One Learning Platform to Rule Them All

Consolidating learning platforms, introducing SSO, and integrating existing systems.

The Client


The Center for Creative Leadership® (CCL) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development.

By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations, and society.

Their array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels.

Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education, CCL has locations in countries worldwide.

The Brief

BuildEmpire have worked with Apollo Education for many years developing and maintaining their ‘ACE’ platform (see Apollo case study). CCL was involved with Apollo for this project from the beginning. So, when they decided to develop the platform out further, for themselves, we hoped the team at CCL would like to continue working with us…

Thankfully, they did! Not only was CCL happy for us to continue maintaining the platform we had built for Apollo, but a new group of learners and professionals accessing the platform meant new technology was needed to make sure they deliver the best learning experience. This meant building new plugins and integrations, upgrading old software, and developing custom features. Lots of exciting stuff!

CCL’s main priorities were:

– Totara upgrade
– A Service Bus – Totara integration
– Single Sign-on security (using Auth0)
– Consolidate learning platforms

The Challenges


  • Building a bespoke plugin to collect and process data from Service Bus, which can also send instructions to Totara.
  • Ensuring their internal systems communicate with each other in a secure and robust way (Grand Central)
  • Integrating with Grand Central – a bespoke version of Auth0 built by CCL

Our Solution



Totara Upgrade

CCL was specifically interested in upgrading to Totara 11 in order to make the most of its new GDPR features, which make becoming compliant much easier. Totara 11 provides three key features which help learning providers ensure they are GDPR compliant:

  1. Site policy and control over what happens to the user when they accept or decline
  2. Full control over data – allows manual or automatic anonymisation, purges, deletion and archiving
  3. Scheduled reports, to make data management easier and more transparent

More recently, Totara 12 has been released, so we are currently in the process of upgrading to this latest version.

It is our responsibility to make sure the platform is continually evolving so CCL can benefit from all the latest technologies.

The latest Totara versions also provide new activity access restrictions so that administrators can work towards offering a more personalised learning experience for their users.

Service Bus Plugin

Service Bus is a messaging system and is part of the Microsoft Azure suite of services, which allows software services to communicate via a common method.

CCL wanted to use this messaging to automate the communication of data between internal and external. In order to make this happen, we built a Service Bus plugin and an enrollment plugin for Totara.  So, when customers are loaded in the CRM (via a registration form, or added by an admin) an automated message is generated via Service Bus.

Our bespoke Service Bus plugin reads the messages and then acts on the data.

For a message containing learner data, the Service Bus plugin communicates with the enrollment plugin for Totara and then either creates a user account in Totara or updates the details of an existing account and enrols the learner into the correct course. Our plugin can then prompt Service Bus to send a message (via email) to the learner with the enrollment details they need.

Within the LMS, we have also extended Totara’s grouping functionality in order to facilitate CCL’s desired cohort behaviour. For example, if organisation A and organisation B have groups of staff taking the same course, it would be useful for the learners to be able to communicate with the other people from the same organisation within that course. Therefore, they are added to that ‘cohort’ within the course to facilitate their social learning.

Comments made on courses within cohorts can be kept private and don’t have to be shared with other organisations even though they are taking the same course.

Our enrollment plugin for Totara automatically puts the user into the right cohort based on the information sent across by the Service Bus plugin.

Single Sign-on Security

As well as creating a bespoke plugin for the Service Bus – Totara integration, CCL also needed their Totara platform to work with their Single Sign-on Security software, Grand Central (built using Auth0). We have integrated single sign-on and security software with Totara in the past, but this integration required a bespoke plugin for Totara to meet CCL’s needs.

Our Totara plugin collects the user details from Grand Central and then logs the user into their appropriate user Totara account. If the student is not already logged into Grand Central, the user is redirected and provided with a login to Grand Central before they can proceed. Once they are logged into Grand Central, and consequently Totara, they are able to access other online learning or staff areas they have been given access to.

The plugin allows users to sign into their learning platform (Totara) securely, and from here, access any other materials they need on other platforms across the business.

For example, a user might need access to online communities, additional resources, or assessments. By having this convenient SSO service, administrators at CCL can easily access and manage any resources on the Totara platform without any friction. As well as being convenient for learners and CCL staff, it is also a highly secure connection.

Consolidate Learning Platforms

Previously, CCL had a number of different places to store courses and multiple instances of Totara for different parts of the organisation. One priority during this project was to move to using just one platform.

The disadvantage of having several platforms running at the same time was that there was often no consistency for learners, administrators, or educators. The student experience was different depending on the course, the integrations with other systems were not always as good, and administrators often had to log in to several different systems which is time-consuming.

CCL chose to use the Totara platform we built as the one to replace all others as this one was the most robust and customised.

Because we originally built this platform a few years ago, we have had time to gradually enhance it, adding in custom activities to improve the user experience. Therefore, CCL wanted to transition to only using the BuildEmpire version of Totara for all their learners.

Now that we have finished building the new functionality for the Totara platform and integrating it with Service Bus and Grand Central (Auth0), CCL plans to gradually move all their courses into this platform.

Overall, we continue to enjoy working with CCL, and making ongoing improvements to their platform’s behaviour and performance. Building even more functionality for the platform is on the horizon, as we work with CCL to help them deliver the best learning experience. This latest project phase has focussed on improving integrations and moving to just one master LMS. The next phase includes looking at the design of the user interface and how this can help improve the learner experience… case study coming soon. 

Click on the diagrams below for larger image.

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