Where does User data Go with Video Embeds?

We hear this a lot: “I’ve been using YouTube or Vimeo to embed video in my LMS, but I need user tracking for my videos.” Sound familiar? Here are some important things to know about using video with your learning system.

User data from your LMS are extremely comprehensive—as they should be. However, many players (especially YouTube) embed video with a web object called an iframe. Unfortunately for you, iframe-embedded videos only collect anonymous user behavior and send it elsewhere.

Why are user data lost?

Your LMS requires that each learner log in, so that you (the administrator) know who they are and what they are doing. However, when a user arrives at a content page with a YouTube or Vimeo embed, the video player doesn’t know anything about your user.

An iframe embed allows you to insert a piece of externally-hosted content on your LMS page. With an iframe, there is not a relationship between the LMS and the embedded video. The LMS doesn’t pass data into the embed and the embed doesn’t pass data back. In other words, it’s like a little black hole of content.

YouTube and Vimeo will collect anonymous data about all the viewers of a video. (YouTube does it to rank a video’s popularity for advertisers.) But there’s no way for you to know that John watched 50% of a video, that Mary watched it twice, or that Susan pressed play, but stopped it a few seconds in. If individual interaction with a video is an important part of your learning strategy, then this is a really big deal.

How can we change this?

Not all video providers are the same. Work with one that can securely collect and report on user-specific data, like Viddler. You also need your LMS to support passing user data to the video provider in a format that will be understood. This goes beyond the capabilities of an iframe embed. Your LMS and your video provider need to be integrated.

Custom integrations can be expensive and time-consuming. There is an alternative, however. The IMS Global Learning Consortium has developed a way for securely connecting LMSs and interactive learning tools. Using their LTI standard, the video provider will get the necessary user information, the user’s role in the course, and their course information. This is much more than you get with a basic, Single Sign On (SSO) integration.

What’s the user experience?

The user experience will depend on the LMS. Some systems open content using LTI in a new tab of the user’s browser. Some may allow you to target and size a smaller window over the top of the LMS. The Cogcentric Labs LMS allows the LTI content to be embedded directly in the page.

Regardless of how the video is displayed, if the LTI-compliant player passes the right information to your LMS, then you will be able to fully track individual learners’ progress.

Why make the move?

There is a decision to make: Embed a video without user data or use LTI to to play the video (usually in a connected window) and collect user data as a standard part of your LMS. Which path you take depends on the role video plays in your learning strategy.

For many, interactive video content is becoming integral to the learning experience. User tracking is essential to managing the learning process. When you can track user data inside the video content, the value of video to the instructor or training manager increases significantly.

Without user data, video content can be a passive medium—not fully engaging the learner. However, by adding user data, the learning effectiveness of the video content itself can be evaluated. This opens the door for activities like video assignments (with scored video responses) and in-timeline coaching for video based practice sessions.

The possibilities are endless.


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