A Transformative Journey to Enterprise-Wide Distance Learning

CHALLENGE: In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had multiple legacy Learning Management Systems (LMS) with different training modalities and capabilities for its various sub agencies that were not available to all of its employees. In 2004, the department implemented—AgLearn, the USDA’s consolidated LMS, which allows for: cost efficiencies; uniform training used across the department; and expanded distance learning capabilities. During the implementation of AgLearn, the USDA ran into some major roadblocks and partnered with Vertex Solutions Group (VSG), who successfully migrated and consolidated all the various LMS data and content into AgLearn and helped increase utilization and employee engagement. Since 2004, AgLearn has undergone several improvements to optimize their technology, improve business processes, and transform their organizational culture to allow for advancement of their enterprise-wide learning solution (AgLearn). VSG has been USDA’s partner of choice in helping to navigate the waves of change.

SOLUTION: The USDA has implemented the following capabilities within AgLearn to make it a high-performing LMS that enhances enterprise-wide distance learning for over 110,000 USDA employees, partners, and contractors:  
  • Instituted an effective administrators’ help desk support system.
  • Produced web-based training products that helped AgLearn administrators improve their system skills and helped end users efficiently navigate and utilize AgLearn.
  • Established USDA-formatted courseware development templates for web-based training as well as mobile-ready courses that ensure a standard configuration for AgLearn online content deployment.
  • Instituted a standard process for testing functionality SCORM/AICC Conformance and Section 508 compliance.
  • Made available over 4,000 COTS online courses.
  • Implemented mobile learning solutions within AgLearn for USDA’s dispersed workforce. All courses currently being produced at USDA are now device agnostic—meaning courses can either be taken on a desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone.
  • Established competency modeling strategies and structures for individual performance plans (IDPs) and created 360-degree leadership evaluations
  • Transitioned the USDA from traditional paper-based training processes to a more modernized electronic (web-based) model using AgLearn.
  • Created award-winning, integrated marketing campaigns that significantly increased AgLearn utilization and employee engagement. Designed the AgLearn Splash page, a place for employees to login to the LMS as well as learn about recent news, course promotions and other relevant AgLearn information. Provided communication templates and ongoing support such as the development of a quarterly eNewsletter, ongoing updates to the Splash Page promotional banner, digital signage and video podcasts.
  • Established an onsite expert that manages AgLearn’s communications and social media around AgLearn’s products/services and new initiatives.

RESULT: The result of USDA’s dedication to optimizing and enhancing their LMS (AgLearn) has subsequently made AgLearn a gold standard enterprise-wide federal distance learning system. AgLearn’s around-the-clock accessibility (www.aglearn.usda.gov) provides over 110,000 users the ability to search, identify, and register for quality learning solutions offered worldwide by USDA. Since 2007, over 5 million online courses have been completed in AgLearn. During the past three years, the USDA has been able to quantify the economic value of their activities within AgLearn and has avoided $74 million in costs due to their system improvements and their increased utilization rates. The AgLearn communications campaign has won several leading industry awards.