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The US Department of Agriculture has the freedom to save with Totara Learn

The United States Department of Agriculture, also known as the Agriculture Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, and food.

The Challenge

USDA was contemplating how to continue providing the best learning and talent development experience for their Agency and external partners – beyond the restrictions of Commercial Product Platforms.  After basing their AgLearn training platform on a COTS product for over 12 years, the team felt restricted and stifled by the lack of control and influence over the Product Road Map and Life Cycle.  AgLearn had a vision of freedom to innovate, freedom to evolve, and the control to match their technology to their Strategy.

The Solution

After carefully evaluating and analyzing the Open Source landscape, USDA decided to adopt Totara as the technology foundation because of it’s out of the box functionality – and – it’s Open Source commitment.  USDA was impressed with not only the core functionality, but in the ability for Totara users to mold that functionality based on their own innovative ideas and strategies.  In addition the platform was robust enough to accommodate 140,000 end users, 30 unique agencies, and over 2000 administrators.

USDA and their Totara Partner GP Strategies were able to develop a plan that would allow the AgLearn platform to migrate from its legacy COTS application to a bespoke Totara environment to provide an end-user experience that would meet current requirements – and – provide a platform for innovation over the long-term.  This included custom functionality unique to the Federal Government, external integrations with partners, and Responsive platform that would finally allow for non-PC access to AgLearn.

Totara Awards USDA
Totara Awards USDA


The Result

  • SF-182 External Training request integration (OPM Requirement)
  • External Content Integrations
  • Freedom to Design and Develop a personal Technology Road Map and Strategy
  • Cost savings that can be contributed to enhancing Learning Strategies rather than Licenses and Technical fees
  • Freedom to Design new functionality, integrations, and user experiences for Course Creators that improve engagement and results
  • A more efficient and flexible Administration Experience for a De-Centralized and large Administrator Audience
  • Mobile friendly access for all users

"AgLearn has been on a legacy Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) application for the past twelve years. A recurring challenge AgLearn faced was the lack of control and influence we had over the product road map and life cycle of the application. The legacy COTS application was purchased by a company that altered its business model, which had the effect of driving up the cost of user licensing. This move forced us to examine other Learning Management Systems (LMS) that would allow us to look at alternatives other than commercial products. The logical move was to explore the Open Source landscape for options that would allow us to leverage the technology, while providing customer agencies with an affordable application and an improved overall user experience.

To align with our vision to innovate, evolve, and control the technology we began exploring Open Source options in 2014. After evaluating and analyzing several enterprise-level Open Source options it was decided to move forward with Totara Learn. This platform allows AgLearn to meet all requirements to operate within US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and directly aligns with the Federal Source Code Policy and the Centers of Excellence (CoE) IT Modernization effort. Besides aligning with federal policy and leveraging technology, Totara Learn also provides a modernized learning management system that supports the needed custom functionality unique to USDA.

These custom elements include:

1) Individual Development Plans
2) the SF-182 submission and approval process
3) external integration with content partners
4) a responsive 508 compliant system that allows for access across all types of platforms now and in the future."

"Over the past three years the AgLearn team successfully migrated from the restricted legacy COTS application to a Totara environment hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) GovCloud. On September 17, 2018 the new AgLearn system went live and now provides a robust and secure LMS that accommodates our current 140,000 end users, 2,000 administrators, within thirty unique agencies." 
 Jerome Davin, Director AgLearn, Enterprise Application Services, Office of the Chief Information Officer, United States Department of Agriculture