of the selected audience(s) into the course.  Learning will be made immediately available to new users once they've registered and first logged into the platform. For existing users, enrolments will be processed immediately.

Use the corresponding Delete icon () to unenrol all audience members. Audience deletion may take minutes to process, depending on the audience size. Once completed, the course association will be removed from this audience.

Course settings enrolled audiences option

Audience-based visibility

Use the dropdown menu to select which users may view and access the course.  Choose from:

  • All users
  • No users - The course will be invisible and unavailable to learners (including enrolled learners) to access via all course listings including their Record of Learning, Learning Plan(s) and the Enhanced Catalogue.
  • Enrolled users only - only users enrolled in this course will be able to see it within the course catalogue and any other course listing.
  • Enrolled users and members of selected audience - users enrolled in this learning and members of the nominated audience(s) will be able to see it within the course catalogue and any other course listing.

Use the Add visible audiences button to enrol all members of the selected audience(s) into the course.

Audience based visibility must be enabled via Advanced features before this tab will appear.
Users with the viewhiddencourse capability (such as course creators, editing trainers etc) will be able to see the course listing and access the course.



Group mode

Select the group settings for the course. Note that you can allow for group settings to be overridden at the activity level unless Force group mode is enabled.

  • No groups: There are no sub groups, everyone is part of one big community.
  • Separate groups: Each group member can only see their own group, others are invisible.
  • Visible groups: Each group member works in their own group, but can also see other groups.
Please see Groups for more information.
Force group modeUse this option to apply the selected Group mode to every activity in the course-
Default groupingIf any Groupings have been added to a course, select which to use as the default within this course.Please see Groups for more information.

Role renaming

This section allows administrators and course managers to change the role name that is displayed within this course.  Role permissions for the role remain the same.  Please see Roles for more information.

Custom course fields

This section lists any custom course fields that have been created and require population/selection.

Course settings custom fields


Add Official tags and/or create your own course tags.  Please see Tags for more information.

On this page

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

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

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