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.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Report: Observations from the UCS FAQ Engine

We've authored a short report on usage statistics for the UCS FAQ Engine, see,  Reports and Publications area of this blog (

"The outcome suggests the FAQ engine is being used, interms of FAQs being written and accessed, and these are being positively received by the FAQ authors. The perception is the FAQ service is adding value to those teams who are using it"

The UCS FAQ Service is available from


Monday 22 August 2011

QR Code Treasure Hunt: Staff feedback

The feedback from staff who participated in the QR code treasure hunt ( was mixed and very illuminating: 49% felt that it was an improvement over a traditional paper-based treasure hunt, emphasising the potential of QR codes as an engaging learning tool and 51% disagreed. A further analysis revealed that those who disagreed focused on the technical failures such as difficulties with scanning software and in accessing WiFi or GPS networks.

Comments from staff at UCS who took part in the treasure hunt reveal an awareness of the potential of the technology, tempered with guidance as to how the experience could be improved for students:

“It was fun and good to do something different. If this is going to be carried out during induction then the WiFi needs to be heavily promoted during this time so students can log on.”

“The use of mobile technology seemed really relevant considering it is to be used more widely for communication with students. It was useful to gain a first-hand insight.”

“We couldn’t get our team’s smartphone to work.”

When asked haven taken part in the QR Code treasure hunt are they likely to scan a QR Code if they saw one in the future? The responses (n=27) tended to be equally spread, 41% responded yes, and 59% no.

Interestingly, when asked to explain their answer there was fewer positive comments. Many focused on poor technology ownership. While, the positive responses tended to include explicit reference to the additional information being relevant to them.

So as a course team wishing to develop QR Code based learning activities, what can you take from this? I'd suggest the findings imply the need to devote significant time to supporting people on the technical side, especially around recommending (supporting) a QR Code reader, making sure you have consider any GPS blackspots, ie. see if you can get phone reception where you are going to place your QR Code, developing a clear set of instructions for people to follow and providing a practice QR Code for students before the event.


Thursday 18 August 2011

Student Induction Video: Getting to know Wolsey at UCS: An absolute beginners guide

As you are aware, the Elevate Team will be supporting staff with their module inductions to Wolsey. This is through a set of FAQs, and a short introductory video ( If you'd like to discuss your student module induction needs please email us at


Student user accounts re-enabled

For your information, the student accounts on Wolsey have been re-enabled. We are working with IT to reduce the likelihood of this occurring again. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, as Blackboard was unavailable for students upto 1.00 pm this afternoon. If you have any questions, please email us at

Wolsey, Student Enrollments & SafeAssign Gradebook

I'd just like to add a little more detail around an earlier blog post.

As mentioned, a feed file failed last night which disabled student accounts in Wolsey. ITS have manually enabled these accounts, however, there are likely to be some consequences as some students maybe missed, will take time to work through the system. A likely consequence is information within the Gradebook on many courses which use SafeAssign Submissions will not display, due to accounts being disabled / re-enabled. Please note, this information will not have been lost.

We are working on the situation in the short term, however, on the assumption the feed file works this evening then the situation will automatically right itself by the morning.

I'll update this afternoon with more information.

I'm very sorry for any inconvenience this is causing. If you have any questions, please email the Elevate Team (

FYI - Users on Wolsey: Not syncing from SITS

This is a quick heads up, you may find you student enrollment on Blackboard (Wolsey) courses is out of sync by 24 hours. This is due to the sync between SITS, AD and Blackboard not occurring last night. This should be rectified this evening. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

FAQs for the ShowMe iPad App

I've just released a page of FAQs based on questions asked by me and others around the ShowMe app. These are available from:



Tuesday 16 August 2011

Using the ShowMe App for storyboarding learning materials

The Elevate Team are developing a number of talk over screencasts with the intention of developing individuals (staff and student) in the potential use of learning technologies. An issue with these is the design and development time for early iterations, ie., story boards, walk throughs, and opening these up for feedback from various parties before creating the final version.

