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Western Kentucky University

QR Codes in Instruction

What is a QR Code?

QR Codes, or quick response codes, are those pixilated squares you might have seen on advertisements, like this one with FaCET's URL:

A QR Code, short for Quick Response, can contain a variety of information:

  • URLs;
  • short text messages;
  • geo location;
  • event date/time/location;
  • contact information.

 To watch a video demonstration visit:

 Why use QR Codes?

A)     You want to make the physical world clickable—more directly linked to the virtual world. Some call this augmenting reality. You want a student to easily hop from a print document or physical object to a website, for example.

B)      You have a complex URL, contact information, geographical location or message that would be simpler to grab with a smart phone than type in.

C)      Requires very little time/effort to create them (fill in very brief form, submit, copy your QR code to where you want to use it).

D)     Catches student attention for at least awhile because students are attached to their phones. And because there is a certain appeal to the "hidden message"

How do you make a QR code?

They are incredibly easy to make (but pick a reputable website so you don't get nasty embedded messages). The Google generator is at 

1. Enter your information,

2. click generate and you have a QR code to suit your purpose.

3. Right click on the image and save it then put it in documents, on a website, etc.

You can even set up your PC to read the QR codes using QuickMark. Available for download at Be sure you find the version for your type of computer.

Students can download and install it so even if they don't have a smart phone they can still read the online images.

 How do you read a QR code?

If your phone has a camera and QR reader or bar code scanner software then you are ready to do it. 

(If you don't have the software search app stores with the name of your phone and "barcode scanner" or "QR reader" for freebies or visit 

For security reasons, search for one that lets you determine what happens after the QR Code is scanned rather than automatically opening a link, dialing a number, or installing contact information.) 

(Read on if you don't have an Internet-enabled cell phone, there is a work around below). 

You start the app, point the camera at the QR code and the phone will reveal the information contained in it, just like the scanner at the supermarket. It should ask what you want to do with the information. For example, if it is a URL, you click and go to the website.

Uses for education?

Here are the ideas I've encountered in my research on the topic. For most of these you could have the student do the creating and thus have them more engaged with the learning.


Dispensing complex instructional information more efficiently

Classroom Management

  • Create a QR code with exam dates or other important due dates and post in your course.
  • Provide a link to your contact information.
  • Put QR codes on a calendar leading to the homework due that day.
  • Put in QR Codes to Academic Technology training videos for Blackboard tasks the students need to learn.
  • If you create a manual and some sections change frequently, post those changes on a website and place a QR Code (and URL) in the manual the students buy. Update the website and all the manuals will have the most current information



  • Make QR tags leading to a geographical coordinate for a place and have it open in Google Maps.
  • Tag parts of a historical building with QR codes leading to text or URLs for visitors to learn more about aspects of that era.
  • Mark equipment with codes that provide text or URL/videos showing how to operate the equipment.
  • Insert a QR code in a video to enable the viewer to easily go to a link that is otherwise unclickable.
  • Tag pictures in a gallery with a URL to learn more about the paintings or to a discussion board where they can post an opinion or observation.
  • Tag food with nutritional information or attach a QR code to a recipe that links to a video of the food being cooked.
  • Put a QR code at the end of a slide presentation with the URL for accessing the slide show, getting more content.
  • See for a variety of suggestions about health applications, such as carrying a key chain with a QR code that links to personal health information.
  • Share a QR code leading to a YouTube video reenacting a battle you are teaching about in a history course.
  • Tag objects with its name in a foreign language (print them out on sticker paper—but pick stuff that can be removed easily, like post-it note paper. You don't want to deface the campus).
  • Attach QR Codes to a skeleton with links to more information....or have students attach the QR codes based on clues on a link.
  • Attach a scenario to an object via a QR Code (Imagine you are....).
  • Link to a discussion board for reflection on responses.
  • Have students write haiku and convert to QR Codes as a commentary on technology and society.
  • Create a QR Literature Quest ( )
  • Have students do a service learning project in which they create QR codes for a facility telling more about how it functions for visitors/orientations.
  • With permission, tag cemetery monuments with stories relevant to the life of the person that reveal historical trends.
  • Marketing classes of course need to learn about QR codes as they are used in advertising and marketing. They should include a personal QR code on their resumes/business cards linking to information about themselves.
  • There are quite a variety of YouTube videos in which QR codes are reproduced with unusual tools, e.g., M&Ms and then tested to see if they work. Could function as an art project as up to 30% of the code can be altered without losing the message.
  • Make QR Code name tags for students to wear on the first day of class. (But explain what information is on the name tag). Or have them put a QR Code on their exam, so that you can grade them anonymously.
  • Have students create their own clever ways to use QR Codes.
  • Display space is too small? Add QR codes so they can get more information.



