Glossary of terms
  • 21 Jun 2022
  • 14 minutes to read

Glossary of terms

Article Summary

You can navigate this glossary in one of three ways. 

  • By utilising the table of contents on the left-hand side of this page
  • By scrolling down the page to browse its content
  • By searching the page

To search on this page on PC, you can use the Ctrl + function to search for a term in most web browsers. If you are using a Mac then you will need to use the Cmd + function to search the page. 


Achievement paths

In Totara Perform, an achievement path is a way a user can make progress against a competency. Some competencies may allow multiple paths to achieve the same level on the competency.


A learning tool within a course, such as a quiz, SCORM, or forum, which involves active participation from learners.


A type of performance activity in Totara Perform.


A piece of equipment, an individual (such as a trainer) or a service (such as IT Support) that can be linked to a seminar event session.


A group of users may be created manually (a set audience) or added and updated automatically by users meeting predefined criteria (a dynamic audience). An audience can be assigned access or visibility to specific courses, programs, and/or certifications, as well as assigned to specific learning plans, appraisals, goals and/or roles.

Authenticated user

The default role that is given to logged-in users who have not been assigned any other role within the current context.


The mechanism by which a user is logged in to the system.


A multi-stage, multi-page performance, learning and development evaluation online form featuring a range of custom and/or predefined questions.


The term Assignment can have multiple meanings depending on the context.

Assignment activity: An assignment activity in a course, in which learners are required to submit digital content based on the instructions provided. The submission is then assessed by a Trainer. This content could be an essay in a word-processed document, a spreadsheet, or multimedia files.

Task assignments: Users may be assigned to a task, such as completing a program or certification, or participating in a performance activity. In this case assignments are the users who are assigned to those items. These assignments don't necessarily relate to specific tasks, for example, users may be associated with competencies relating to their role. 

Role assignments: Users on your site are also assigned to roles that provide different access rights and permissions. For example, a user could be assigned to the role of Site Administrator or Trainer.

Availability status (performance activities)

Indicates whether responses can be submitted and/or modified on a section or instance of a performance activity:

  • Open: Responses can be submitted or resubmitted
  • Closed: No response submissions allowed



A saved copy of all, or specific items within, a course, created and stored within a compressed (zipped) file.


A digital, verifiable recognition of learning and achievement that may be issued automatically based on predefined criteria.


A plugin type in Totara Learn that provides functionality in a widget-type format. Blocks are usually located on the left- or right-hand columns, and can be moved, removed, or edited as required.

Block region

An area within a course, front page or dashboard that can host a block. Block regions are only visible when editing has been turned on and are indicated by a rectangle with a dotted outline and plus icon ().



Capabilities are used to define what a particular role can do in the system. These are normally associated with roles by default but can be added or removed by a Site Administrator to customise a role or create a new one. For example, capabilities might include the ability to grade assignments, create performance activities or add new users.


The catalogue is a searchable, filterable, customisable view of courses, programs, certifications, playlists and resources available on your Totara site. The catalogue can be displayed as a grid or list view.


A grouping or folder of similar or associated courses, programs and/or certifications. A category may have any number of subcategories.


An electronic award of achievement based on a traditional paper-based certificate layout. Certificates can be branded, personalised, and set to be automatically issued to individuals based on predefined criteria.


A recurring training requirement where an initial certification and a recertification learning path are defined, tracked, and managed to ensure completion and compliance.

Certification image

An image representing a certification within the Featured links block and/or the catalogue. A default image is displayed, unless a custom image has been added via a certification's general settings.


A child item is a component within a hierarchical structure that sits under a top-level item or a parent.


An achievement, skill, or knowledge a user may or must obtain and/or demonstrate. In Totara Perform, competencies can have multiple achievement paths to meet a variety of proficiency levels.

Competency assignment

The process of linking a user to a competency (either directly or via their position, organisation or audience membership). This assignment allows users and their managers to track their progress in achieving the competency.


Types of learning that form a learning plan, including courses, competencies, programs, and/or objectives.

Conditional access

Also known as restricted access. Restricts access to specific activities based on the user meeting predefined criteria.

Content marketplace

The content marketplace allows you to access a range of free and paid-for learning content from trusted content partners, and integrate this SCORM-based content into your catalogue as one or many new courses.


The scope of the software that a user's role assignment affects, i.e. a Learner in a course, a site-wide administrator. The context is the area of the LMS where a role may be assigned or overridden. For example, a user may be a Learner in the site context, but have the role of Course Creator in a specific course context.

Contextual help

Help and additional information for a specific area or field identified by the i icon.


A single learning environment for enrolled learners, containing content in the form of one or many activities and resources.

