You’re probably used to seeing one-dimensional, traditional bar codes printed on clothes or groceries. Today, Quick Response (or QR) codes are coming into fashion. These 2-dimensional codes consist of a collection of small blocks, similar to dots, instead of the iconic bars.
Traditional bar code (1-D)
QR codes were first created in 1994, to track vehicles during the manufacturing process at high speed. In 2002, when Japanese handset makers and others wanted to turn everyone’s phone camera into a barcode scanner for marketing purposes, QR codes made perfect sense. With two dimensions to work within, QR codes can store several hundred times the amount of information carried by ordinary bar codes. They can contain anything that can fit into a maximum of around 4k (roughly one page of text).
Nowadays QR codes are everywhere. Trucks, posters, menus, buildings, business cards, t-shirts, stores, and even food items sport the box of blocks. ScanLife’s mobile bar-code trend report 2011 says: “in the time you read this blog post, 60 unique scans were processed through the ScanLife system … we are now processing more than one scan per second and a year ago it was 10 per minute.” The report also cites that there are 45 million people in the US using QR codes today, a 300% increase in QR code generation compared to last year.
Looking at the increasing scope of QR codes, and the amount of information they can store, we’ve come up with a few observations on how they can be used in online classes. The efficacy of QR codes in learning can also be seen in Bath University’s Head of E-Learning, Andy Ramsden’s, working paper: The use of QR codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics.
The only hitch in the QR codes use is that they can also be used to distribute malware. Teachers who share QR codes from foreign sources (codes they didn’t create) should:
- Check the embedded link before displaying the code to students, to make sure the link points where it should
- Include a warning that this code was not generated by the instructor.
Here are five ways that teachers can use QR codes in the classroom:
1. Extra information in presentations and course content
If you have online courses, classes, tutorials, tests or other resources relevant to the syllabus, that you want students to access, you can create a QR code for each resource. Teachers can embed QR codes into PowerPoint slides, course material, handouts, syllabus documents, webinars, class downloads, and onto whiteboards. Students will easily be able to access the resource by scanning the QR code. Here’s an example QR code of a WizIQ public class. If you scan this code with a QR code scanning app on your mobile device, it will open the class URL:
2. Obtain session feedback
QR Codes can also be used for obtaining instant student feedback. When students scan the YES or NO code, a pre-written SMS goes to an SMS service which can be accessed by the presenter via a web page. Check this image as an example.
Students can also follow up and answer the open ended questions, if any, by SMS text messages. This saves a lot of time, quantifies the results, and maintains anonymity.
3. RSS news feed subscriptions
Allow students to easily and instantly subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed updates. Just generate a QR code using your feed URL, and display it in your virtual class. Students can scan to subscribe. As an example, you can subscribe to our blog feed using the QR code below. Simply scan the code with a QR code reading app on your mobile device:
4. Homework and remarks
Teachers can embed their homework assignments into QR codes. Just paste the code onto the virtual classroom whiteboard, and let students scan it. Students can even send you their completed work in the form of their own QR code.
5. QR codes for notes
Class notes can be encrypted in QR codes so students can pay more attention during the lecture. QR codes can also be used for tour notes to make students familiar with new facilities on campuses. (A similar on-campus use is shown in the study success of QR codes in libraries.) Here’s an example of a QR code containing notes. Again, you can scan and read the notes contained in this code:
What other ways might we be able to use QR codes in our virtual schools? We’d love to hear your ideas!