What are programs?
  • 28 Nov 2023
  • 3 minutes to read

What are programs?

Article summary

A program is a structured set of courses and competencies that you've already created on your site. You can use programs to guide learners through pathways of related courses, with new sets of content being revealed as the learner completes prerequisite learning.

When creating a program you can add sets of courses, then configure logical relationships between those sets. To complete the program, learners will need to complete the learning according to the program's structure and requirements (see Examples for more information), within the specified time frame. Groups of learners are assigned to complete the program based upon affiliations such as the position, organisation, or management hierarchy. Audiences may also be used to enrol groups of users (e.g. all users with the position of Support Analyst who work for the Help Desk organisation).

The process

The learner receives a notification when they are assigned to programs, have upcoming due dates, or overdue work to complete. The learner works through the courses in the order the Site Administrator specifies. Over time the learner may be assigned to new programs based on changes in their position, organisation, audience membership, or management hierarchy. A program with a recurring course will automatically create a new copy of the course and activities, then enrol and notify the learner when it’s time to complete the course again.

When the learner has completed coursework required for completion, Totara will immediately check to see if the course completion rules have been met. Course and program status will be updated in reports, including the learner’s Record of Learning and Required Learning pages.


Learners are enrolled on courses in programs when they first access the course, not when they are assigned to the program. Assigning users to a program doesn't automatically enrol them in all courses. This is because programs can have complicated course set logic, where the learner does not have access to the courses in later course sets until earlier course sets have been completed.

Instead first access to courses is controlled by the Program enrolment plugin. When a learner first goes to their program and attempts to launch a course, this checks whether the learner is assigned to the program and whether the course is in a course set they actually have access to, and then enrols them in the course.


If the users' assignments have unresolved exceptions they will be unable to access the program, or gain access to any courses they have not already been accessed through the program. Likewise their completion state in the program will not be reviewed and recalculated while there are exception.

Once the exceptions have been resolved the user will regain access and completion will be calculated for the user.


Within Totara Learn programs you can support multiple learning pathways with Some, All or Any number of course completions required within course sets and Then, Or and And dividers between sets. This means Totara Learn can support scenarios such as:

  • Complete Course A, B and C, then either Course D or Course E or Course F
  • Complete two of Course A, B, C, D, E and F and Complete three of Course G, Course H, Course I and Course J
  • Complete Course A or Course B or Course C and Course D

Within courses you can support multiple learning pathways with our conditional and restricted access functionality. There are a range of different restrictions you can placed on the visibility and access to learning items within a course. These restrictions used alongside completion tracking and auto-grading, means Totara Learn can support scenarios such as:

  • Complete knowledge check quiz - learners with 0-50% grade are provided access to Resource A, learners achieving 51-80% grade are provided access to Resource B and learners achieving >81% grade are provided access to Resource C
  • Users with preferred language set to French are only provided visibility to Resources 4-9, learners with preferred language set to English can only see Resources 1-3 and 10
  • Learners who are part of Audience ABC as a result of completing Course A, are provided visibility to Resources 9 and 10

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.

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