Course icon

A small square image that is shown against a course name within course listings and custom reports. A default image is displayed unless a custom icon is selected within a course's settings.

Course image

An image representing a course within the Featured links block and/or the catalogue. A default image is displayed unless a custom image has been added via a course's settings.

Course set

A section of a program or certification comprising a course, set of courses, or competencies. One program or certification may have multiple course sets.

Course type

A course setting that indicates if the course is offered as blended, e-learning, or seminar-based learning. While this field has no impact on the activities, resources, or functionality available in the course, a filter and browse option for course type is available within the catalogue.


The act of discovering, gathering and presenting content that surrounds specific subject matter. Curation is not limited to generating content, but is instead the practice of amassing content from a variety of sources and delivering it in an organised fashion.

Custom field

A custom field allows for additional information to be captured within a form or activity. Custom fields are created by Site Administrators and can include fields such as multi-choice select, short or long text, radio buttons, dropdown menus, etc. Custom fields can be created and applied to a range of areas within Totara, such as seminar assets, goal types, user profiles, courses, programs and certifications.



Configurable and personalised navigation and content pages that can be assigned to specific audiences.


In Totara Engage, a discussion is an organised, asynchronous conversation started by a group member in a workspace. It consists of the master post and comments on the post.


Embedded report

A report that is available on certain pages on your Totara site. Embedded reports can be modified and customised as required by Site Administrators.

Enrolment plugin

The mechanism by which a learner is enrolled in a course.


A training event within a seminar activity. A seminar may have any number of events, which are in turn made up of one or more date and time-based sessions.


A description, URL, and/or file demonstrating or verifying the achievement or partial achievement of a competency, course, program or learning objective.

External participant (performance activities)

A person who contributes to a performance activity but does not have a user account on your Totara site. They are invited by email and participate by entering or viewing responses on an external, secure page.



In Totara Learn courses, an activity that allows you to create surveys or evaluations. 

In Totara Perform, feedback is a type of performance activity that is used to gather feedback about an individual in the system. 



A personal or company-wide objective is assigned to an individual or group of individuals.


A collection of Learners within a course that allows restriction of access to specified activities and resources.



A representation of a structure or framework which contains top-level (parent) items and child items. Totara supports positional, organisational, competency and goal hierarchies.

HR import

Functionality that allows the manual or automated import, updating, and deletion of user, position, job assignment, competency and/or organisation information within the system, either via CSV file upload or direct external database connection. Previously known as Totara Sync and HR Sync.

HTML editor

The text formatting options are available within a content input area. Users can apply heading styles, add images, and embed links and media using the HTML editor.



The process of making a copy of an activity, resource, block, group, calendar event, or quiz question(s) from one course and adding it to another.


Language pack

A collection of translated words and strings that can be installed on your Totara site, to allow navigation, functionality, and contextual help to be displayed in other languages.

Learning plan

A personal and/or professional development plan composed of selected learning elements, including courses, objectives, and programs. The learning plan enables staff to quickly see their progress against specific learning events and the whole plan.

Learning type

The distinction between courses, programs and certifications.


A personal space where all of a user’s informal learning items (playlists and resources) are stored. Workspaces also have their own library for shared content.


Manually selected participant (performance activities)

A participant in a performance activity who has not been automatically selected by the system. Subjects and their managers can manually select other users to participate in an activity.

Mobile browser authentication

Mobile browser authentication is one of the authentication methods available for the Totara mobile app. In this workflow, users are directed to a tab on their mobile web browser to complete authentication actions, then return to the mobile app without needing to reauthenticate.


Native authentication

Native authentication is one of the authentication methods available for the Totara mobile app. In the native workflow, users authenticate by logging in within the app itself.



A unique learning or development goal that may be set via an individual’s learning plan.


A team, section, or location that sits within an organisational hierarchy. Organisations may be linked to competencies and/or goals, used to add users to an audience, or assigned specific performance activities.



A parent item is a component within a hierarchical structure that has sub-items or children.

Participant instance (performance activities)

A participant’s copy of the subject instance activity. This may be different to the subject instance depending on their relationship to the subject in the context of the activity.

Participant (performance activities)

A user who is expected to engage in a performance activity. Participants are defined by their relationship to the subject of the activity, either automatically by job assignment (such as the user’s manager), or manually selected by the subject or their manager (such as the reviewer).

Participant section (performance activities)

The smallest unit of a performance activity in which progress can be tracked. Participants can submit sections individually.

Performance activity

A template that defines the way a performance activity (such as an appraisal, check-in or 360 feedback) will be conducted, by defining the questions, structure, scheduling and participants.


