Department of Labor Information Sheet on America's Learning Exchange

Aug 18, 1998



Objective America's Learning Exchange (ALX) is a key component of the Learning On Demand Initiative, a White House strategy to promote life-long learning by taking advantage of powerful new computer and communications technology. The ALX mission statement best captures its strategic goals:

The mission of America's Learning Exchange is to develop an easily accessible Internet-based electronic exchange, as an integrated component of America's Labor Market Information System (ALMIS), which will (1) serve as a public conduit for information about, and access to, education and training resources, and (2) foster the emergence of a coherent, efficient electronic marketplace for these resources.

What is ALX? The ALX is conceived as a series of databases available over the Internet that help organize the training market, and make it easier and cheaper for individuals and businesses to locate, access, and invest in education and training. ALX will help create an efficient marketplace that will not only make it easier to find appropriate, already produced education/training at relatively low costs, but also create a forum where training needs can be described and customized training can be developed by various public or private vendors. In its initial development the ALX will consist of four primary components -

(1) a browser-based graphical user interface structured around an expert system and a sophisticated search engine.

(2) an application layer that includes a new taxonomy/metalanguage for classifying and identifying education and training courses, offerings, and products, a system of coding crosswalks for linking skills-to-occupations and skills-to-education/training offerings, and a system for billing and accounting.

(3) four interconnected content databases: a database describing both those institutions (e.g., colleges, universities, trade schools, community colleges, etc) where "scheduled" (i.e., place and time specific) education and training are offered and those vendors and education and training providers which produce courses and programs or are available to customize existing courses or programs (the Provider Database), a database describing education and training offerings at the individual course level, eg., courseware, CBT, CD-ROM, scheduled courses, standalone training packages and modules (the Courses Database), a database of educational and training programs, usually leading to a specific outcome such as college credit, a certifications a license (the Programs Database), and a database of all available certification, accreditation, licensing, and consumer information (the Consumer Database) associated with the holdings in the first three databases.

(4) a "virtual market space" within which specific training needs can be described and offers to meet those needs rendered.

Why Have an ALX? The market for non-institution-based education and training (anything done outside of accredited or degree granting institutions) is chaotic. This is particularly true in regard training delivered over the internet, the most ubiquitous and the fasting growing portion of the education and training market. There is no recognized means for rating/evaluating training content, nor are there accepted standards for the technology that delivers the products. There are other market flaws --

  • No single place where you can get access to even a small fraction of the total marketplace offerings;
  • Significant amount of training which is developed for one firm (at relatively high cost) but which is never marketed to others because the firm is not in the training business; this high-cost, single-user problem will tend to reduce the amount of training purchased by any firm;
  • No way to match training delivered in self-paced, mastery learning style with credit hour/seat time style delivered in an institutional setting; general lack of relationship between training program and skill standards and/or industry standards that would cause employers to value such training.
  • Because of market inefficiencies, general lack of "just-in-time" training options.
  • Because there is a need for a virtual training marketplace that links easily to the electronic labor exchange formed by America's Job Bank and America's Talent Bank.

Helping to create a marketplace where individuals and companies can find already developed training products -- computer-based instruction or other technology-dependent courseware, internet-based training, traditional institution-based education curricula, or custom-developed training courses - will prove of value to both American workers and American employers. Such a marketplace will make it easier for sellers of education and training to reach their intended audience and for single-firm developed education and training to find a larger market. The result of a less chaotic market should be lower overall costs for education and training, and therefore a greater willingness on the part of both employers and individuals to invest in lifelong learning.

How will it be organized? America's Learning Exchange will be developed through a public/private partnership with overall leadership provided by the Department of Labor. The Employment and Training Administration is dedicating a small core of technical staff to this effort.

ALX will use the Intergovernmental Information Technology Leadership Consortium, sponsored through the Council for Excellence in Government (CEG), to involve the private sector, including technology leaders such as Oracle, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and ATT. The role of this Consortium will be to act as a convener to identify where and how the private sector should be engaged in this effort. This is similar to the role being played by the Consortium in the development of the Finance Office of the Future.

The ALX will use a consortium of states, led by Minnesota, to design the ALX, to develop and populate its constituent databases, and to create the Internet website. The initial grant ($800,00 from PY1996 funds) to establish the consortium has been let, and another $1 million from PY1997 funds has been earmarked for use by the consortium.

The ALX will pursue a partnership with the Commnunity Learning and Information Network (CLIN), a non-profit organization established to create learning centers for use by the national guard in 600 sites around the country, to offer retail outlets for delivery of computer- and networked-based training identified in the ALX databases. ETA-funded Access Zones and resource centers operated in One-Stop Career Centers and public Employment Service offices will also offer facilities for delivering such training.

The ALX will test the concept of offering community-based training development centers through a pilot program with the Enterprise Computing Institute (ECI) in Massachusetts. This is consistent with, and will help to promote, the DOD-lead Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative. Under this pilot, ECI will offer developmental tools and virtual workspace to educators and trainers designing courseware, while ALX will provide the searchable repository to hold intermediate products developed using the ADL methodology and architecture: learning objects, applets, and modules that serve as building blocks for education and training courses.

What will be Prouduced? The Development Plan for the ALX initiative calls for completion of these key actions with the following timetable -

Reach agreement with CEG to work on cooperatively on this initiative, where CEG serves as the conduit for obtaining private sector involvement through use of its existing Intergovernmental Information Technology Leadership Consortium. [DONE]

Form a consortium of states, led by Minnesota, to develop ALX-related tools. [DONE]

Establish a pilot program through the Enterprise Computing Institute (ECI) to test the concept of using on-site resource centers for facilitating training development. [DONE]

Complete a prototype of the ALX website by the end of the year to be unveiled at DOL's technology conference, JETT*CON, in Chicago in December.

Complete and place in operation a Beta version of ALX by the summer of 1998.

Complete the full integration of ALX with the AJB/ATB/ACIN Internet sites within tw years, such that jobseekers can move easily between job openings, resume postings, and labor market information, and information on the availability and cost of education and training. ALX will use skills as the common denominator between these systems.

Compete implementation of the full ALX concept within three years, including all databases, all applications, and all interfaces, and offer retail outlets for ALX-identified computer- and internet-based training through Community Learning and Information Network (CLIN) sites, resource rooms at One-Stop Career Centers and at public employment service offices, and community-based AJB Access Zones.