Totara Evergreen: The Evolution of Totara LMS

As you probably know, Totara LMS is an open-source learning management system. As part of their ongoing commitment to being open-source, the software is continually evolved and improved. The way the product is developed at the moment works quite differently compared to how Evergreen is proposed to function.

For annual releases, Totara Learning and their extensive partner network graft extensively to develop new features that meet the needs or enhancement requests of customers and users alike.

But these features are only released once a year, meaning that even if something was developed shortly after the new version release, a user would have to wait a whole year to get that new feature. Evergreen overcomes that issue with more consistent, regular code releases, starting at once a month initially with the scope to move to even weekly code updates in the future.

This means if you’re using Evergreen you will have rolling, on-going access to new features as they are developed – that can only be a good thing, right?
Whether you choose to adopt a version of Totara that’s Evergreen or not will ultimately depend on your organisational requirements, as there are pros and cons to being on both (as well as some minor limitations around browser compatibility which we’ll cover later).

Comparing the two release options

There are some clear and definable differences between these two options. So we’ve broken it down into a few key areas for you to be able to clearly see how they differ:

  Annual Release   Evergreen
Release schedule – Annual major releases on fixed schedule

– Monthly minor releases on fixed schedule

– Frequent (monthly, weekly or daily)

– No major vs. minor differentiation

New features – Available on major version upgrade only – Available immediately

– May include UI and functional changes

Bug fixes – Available monthly

– Possible to receive bug fixes without functional changes

– Available immediately

– Bug fixes and features are bundled together

There’s some clear and definable differences between the two release options, so which is best for you?

Ask an expert – Our CTO tells us more

We grabbed some time with our Chief Technology Officer and all-round Totara whizz Mark Lynch to get his thoughts on Evergreen, to help you better understand release type might suit your business.

What are the pros and cons of an organisation moving to an Evergreen release option?

There’s benefits to both release options here, but the biggest factor to consider is perhaps how much internal resource you have and whether you’d be able to have time to read regular release notes and keep up-to-date with your Totara training. I’ve broken down what I see as some of the major benefits and weaknesses of moving to Evergreen.

Pros

  • Get access to more features and enhancements to your learning management system much faster.
  • No more long waits for that tiny enhancement or new piece of functionality – Evergreen’s almost ad hoc release approach saves you delays and wait times,
  • No more huge upgrades where lots of things change at once, instead the updates are more incremental providing you with ample time to get to grips with it.

Cons

  • Staff need to be aware that things will change and they’ll need to pay attention to release notes and keep up to date with their LMS training – otherwise the new features will fall into a LMS ether and no one wants that!
  •  If you’re in an existing support contract with your partner, they will need to ensure that all of your developed custom plugins are compatible and supported through each Evergreen release. This could result in small bug issues which could require patches or fixes.

How easy will it be to switch to an Evergreen release option?

The Evergreen upgrade will be an overnight release, similar to how we currently apply point releases/patches to your major version. The only potential issue that would prevent an organisation moving to an Evergreen branch is browser compatibility. The reason for this is that it’s based on Totara’s latest annual release code base – Totara 9 – which has a minimum Internet Explorer version of 9.

How do you envision Totara Evergreen affecting future Totara LMS developments?

Evergreen means that customers no longer have to wait for 12 months for new features to land in their LMS. Evergreen gives us the ability to have a continuous stream of improvements available in our customer LMSs as frequently as monthly.
For instance – customers will make enhancement request to the new Seminar feature, using the old model they’d have to wait 12 months to see any of those land on their LMS. With Evergreen that could potentially only take a month.

Find out more about Evergreen

If you’d like to find out more about Totara Evergreen and how it could potentially work for your organisation, we recommended you get in touch with one of our experts for a quick chat. We’re here to help and will happily answer your questions!

 

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