Ten ways to use QR Codes

Sorry, this is not a blog post on ten ways to use QR Codes, but it is a blog post about what you actually can do with QR Codes. Once you know what you can do with QR Codes then you can build learning activities round those functions.

So what can you do with QR Codes?

QR Codes can be used to:

  • Display text to the user.
  • Add contact details to the user’s device, a vCard.
  • Open an Uniform Resource Identifier URI (most usually a web address of some kind).
  • Compose an e-mail address with the correct address.
  • Compose an SMS text message with the correct SMS number.

So there are five ways to use a QR Code. From those five ways, you can take an individual function and expand on how it can be used for teaching and learning, so for example taking the “open an URI” function, there are many ways that can be used to support learning.

Knowing what the five functions are, you can then be sure that QR Codes are the correct solution to solve a particular problem.

For example, you can use a QR Code to display text to a user. It has to be asked why would you display a QR Code to a user for text, when the text might as well be displayed, or given on paper! One reason you might for example is if you want the user to then take text move to a different location and then act on instructions in the text. With some large QR codes allowing up to 1852 characters you could provide users with some instructions or rules or something that they need to keep close. With text to speech, a user could read a QR Code and then the phone could read the text to the user. So there are reasons for using the text function of QR Codes, especially as the user won’t need any connectivity to read the text. However if displaying the text would be just as effective, why then use a QR Code?

Adding contact details is useful, for example providing details of the Library support phone number and e-mail address. QR Codes provide a quick and easy to add those details to a user’s address book on their device.

Opening an URI (for example a web address) is an often used function of QR Codes, we use it ourselves in the Gloucestershire College libraries. The best way though to think of QR Codes is as an URL shortener, like TinyURL, bitly or is.gd taking a long URL and providing learners with a shortened version. One mistake that people make is forgetting that when using QR Codes, the web page will 99.9% of the time be then displayed on a mobile device, probably using 3G. So there is little point in pushing out web content that won’t work on mobile devices or is huge etc…. Remembering that QR Codes are merely a way of shortening URIs for mobile devices means that users will get a better experience. Don’t just use a QR Code because you can, use it because it makes a difference, makes it easier for learners and makes it faster to access “the something else” that the learners need.

Using QR Codes to enable a user to send an e-mail or an SMS I think is a really useful way of using the technology. Do you want more information? Do you need help? Vote for this awful singer on X-Factor! Sign up for a newsletter. Of course it implies that either their device can send e-mails or they want to pay to send a text.

So sorry there aren’t ten ways of using a QR Code in this blog post, but I hope it clarifies what QR Codes actually do, the five actual ways to use a QR Code.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with using QR Codes, because they are QR Codes. We once did a QR Code treasure hunt, the reason though was not because we wanted to use something “awesome” no it was because we wanted to promote the use of QR Codes in the library that were been used to help students find e-resources and online content.

4 thoughts on “Ten ways to use QR Codes”

  1. How about, to provide a link to your course Moodle as the college homepage designers did not include a link to the student portal.

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