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3 Steps to Great Totara Reports: Totara Pro Tip from eClass4Learning

Implementing an LMS? It's always best to start with the end in mind and work backwards. Dr Tammy Stephens of eClass4learning explains why, and shares 3 steps that you can take to get to the right place with Totara LMS reports.

Start at the End

At eClass4learning we recommend starting with the end when planning your Totara LMS implementation. Think about the outcomes and outputs you want to see, and work backwards from there.

One area in which this really works is reporting. If you can get clear on what reporting you want to see, it makes the implementation process go much more smoothly.



Step 1: Define your reporting needs first

What we’ve found at eClass4learning is that, even though it might seem counterintuitive, you will save time if you begin with reporting. Reporting is a key feature of Totara with a powerful, flexible report builder. Totara ensures you have a complete picture of usage, progress and achievement across your operations. It has a built in report builder. It allows you to build your own reports from scratch - no technical knowledge required!

You can export reports to a variety of formats such as CSV. You can also add in customized search filters to allow users to drill down into data. You can report on numerous data sources such as e-learning and assessments.  You can assign pre-built or custom reports to any system role. You can also filter reports by organization, position or user information. But with great power comes great responsibility – you want to get the right reports showing the right data for the right people. Too much data or the wrong layouts isn’t going to help people make decisions and act on the insights from your reports.

Start by identifying what reports you need and who in your organization needs to see these reports.

What information does your organization need? Identifying what reports you need as well as who needs to see these reports is important because it will help in the mapping of your organization’s hierarchical structure in Totara. Totara’s reporting structure can be set up so that reports can only be seen by the appropriate people.

For example, maybe you have people at the corporate office that need to see reports from all of the regions in your organization. Or maybe you want each regional manager to see reports that pertain just to his or her region or you want each plant manager to see reports on his or her individual plant. Departmental managers may need to see reports on their direct reports. Figure 1 shows an example of who in an organization might need to see different reports for their position in the organization and everyone below them.

Figure 1 Sample Organizational Structure

Taking the time to identify what type of reports you will need and who needs to see these reports will help you to set up your hierarchy correctly for your organization and save time and reduce confusion.

In practice: ask questions and design a report together

One way to make this real for your internal clients for reporting is to ask them a series of questions to build up the ideal report for them.

You could do this by showing them some sample report formats, and asking ‘if you got this every week, would it meet your needs?’ You can use some of the predefined sample reports in the Report Builder Tool to do this.

Or design from the bottom up and ask them

-what do you want to know about your learners’ performance and completion?

                  What courses they’ve started, are in progress, finished?

                  Only information on missed completion deadlines?

                  What level of competency they’ve reached?

                  What goals they have achieved?

-who do you want to know it about? Everyone in your region, just a specific team? Different reports for different people?

-who should get this report? Just you, your managers? Others?

-when should they get it? Automatically every Tuesday, on demand?

Asking questions like this can help you narrow down exactly what your reports need to produce for your internal clients. And of course it’s easy to adjust or create new ones using Totara’s Report Builder.


Step 2: Define your Hierarchies

Totara has a built-in hierarchy system. This is the engine that powers Totara functionality (i.e. Reports, Learning Plans, etc.). It allows you to map out your organization (i.e. regions, departments, etc.), positions, competencies, and goals. Learning can then be mapped and assigned to the various areas mapped out in your organizational hierarchy.

Asking the reporting questions above helps you to define what the organizational hierarchy should be. Once you have identified what reports you need and who in the organization needs to see these reports, you are ready to map out your hierarchy.

If you take the time to carefully plan your hierarchy at the beginning, you are truly leveraging the Totara platform to improve organizational capacity, improve succession planning, and promote continual improvement across your organization.

Figure 2: Totara Hierarchical Tools Embedded in the Platform

One shape doesn’t fit all:

There are unlimited ways that you can map out your organizational structure and it can be overwhelming. For example, you might do it by

Corporate Office> Regions  > Locations in Regions > Departments at each location

Figure 3 Corporate Hierarchical Structure Mapped Out in Totara

However, if you have instead identified what reports you need and who needs to see these reports, you have clear direction on how best to set-up your organization’s hierarchical structure. This is important, because when you go to the Totara reporting tool you can easily pull the correct reports for the people in your organization.

In practice: Use reporting requirements to define the organizational hierarchy

Going back to the previous step, being clear on reporting helps you to be clear on organizational hierarchy. Once you know who needs to see what data about what performance by who, you can design the hierarchy to reflect that.


Step 3: Add Positions, Competencies, and Organizational Goals

Once you have mapped out your organizational structure, the next is adding a position structure. Figure 4 shows the creation of positions in the Accounting Department. It shows the hierarchy of positions and who reports to whom. This will be important in setting up reporting later on.

Figure 4 Mapping of Positions in Totara


How Organizational Structure and Reporting are Related to Each Other:

Totara has a flexible reporting system that allows you to customize any report without having to know any programming. Now when you create your ad-hoc reports you can use the built-in Totara tools to easily designate who in the hierarchical set-up should see what reports. This is why it’s key to get the organizational structure set  up right, so you can find the right people in the structure.

Figure 5 shows some of the built-in Totara configuration settings that allow you to restrict what data a user sees according to the organizational structure you have set-up. For example, the Manager of the Information Technology department will only see data for those staff members whose position is under their own.

Figure 5 Leveraging Access to Reports by Position in Hierarchy

In Practice: Map it out in Advance

Creating hierarchies and organizational structures at the same time you’re implementing Totara LMS is doing too much at once. Break it down and map out the structures before you start implementing. If you have taken the time to strategically map out your hierarchy in terms of what reports you want to show and who needs to see them you will save yourself a lot of frustration.

Reports can also be scheduled to be run at a specified time interval (e.g. daily, weekly, or monthly) and emailed automatically to key managers in your organization.

So there's three ways you can assure yourself of a smooth Totara implementation by thinking ahead and working backwards.


Author : Tammy Stephens

Dr. Tammy Stephens is the founder and President of eClass4learning. eClass4learning specializes in first fully understanding our customer’s needs and then assisting them in successfully accomplishing their unique goals.  eClass4learning consultants are experts in Totara implementations. We have helped dozens of clients  implement Totara in order to help achieve internal strategic goals. 







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eClass4Learning efficiently and affordably provides online learning technology solutions for non-profits, associations, government organizations and small businesses and corporations. We understand the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of organizations that are big on ideas but challenged by lean staffing and tight budgets.  We maximize efficiency by collaborating with the most knowledgeable subject matter experts (you and your staff) to determine full solutions to your online learning challenges.  eClass4Learning helps you expand your reach and improve your outcomes.

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