  • Put a QR code at the end of a slide presentation with the URL for accessing the slide show to a knowledge-check quiz on the content.
  • Do in class understanding checks by using Twitter voting ( Create a bar code for each type of response and have students send in votes that way.
  • Create a quiz and have the answer in a QR code so they can check their response.
  • Using adaptive release, allow access to a fun website via a QR code after some work is complete.


Engage students in analysis and application

  • Have students tag trees around campus with information about that species (but clear it with the grounds crew in terms of how to best format the tags).
  • Have students embed a story in a series of QR codes. Let the story branch (e.g., "Scan Code 2 to do x, Scan Code 3 to do y").
  • Use a QR code leading students to reputable research tools or to tutorials for particular problems, to scan when they are stuck.
  • Have students create a scavenger hunt in which the clues, tied to course content, are presented in QR Codes.


Professional/Research uses

  • When presenting a poster or paper at a conference, share a QR code that can lead one to more information on the topic/a supporting website or a survey about the session.
  • Put a QR code to the program/majors objectives/mission in the front office or at the main advisor's office.
  • Post samples of the department/program's products using QR codes placed around the facility.
  • Provide orientation information to an area through QR codes.
  • Make a QR Code sending people to the departmental Facebook page.
  • Put a QR code on your business cards. (Or just make a single card you carry and show to whomever can scan it).
  • Encourage your professional conference to put QR codes on conference badges (or create a personal one to tuck into your badge).
  • Tag door nameplates w/QR codes that have contact information/office hours for the occupant.
  • When collecting survey data, post a code to send people to the online survey (but include the full URL for those without familiarity with QR codes).
  • Put QR Codes on books or equipment being loaned with the renewal phone number.
  • Put a QR Code with a review in the front cover of a book.


Issues to consider in planning include

  • Considering how to handle students who don't have a phone that can read the codes,
  • Teaching students to download and use the software for reading the codes,
  • Teaching students to avoid/deal with malicious QR Codes
  • Understanding that the display of websites on phones may vary in quality and desigining your websites for mobile use.
  • Being sure to not deface campus property with stickers.
  • Keeping your information simple so low end phones don't struggle.
  • Considering accessibility. How will the information be available to a students with various disabilities? It is important to provide context for the QR Code. Always provide the information in the QR code nearby so a user can choose how to access it.


(Dec 9, 2009). Some more Educational Uses for QR Codes. Video available:


(Dec 10, 2010) QR Codes: Applications in Education. Video Available:   QR Codes were Created in 1994 by Denso-Wave. Free to use.


Anderson, S. (July 12, 2011). QR Huh? What the heck is a QR Code? Available:  has a good discussion following.


Bath University. (no date). QR Codes at Bath. Available:   Bath seems to be a leader in the QR Code in education field.


Borrett, Lloyd. (June 8, 2011). Beware of Malicious QR Codes. Available:


The Daring Librarian Blog (Dec. 11, 2010). Hot QR Codes in the Classroom & Library. Available:


Educause. (Feb. 2009). 7 things you should know about...QR Codes. Available at


eLearning Blog Don't Waste Your Time (May 28, 2010). QR Codes: In the Classroom. Available:


McGuffey School District, Claysville, PA. (April 23, 2010). Black & White and Scanned All Over. Video available:  [Creative examples of QR codes in a public school.]


O'Brien, L. (2010). Educational uses of QR codes. Available:


QuickMark. (2011). QuickMark QR Code Reader. Available for download at    [Lets' a PC or Mac read bar codes, QR codes].


Ramsden, A. (2008). The use of QR codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics. Working Paper. University of Bath. Available at:


Rees, D. several posts on QR Codes in education. Available starting:


Rogers, D. (Sep 13, 2011). QR code security tips for both consumers and advertisers. Available:


Saravani, S. and J. Clayton (2009). A conceptual model for the educational deployment of QR codes. ASCILITE 2009. Auckland. Available at


Webbmedia Group (June 2, 2009). Tipsheet: 2D Barcodes. Available:




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