What is the catalogue?
  • 05 Jul 2023
  • 7 minutes to read

What is the catalogue?

Article summary

The catalogue can be accessed via Learn > Find learning in the top navigation menu. If you are using Totara Learn then the catalogue allows users to browse, search and filter for courses, programs and certifications available within the system. If you are using Totara Engage then the catalogue can also be configured to include resources and playlists

Each item in the catalogue is represented by a tile. By default each tile contains the full name of the item and an image. 

Course, program, certification (all Totara Learn) and resource (Totara Engage) images can be uploaded within their respective general settings page. If an image has not been set for a particular item, the default course, program, certification, resource or playlist image will be used.

To view more information on an item, click on the image or title.

Note that the information panel is disabled by default on new Totara sites.

Only those items visible to an individual will be displayed within the catalogue. You can limit the visibility of learning items to certain individuals with audiences and roles.

Using the catalogue

The Grid Catalogue is enabled by default within all new installations of Totara 12 onward. To use the Category or Report (previously known as the Enhanced Catalogue) display for your catalogue, go to Quick-access menu > Configure features and select the desired option from the Catalogue default view setting. 

Browse menu

Users can browse the catalogue by scrolling down the page and using Load More to display additional content items.

By default, users can also browse items belonging to a specific Category or subcategory. Other browsing options are available within the catalogue, and can be set by a Site Administrator via Quick-access menu > Courses and categories > Configure catalogue or via the Configure catalogue button.

When multitenancy and tenant isolation are enabled users will only be able to see catalogue content from their own tenant.

Sort by

The catalogue can also be sorted and displayed in variety of ways:

  • In Alphabetical order
  • By the most recently added items (Latest)
  • With Featured Learning items listed first (where Featured Learning has been enabled)
  • By Relevance (available after a text search term has been entered)

Display options

By default, the catalogue can be shown in Tile view or List view. Display options can be defined by a Site Administrator via the quick-access menu under Courses > Configure catalogue > General.


Users can also search for items using the Search bar. Only those items available to the user will be displayed. 

The search functionality will return matching results from any course, program, certification (Totara Learn) and resource (Totara Engage) text field that is visible to all users such as item name, summary and text-based custom fields.

You can also search for just part of a word using the partial search functionality. This enables you to search for multiple similar search terms. To do this, replace the end of a search term with an asterisk. For example, if a user were to search for 'organis*', the search results would include terms such as 'organisation', 'organised', 'organisational' and more.

Share link

Users can share their current view of the catalogue using the Share button. A unique link is generated and may be sent to other users of the site.

People who you share this URL with may not see the same catalogue items as you due to differences in visibility and permissions.

Top and bottom block areas

When using the Grid-based catalogue you can add blocks to the top and bottom block areas. These appear above and below the catalogue respectively. If you are using the Grid-based catalogue as your site's home page you can use these areas to display important information or useful links.

Please see Blocks for more information on the blocks you can add to the catalogue.

Explore content marketplace (Totara Learn)

When viewing the catalogue as a Site Administrator or Course Creator, and where a Content Marketplace has been enabled, a link to Explore Content Marketplace is provided. 

Please see What are content marketplaces? for instructions on using the Content Marketplace to add new learning items to the catalogue.

Creating items

When viewing the catalogue as a Site Administrator or a user with the capability to create new catalogue items, a Create option is available to add new courses, programs, certifications, resources and playlists (depending on the user's capabilities and the products installed) to the site.

You can create catalogue items using courses, programs and certifications using Totara Learn. With Totara Engage you can create catalogue items from resources and playlists.

How is the catalogue populated?

Totara Learn

Catalogue entries for courses, programs and certifications are kept up to date automatically by Totara Learn. When a user changes data relating to learning items, catalogue data is either updated immediately, or else marked as needing to be updated as soon as possible by scheduling a new ad hoc task. Ad hoc tasks are created by Totara Learn as needed and run as soon as possible on the next cron run. Whether the update is immediate, or scheduled as an ad hoc task, usually depends on whether the change affects just one learning item or multiple. For example, changing the full name of a course will cause the catalogue data to immediately be updated, while changing the default value of a course custom field will cause an ad hoc task to be scheduled which will update the catalogue data of all affected courses.

In addition to this, there is a scheduled task that runs once a day by default, refreshing the data in the catalogue to ensure that it is up to date. This scheduled task is a backup process that is designed to catch any changes to data that did not lead to an immediate or ad hoc update. All standard functionality within Totara Learn is designed to make the catalogue up to date as soon as possible. It is possible that some customisations or third-party plugins may need to be updated before they also do this, and the daily scheduled task ensures that the catalogue will be updated at least once per day in this case.

Totara Engage

Resources and playlists from Totara Engage are also kept up to date automatically.

Turning on the Grid-based catalogue

When the Catalogue type setting is changed from Report or Category to Grid, an ad hoc task is scheduled which will populate the catalogue data when cron is next run. Until the task has run, the catalogue will be empty.

When the grid-based course catalogue is enabled you can also set it to be the home page for your site. You can change the home page to the grid-based course catalogue by accessing the quick-access menu then going to Navigation > Navigation settings. You can then select an option from the dropdown list for the Default home page for users setting.

Other actions affecting catalogue data

There are several other actions within Totara which can affect catalogue data, which include, but are not limited to:

  • When the grid catalogue is turned off (by changing Catalogue type to Report or Category), all learning items are removed immediately
  • When a feature is turned on (such as programs in Advanced settings), an ad hoc task is scheduled to populate the catalogue with related learning items
  • When a feature is turned off, related learning items are removed immediately
  • When a learning type is enabled in the catalogue (in the Contents tab in catalogue configuration), an ad hoc task is scheduled to populate the catalogue with related learning items
  • When a learning type is disabled in the catalogue, related learning items are removed immediately
  • When tags are turned off or on (in Advanced settings), an ad hoc task is scheduled to refresh the catalogue data of all learning items
  • When tags are turned off or on for a learning type (under Appearance > Manage tags), an ad hoc task is scheduled to refresh the catalogue data of the related learning items
Sometimes the catalogue search index may need to be rebuilt, for example if the catalogue is accessed before it has been reindexed after a change is made. If you are experiencing issues with the catalogue search, you can rebuild the search index by following these steps:
  1. Navigate to the catalogue via Learn > Find Learning.
  2. Click Configure catalogue.
  3. On the Contents tab, untick each of the content types that are currently in use.
  4. Tick each content type again (for content types you want to include in the catalogue).
  5. Click Save.
Then you can check that searching the catalogue works as expected.

Sorting when multiple languages are enabled

When multiple languages are installed, the sorting dropdown in the catalogue is removed. Instead, sorting is automatically managed, depending on the status of the catalogue. In order of precedence (highest first):

  • If the text search is active then sorting is by relevance
  • If Featured learning is configured then featured items will be sorted first, and the secondary sorting is by latest first (the latest featured item will appear first in the results, and the latest non-featured item will appear just after all the featured items)
  • Otherwise, sorting is by latest first

The dropdown/alphabetical sorting box can be re-enabled by setting the catalog_enable_alpha_sorting_with_multiple_languages config variable - see config-dist.php for details.

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

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