Draft Ideas: The use of QR codes in Education: Update August 2011

This is the working area for a short blog post to be released on the Elevate Team Blog (http://wolseyweb.ucs.ac.uk/blogs/elevate)


As part of an ILTS project at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), I’m required to review and update a paper I wrote in November 2008, entitled “The use of QR Codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics”

After re-reading the paper, and thinking of the changing landscape over the last three years, I’ve draw together a few observations in terms of the original paper still being fit for purpose.

The overall message, is yes, it is still valid for a lecturer starting to explore the potential of QR Codes in their teaching. However, there are a few things I’d do differently if I was to re-write the paper. The observations are;

Firstly, the paper is still relevant, as many people are not aware of what a QR Code is, and what it can offer as a potential learning activity. Therefore, the broad answer to … what is a QR Code, how do you create one, how do you include one within a powerpoint is still appropriate. This area is becoming increasing written about (which is fabulous), and the introduction written in 2008 can be complemented with other resources, including 7 things who should know about QR Codes (http://www.educause.edu/ELI/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutQRCod/163728)

In terms of the creating a QR Code, the process outlined hasn’t radically changed. There are a number of interesting development which complement, but don’t replace the the process.

  1. the development of web browser plug-ins, which will allow you to generate a QR Code from the page you are viewing
  2. the emergence of QR Codes being auto generated from short url services, such as BitLy, or Google, and thirdly,
  3. ability to generate QR Codes through the QR Code reader software on your mobile device

I’d suggest the developments by the short url services are the most interesting for the lecturer creating their own QR Codes. Given most people will be using a QR Code to link to a web resource, the need for shorter urls in QR Codes (make the code easier to scan) means these services offer a really useful way of creating and managing QR Codes. At the time of writing, I’m particularly impressed with http://bitly.com

The second observation is around their use in Education. For instance, the paper developed the idea of accessing just in time content in lectures via scanning a QR Code from a presentation or using them as part of classroom feedback sheets. I’d suggest time has clearly demonstrated these are currently not viable. For instance, the scanning in the lecture space is not actually feasible because of the distances involved means current technology will not scan the QR Codes. It is much more effective from the students perspective of just including the short url. Similarly, given technology ownership, people’s awareness of QR Codes, current familarisation with using QR Code Readers as well as distance results in QR Code based feedback in sessions is not currently viable.

So, what does it offer as an educational learning technology? The paper suggested a number of scenarios, however, the reality since November 2008 has been the main developments have been around e-administration related activities (see http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/qrcode). Subsequently, there has been little design and development of QR Code based (location aware) learning activities across the sector. This is an obvious strength of the technology, given they can provide a simple means of developing location aware activities. I’d suggest a re-write of the paper would focus on developing Scenario 3: Integration within an alternate reality game, into the development of location aware learning activities. There is an emerging interest in this area at UCS.

The final observation is the paper gave a sense of being on the cusp of an exciting development with QR Codes … I remember, my optimism at the time of writing. However, over the three year period there hasn’t been a significant adoption of the technology with respect to learning activities in UK HE. So, what can the lecturer who is developing their QR Code learning activities learn from this pattern? I’d propose the key lesson for me is the student body aren’t yet familiar with what a QR Code is, they aren’t aware of about installing QR Code Readers, and the access of mobile phones on multiple wifi networks is problematic for students. This does create a significant the need for a lecturer to be willing to invest time and effort into supporting students through the initial learning process. However, I’d also question the motivation to participate in the activity. When reviewing a QR Code activity, I often question if I (as a student) would be motivated to spend my time and money completing the activity. On many occasions, I’d question if I would. Therefore, a key observation for lecturers, assuming they want to develop effective QR Code learning activities, is to ensure the learning design is appropriate.





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