QR Codes in Higher Ed

QR codes often get a bad rap in higher ed with some even calling them a fad, and thus not worth bothering with. And with how I’ve seen them used I really can’t disagree with them. But I don’t see that as indicative of them being a fad in the sense of hammer pants, rather it’s because of the poor application of QR codes.

Lets take the QR codes I found in the last issue of the KaLeo, the student newspaper of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. NOTE: This is not the KaLeo’s fault as these were all in ad space. I found what totaled to six QR codes in ads and I would give a failing grade to all. The reason is rather simple also, they all went to full websites. Nothing was meant for the phone’s screen size. The worst offender was in fact from a UH program that went to a website that was Flash based. I was pretty shocked by that since that basically said “who cares about iPhone users.”

So in this example fault doesn’t lie with higher ed but its examples like this that make higher ed professional weary of using QR codes.

Another example was the QR codes used by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Career Center which boldly placed QR codes on their Career Fair materials but the link went to a full website. I am using (picking on) UH Manoa here simply because it’s the organization I am affiliated with currently as a graduate student but I’m sure other universities are at fault as well.

QR Codes aren’t just for web links

This is a fact I seem to see all to often, the idea that QR codes are only usable as web links. I’ll say it, this is FLAT OUT WRONG. By simply going to a QR generator site such as QR Stuff you can see that there are over a dozen options for what you can do with a QR code. There are incredible uses that QR codes hold that could easily make offices work easier. Here are a few uses:

  • Add a QR code on event flyers that when scanned automatically adds the event to a students calendar.
  • On program information flyers have a link take their phone to a mobile friendly website so they can learn more about the program so they can come in the office knowing more than just “we have X program at Z University!”
  • Scan the QR code for a destination for fun scavenger hunts or to help lost students with Google Maps or Foursquare
  • QR code on Business cards to quickly scan in vCard information.

Students don’t use QR codes

This is common yet valid statement many use as a way to avoid using QR codes. I can’t really disagree with that but people, no matter who they are use things because they find value in using it. Students don’t really bother with QR codes yet because they aren’t seeing any value in doing so. It’s up to departments to step up and make value content for their QR codes.

Reminders!

  1. Make whatever is the target for the QR code be mobile friendly as QR codes are meant for mobile devices!
  2. Test your code out before you print out flyers or whatever the QR code is going on. It would be embarrassing to print out 1,000 flyers only to learn afterwards your QR code doesn’t work.
  3. QR codes don’t have to be black and white. Add some color to fit in with where you’re using them!

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