Shelly Blake-Plock By Shelly Blake-Plock • January 15, 2018

Benefits of xAPI Profiles Extend Across Development Teams

The xAPI profile is one of the most important components of the xAPI ecosystem. Profiles serve as xAPI schema—translations of structures defined in the xAPI specification into a format that computers can read. They can also fulfill the role of a domain-specific data model by defining both expected patterns of xAPI data and the building blocks of those patterns.

The open-ended nature of xAPI has led to inconsistent representation of human activity across xAPI providers; xAPI profiles address this inconsistency. The pioneering work of members of the xAPI profiles working group, including Jason Haag and Russell Duhon, has made it possible to consistently record human activity in xAPI profiles via reusable and referenceable vocabularies, templates, and statement patterns. This requires:

  • Defining concepts—verbs, activity types, activities, extensions, attachment usage types, and document resources
  • Statement templates—blueprints that outline the IRIs (internationalized resource identifiers) and rules for the fields within a statement
  • Patterns—groups of statements matching particular statement templates, ordered in certain ways

Using profiles, it’s possible to represent logic as data, clarifying what information is necessary and what patterns are important, and establishing canonical terminology and definitions. An xAPI profile can be general or granular, encompassing anything from a simple list of terms to a tightly scoped collection of concepts, templates, and patterns specific to a domain. For example, the ADL profile establishes a small set of verbs and activity types, whereas the cmi5 profile is specifically designed for a use case where the learner launches learning content or activity from an LMS user interface. This profile defines specific interoperability rules for several activities: content launch mechanism, authentication, session management, reporting, and course structure.

Ultimately, profiles let developers avoid redundant work, and they improve interoperability between tools and organizations.

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