Traditionally, a large amount of time is involved in creating and publishing early versions using computer based screencast software, such as Camtasia. Therefore, I'm now using the ShowMe app on my iPad as a means of removing the need for a computer (with mic, screencast software) to create and share prototypes etc., For me this provides a significant time saving as I can request make quick changes, and respond to feedback.

The approach is to capture various screens, record and make available as a private recording (only those with url can access it). Once people have accessed the video they can collaborate electronically, or we can review it face to face. An example is available at >> >> this is the basis of our student induction video for Wolsey at UCS. As you can tell, the audio is poor (beware the room you record it in), however, at this stage the focus is more around the overall narrative.

I'd suggest this approach is transferable to other situations where people are collaborating on the creation of screencast learning materials and generic feedback as standalone learning objects. For information, on how you might want to use this, please email us at


Friday 5 August 2011

Removing the need for a computer for screencasting with the ShowMe App from an iPad

I recently discussed the use of the ShowMe App with some Library Staff who have iPads and want to create some video based FAQs on databases. They rather liked the product, and the creation process, all except the process of getting the images onto the iPad. I smiled and said well I take a screenshot using Jing on my PC and then upload to Dropbox, to download to my iPad. The reason for using JING is so I can capture exactly want I need. However, they all looked blankly at me, and I thought, there must be a better way. The better way is as follows;

  1. on your iPad, take a screen grab (to capture the screen image or take a screenshot in iPad, just press the Home button and Sleep/Wake (On/Off) key at the top of the mobile device simultaneously at the same time) of the image(s) you need, ie., the library database, or VLE page you are accessing in Safari. This stores the image in your saved images section.

  2. to edit the photo (crop and rotate) use a photo application on your iPad - I use Chop Suey.

  3. open ShowMe, access the image(s) and start the screencast, publish and share the link


Wednesday 3 August 2011

Exploring feedback options on an iPad: the ShowMe App

We are continuing to look at the potential of small / tablet technologies for staff to efficiently and effectively generate feedback (generic of individual). I've just created a short screen recording from my iPad using the ShowMe App.

My latest creation explores the idea of creating the screencast around a number of images (in this case around 10). Therefore, it is not simply free drawing and audio, but a more structured presentation.

The final product is available from: - and is a walk through of how to create a quiz in Blackboard.

The process was relatively straight forward;

  1. create the screen grabs on the computer (I used Jing on my Mac)

  2. move these images to Dropbox

  3. open the iPad, open Dropbox and save the images to the iPad

  4. open up ShowMe, open up the image

  5. start recording

  6. upload finished recording, and add link (announcement) to the course

The process of adding more than one image was to use the pause button for the recording, clear the whiteboard, open the new image, size it appropriately, and start the recording.

This was all in terms of the creation process. However, there are a few caveats. One is the strength of ShowMe is the simplicity of use, which includes no editing options. This is a potential weakness for the way I combined 10 images in to a linear narrative. You will need to have planned (semi scripted) the session because if you are 10 minutes into the recording and make a serious mistake you will need to start all over again !!

The strength of this solution for the person creating the feedback can do it from the comfort of their sofa - therefore, I didn't have issues with a microphone, computer, managing and converting file types, and saving into the VLE. For me, this overcomes as significant barrier to participation ... as the iPad and ShowMe app overcomes a lot of technology issues.


Tuesday 2 August 2011

Annual Rollover Update

Just a quick update on the progress of the annual rollover, a day late, apologies for that.

Everything has gone very well, all 11/12 modules pulled through from SITS, staff rollover of enrolments has happened.  There appear to have been a small number of staff not having their enrolments copied across, but we have planned for that by giving lecturers a form to request new modules.

We are now creating any new custom course areas that get requested, so all is running smoothly.

Add to this the training of the Course Admin teams and we are well set for our handover of administrative processes, all in all, a well planned and implemented summer is well under way.