‘The Hub’

Migrating to Totara and Introducing a Centralised Place for Students to Log In

The Client

BPP is the UK’s only university dedicated to business and professional training.

BPP works with 80% of the FTSE 100 companies, helping to train their staff in a variety of sectors such as financial services, law, health & social care, and industry and commerce.

As a partner to companies, not just a training provider, BPP’s courses are designed in collaboration with businesses and of the highest standard.

The Brief

BPP has worked with BuildEmpire for many years, but have traditionally used a Moodle platform to host their online courses. When the time came to re-assess functionality needed from their LMS, it became clear Totara would be an excellent fit. As well as gradually migrating from Moodle to Totara, BPP needed their VLE to be a user-friendly platform which integrated with their other systems. BPP’s needed their VLE to…

  • Be incredibly intuitive and easy for students to use
  • Deliver the highest quality learning experience
  • Be easily brandable to allow large corporate clients to use the VLE to train their own staff
  • Be Easy for educators to track pupil progress and create eLearning content within their familiar LMS


The Challenges


The biggest challenges we faced on this project were…

  • The new Totara LMS had to integrate seamlessly with the existing software (including bespoke applications) surrounding Moodle
  • The platform had to be prepared for high volumes of traffic from larger corporate clients.
  • The VLE  must offer great UX even when accessed from external sites such as a client website or the main BPP site.

Our Solution


User Interface – Homepage

“Incredibly intuitive and easy for students to use”

A VLE should not be “an obstacle or something learners have to decipher” (theelearningcoach.com). They should be intuitive and push students towards learning rather than hinder them. BPP wanted to take a fresh, new approach to UX and completely reform their VLE user interface. Our development team worked with BPP designers to build an interface more in line with a modern website or app.

The new face of the VLE offers students an overall view of their courses and personal progress, allowing them to navigate from one to the other with a click. Students do not need additional training, or a period of time to ‘get used to’ the VLE, they simply log in (through the main website) and go.


Timeline (centralised)

  • notifications (existing notifications from Moodle but also many more new notifications from Totara)
  • activity status, deadlines
  • any other applications made for other courses

Access to other learning resources

My Learning (easy access to click straight into courses)

Announcements (BPP admins can post here)

News and Information (BPP admins can also post here)

User Interface – My Learning

Can browse courses in tile format – includes essential information about each course. Click through to course, taken through to Totara for the student to complete the course. Once course is started, or completed, this information is fed back to the Hub where the learner can track their progress.

“Will deliver the highest quality learning experience”

Inside each course, all the original functions of course delivery are still present. So the students can interact with their various resources, complete tasks and learn in the same way. The key difference is that the UX is drastically improved.

One important feature for the improvement of the learning experience is that whereas previously, the student would view their lesson in a small iFrame, they now view it in a much larger screen and everything else (for example toolbars and other distractions) is collapsed and minimised out of sight. This was a key specification for BPP since their research showed that the best learning experiences are when students are not distracted by other unnecessary items on the screen and they can fully immerse themselves in study.

Coming back to the overview page, students are able to see their learning history at a glance. Students can see their progress easily in a dynamic field at the of their screen, where automations will encourage students to complete courses they have started but not finished. In the same way, if a student partially signs up for a course, the VLE will automatically remind them to complete the application process. This personalised approach to the VLE is designed to encourage learning and to make sure students get the most from their VLE.


“Can be branded to allow large corporate clients to use the VLE to train their own staff”

BPP works not just with individuals looking to complete their professional qualifications, but also with large corporate clients looking for the best way to train large numbers of their staff. BPP needed to be able to offer these large clients a branded virtual learning environment for their staff to use.

In order to offer this feature, we built into the VLE various ‘user groups’. The user group the student is in determines what branding they see within the VLE. Of course, this is all controlled by admins within the learning management side of the system, who are able to define colour codes and logos to be used for each group of users.

The overall effect of this feature is that an employee can access the VLE from their own company website and continue on their learning journey seeing their own company branding (sometimes co-branded with BPP, as needed). The learning is easy to access and offers a great user experience to encourage progression. We also have the option of creating a subdomain for these user groups so that even the URL is co-branded.

For BPP, this addition to their portfolio is incredibly important because it means they are able to offer large corporate companies a unique proposition.


“Easy for educators to track pupil progress and create eLearning content within their familiar LMS”

All the above VLE features were built on top of and integrated with the original Moodle platform. This means administrators can continue to use the familiar learning management system to create courses without entering another system.

Educators are also able to track the progress of every student through Moodle and see what has been completed. So, even though the learner side of the system has been completely overhauled, the administrator side remains the same, which was a key requirement, so tutors and eLearning authors are able to use the familiar system which works for them.


The Tech


Firstly, our developers had to know a lot about Moodle and SCORM to begin working on this project. It was vital the learning management side of Moodle integrated seamlessly with the new environment the students experience. In order to make sure users did not have to log in twice (once for the BPP application and then again for the Moodle VLE) we used a SAML authentication system. This is a way of integrating the two authentication systems to make sure students only need to log in once to access both systems.

The VLE was wrapped in an Ember front-end (JavaScript) to make it look more appealing and presentable, in a larger application than previously. Then within this, the Moodle iframe still sits, but again, in a much more presentable and brandable way. We did this by adding an overlay to the Moodle iFrame, again using Ember, which runs in the outer application. The new look and feel of the VLE also offers supplementary information to the students about their learning activities and allows them to navigate through the VLE in a much more fluid way.



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