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Specifications of EWP's Courses API.
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CHANGELOG.md
README.md
manifest-entry.xsd
response-example.xml
response.xsd

README.md

Courses API

Summary

This document describes the Courses API. This API is not directly related to EWP mobility APIs, but it might help with building user-friendly mobility client software. It allows other HEIs to access information on courses and other learning opportunities conducted in this institution.

Learning Opportunities

This API is named "Courses API", but what it really serves are entities called "Learning Opportunities".

Types

Course is just one of many types of Learning Opportunities. Other types include entities such as Degree programme, Module or Class. This model has been adopted from the EMREX and ELMO projects (you will see many similarities to EMREX in the XSDs too).

Server implementers MAY choose to expose any number of Learning Opportunities via the Courses API (and Simple Course Replication API). As far as we know, in case of some server implementations, this will be a natural way to go, because all types of Learning Opportunities are kept in a single database table there (see below). Client implementers should always take notice of the <type> element returned.

Specification vs instance

Learning opportunities are models with two entities: LO specifications and LO instances.

  • LO specification (LOS) is a abstract specification of a course/programme. A template of sorts. It has no students, no grades, no starting nor ending dates.

  • LO instance (LOI) describes a "real" instance of an LO. It is conducted in specific time, it has its students, etc.

This API allows to access both - LOSes and LOIs - but all LOIs are accessible via LOS parents. If a LOS doesn't have a LOI child, then it means that this LOS has not been conducted in the searched time span.

LO identifiers: los_id and loi_id

There are major differences in a way learning opportunities are modeled in various computer systems:

  • Some partners keep all learning opportunities in a single database table, with the same primary key. In such databases, it is not possible, for example, for a Course and a Degree Programme, to have the same value of primary key.

  • Other partners keep them in separate tables (e.g. three tables: for programmes, courses and classes). In such databases, is it possible that there exists a Course, and a Degree Programme with exactly the same primary key.

In EWP, we have considered many ways of dealing with this issue, and eventually we have decided to adopt the somewhat "mixed" strategy - we use a single set of IDs for all LOS types, but the type of each LOS MUST be included in its ID, in a clearly specified way (see XSD for details). Same is true for loi_id values (which are unique identifiers of specific LOIs).

There are a couple of consequences of this strategy:

  • Each exposed LOS MUST have type.

  • LOSes MUST NOT change their type, ever. If, for some reason, HEI wants to change a type of the LOS entity, it MUST expose it under a different ID.

  • LOS ID suffixes MUST consist of surrogate keys, as explained here.

Request method

  • Requests MUST be made with either HTTP GET or HTTP POST method. Servers MUST support both these methods. Servers SHOULD reject all other request methods.

  • Clients are advised to use POST when passing large number of parameters (servers MAY set a limit on their GET query string length).

Request parameters

Parameters MUST be provided in the regular application/x-www-form-urlencoded format.

hei_id (required)

ID of the institution at which the LOSes (referenced in los_id parameters) are conducted. This parameter MUST be required by the server even if the server covers only a single institution.

los_id or los_code (repeatable, required)

A list of ID or codes of LOSes to return (no more than <max-los-ids> or <max-los-codes> items, respectively). The requester MUST provide either a list of los_id values, or a list of los_code values, but not both.

This parameter is repeatable, so the request MAY contain multiple occurrences of it. The server is REQUIRED to process all of them.

Server implementers provide their own chosen values of <max-los-ids> and <max-los-codes> via their manifest entry (see manifest-entry.xsd). Clients SHOULD parse these values (or assume they're equal to 1).

lois_before (optional)

A date in the YYYY-mm-dd format. It given, then the client states that it is interested only in the LOIs conducted before this date. If given, server SHOULD include only such <learningOpportunityInstance> elements for which their <end> date is before this given date.

By default (if neither lois_before nor lois_after is given), server includes all LOIs.

lois_after (optional)

A date in the YYYY-mm-dd format. If given, then the client states that it is interested only in the LOIs conducted after this date. If given, server SHOULD include only such <learningOpportunityInstance> elements for which their <start> date is after this given date.

By default (if neither lois_before nor lois_after is given), server includes all LOIs.

los_at_date (optional)

A date, in the YYYY-mm-dd format. If given, the server MAY attempt to generate a LOS description as it would have looked like at this date.

When we were designing this API, it was brought to our attention that, in many computer systems, some attributes of LOSes may change in time. Some of these changes are important (e.g. the number of ECTS credits awarded), while other describe just unimportant details (e.g. bibliography used). This parameter is a simple, although somewhat "crude" way of allowing the client to access this history (other, more comprehensive ways, might be designed in the future).

A note for client developers: You should be aware, that we do not require the server developers to support this parameter. Many computer systems may return only the "freshest" version of the LO specification, regardless of the date passed.

A note for server developers: While it is not required to support this parameter, it is recommended to describe somewhere if (and how) you do (for example, in your manifest entry's <admin-notes> element). This might help future API designers to propose more comprehensive APIs.

Security

This version of this API uses standard EWP Authentication and Security, Version 2. Server implementers choose which security methods they support by declaring them in their manifest's API-entry.

This API provides data which is also usually accessible to the anonymous public by other channels. It is RECOMMENDED for server implementers to not be overly strict on security methods they require (i.e. it is RECOMMENDED to not require extra layers of encryption in requests and responses - TLS seems more than enough). Server implementers MAY also consider allowing this API to be accessed by anonymous clients.

Handling of invalid parameters

  • General error handling rules apply.

  • Invalid (or unknown) hei_id values MUST result in a HTTP 400 error response.

  • Invalid (or unknown) los_id and los_code values MUST be ignored. Servers MUST return a valid (HTTP 200) XML response in such cases, but the response will simply not contain any information on these missing entities. If all values are unknown, servers MUST respond with an empty <response> element. This requirement is true even when both <max-los-ids> and <max-los-codes> are set to 1`.

  • If the length of los_id list is greater than <max-los-ids> (or the length of los_code list is greater than <max-los-codes>), then the server MUST respond with HTTP 400. Clients SHOULD split such large requests into a couple of smaller ones.

Response

Servers MUST respond with a valid XML document described by the response.xsd schema. See the schema annotations for further information.

Data model entities involved in the response

  • Learning Opportunity Specification
  • Learning Opportunity Instance
  • Academic Term
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