The Allow, Prevent, or Prohibit settings for the various capabilities that make up the access rights for a specific role and context on your site.


A collection of resources created by a user. Can be public, private or limited to specific people. Linked to a topic, playlists are searchable if not private. Playlists can be liked, shared or commented on.


A core or custom module or add-on within Totara which provides specific features and functionality. Examples include activity, authentication, and enrolment plugins.


A job position or performed role that sits within a positional hierarchy. Positions may be linked to competencies and/or goals.


A prescribed learning path made up of one or many courses with ‘and/then/or’ conditions between sets of courses.

Program image

An image representing a program within the Featured links block and/or the catalogue. A default image is displayed unless a custom image has been added via a program's general settings.

Progress status (performance activities)

Indicates progression towards completion of a performance activity:

  • Not started: The user has not engaged with the activity
  • In progress: The user has accessed the activity and may have started drafting responses
  • Complete: The user has submitted responses to all required questions
  • Not submitted: The item has the status of closed but the user has not submitted answers to all required questions


Recommendations engine

The Totara-powered machine learning engine is responsible for crafting an individual discovery experience for every user, based on complex algorithms performing analysis on multiple levels of information about a user and their activity on the site.


In Totara Learn, a resource is a learning item within a course such as a page, label or file, which users can read but don't otherwise interact with.

In Totara Engage, a resource is a piece of user-generated content, including a combination of text, image, video, and audio. Resources can be linked to a topic, and can be standalone or included in a playlist. Resources can be public, private or limited to specific people. They can be liked, shared and commented on.

Responding participant (performance activities)

A participant in a performance activity who can submit responses.


The process of replacing or adding a course within Totara Learn, using a previously backed up course.

Restrict access

Also known as conditional access. Restricts access to specific activities based on the user meeting predefined criteria, such as user profile information, grade, date, and completion of other activities.


The access rights and associated capabilities an individual holds on the site.

Role context

The area of the system where a role may be assigned or overridden.

RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning)

A system to accredit a learner’s previous training and experience towards the completion of activities, resources, and/or courses. Stands for Recognition of Prior Learning. 



A customisable rating system that allows users to be rated against the achievement or partial achievement of a competency.


A standard for saving/packaging and launching e-learning content within Learning Management Systems and an activity type within Totara Learn. The standards allow for set information to be passed between the e-learning and the site (such as the user’s completion status or score). Stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model.

Subject instance (performance activities)

A copy of a performance activity generated for the subject of the activity (the user being evaluated).

Subject (performance activities)

In Totara Perform, the subject is the user the performance activity is about (the user whose performance is being evaluated). They may or may not participate in the activity.


In Totara Engage, a survey is a quick, one-question poll with up to ten answer options, created by any user in Totara Engage.

In Totara Learn, the survey activity allows you to present several pre-set learning surveys to Learners in a course.


Talent Experience Platform

Totara’s Talent Experience Platform combines a learning management system (LMS), a user-centric learning experience platform (LXP) and a comprehensive performance management system under a single and highly adaptable architecture.


The design, look and feel of your site.  A theme is usually based on HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It can be either custom made or configured via the administrative interface.


In Totara Engage, a topic is a broad theme for categorising content, defined by Site Administrators. Resources, playlists and workspaces can all be linked to a topic.

In Totara Learn, a topic is a section of a course page (when the topic course format is selected).

Totara Engage

Totara Engage is a learning experience platform (LXP) that engages, unites and upskills your workforce to deliver high performance and better results. Through peer-to-peer interaction and social learning, Totara Engage empowers your people to create and curate custom content and collaborate in private or public workspaces, all seamlessly integrated with tools like Microsoft Teams.

Totara Learn

Totara Learn is a fully flexible learning management system (LMS) that empowers you to build customised learning environments that meet your unique requirements. It is a scalable way to bring learning to your users in their preferred language, on their preferred device, and personalised by audiences, roles and learning goals.

Totara Mobile

The Totara Mobile app, fully integrated with Totara Learn, provides learners with access to learning on their smartphones.

Totara Perform

Totara Perform is a flexible performance management system that supports your business’ performance management model, however you want to work. It provides you with the flexibility to design your performance management schedules and processes, harnessing the power of continuous performance management to boost workplace productivity.


View-only participant (performance activities)

A participant who can view responses to a performance activity but cannot submit their own.


Webview authentication

Webview authentication is one of the authentication methods available for the Totara Mobile app. In the webview workflow, users can complete most authentication actions in a browser window displayed within the app.


A space for a group of people to collaborate, socialise and share information about a chosen subject. Can be public, private or hidden. Can contain playlists, discussions and shared resources.

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