Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review of "the use of QR Codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics"

As part of an ILTS project at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), I was 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”

The original paper is available from the University of Bath >>

After re-reading the paper and thinking of the changing landscape over the last three years, I’ve drawn a few observations in terms of evaluating if the original paper is still 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.

I'd suggest the paper is still relevant, as many lecturers are not aware of what a QR Code is, and what it can offer as a potential learning technology. 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. The introduction written in 2008 can be supplemented with other resources, including 7 things who should know about QR Codes (

However, with  there are some points I’d change if I was re-writing the paper today. These are;

  1. In terms of the creating a QR Code, the process outlined hasn’t radically changed. However. there are a number of interesting developments since 2008;

  • the development of web browser plug-ins, which will allow you to generate a QR Code from the page you are viewing.

  • the emergence of QR Codes being auto generated from short url services, such as BitLy, or Google.

  • ability to generate QR Codes through the QR Code reader software on your mobile device.

  1. I’d suggest the developments by the short url services have the greatest potential for the lecturer creating their own QR Codes. Given most people will be using a QR Code to link to a web based resource, there is a need to shorten urls in QR Codes so they are easier to scan. This means this type of services offers a really useful way of creating and managing QR Codes. At the time of writing, I’m particularly impressed with the BitLy Service (

  1. A further 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 in practical terms, for instance,  not being able to consistently scan a QR Code from more than 2 meters away, or viable given moderate technology ownership and awareness. Hence, a QR Code only option will not enable access to resources in a medium sized teaching space. It would be much more effective from the students perspective of just including the short url in a classroom based teaching situation.

  1. There is a need to question the proposed views around 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 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. This is an emerging interest in this area at UCS.

  1. The final observation is the paper gave a sense of being on the cusp of exciting developments with QR Codes … I still remember, my optimism at the time of writing in 2008. 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 you (the lecturer) who is developing their QR Code learning activities learn from this trend? I’d propose two key lessons;

  • the student body isn’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.

  • Ineffective learning design resulting in low 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 draw the conclusion, no. 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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