QR Code

Andy Ramsden’s (University of Bath) introductory keynote at last weeks Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference highlighted a relatively new technology that is QR Codes.

A QR (Quick Response) Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese Corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The contents of a code might include, for example, the link to a web-site or a phone number. The codes can be scanned by mobile phones or webcams to decode the contents at high-speed.

For me, QR codes are nothing new. I think this is mainly due to the fact that my Nokia N95 has a barcode scanner application installed by default. Out of curiosity I seem to remember playing around with them about 18 months ago, only to discover that they’re extremely popular in Japan for marketing purposes with mobile tagging.

For example; in Japan, QR Codes storing information such as URLs may appear in magazines, newspapers, signs, buses, bill-boards or just about any object that users might need information about. Users can then scan the codes using their mobile phones to access the URL or other information.

Ramsden’s keynote was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone else talk about QR codes. He pointed out some potential uses in education, such as providing access to further guidance, classroom/lecture evaluation, signing up for news alerts and for student induction.

He also provided some interesting stats. Only 13.8% of a student sample population knew what a QR code is, whilst only 2.2% had ever accessed one.

Although the numbers are low, it would seem that many people with camera phones already have the technology in their pockets – they just don’t know it. Some phones (e.g. Nokia N95) already come bundled with QR code reading software, but many require a reader to be downloaded and installed before being able to use the phone’s camera to detect the codes.

Some popular QR Code readers include Kaywa, QuickMark, i-nigma and SnapMaze. Many of these websites also allow you to generate your own codes, encoding content such as URLs, text and phone numbers.

QR codes have certainly taken off in Japan, but it would seem much of the UK is yet to explore this technology. It may be difficult to promote the codes until they are more widely used. Whether there is a potential for use in education remains to be seen……

Andy Ramsden is the Head of e-Learning at the University of Bath. He is currently heading up a project on QR codes with Andy Mee from the University of East Anglia to explore how QR codes can be used in higher education.

Download Andy Ramsden’s Keynote Slides

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