The potential of QR Codes

November 18, 2010

When I received a catalog from REI recently (yes, I'm in Oregon and I love REI!), the back cover had a square'ish looking dotted graphic on it with a call to action beneath it: "To find the nearest store near you scan this QR Code with your smartphone." I pulled out my Droid X and quickly scanned the two-dimensional barcode. The content that I was given via the QR Code was a bit of a letdown (sorry REI), but it did make me ponder the use of QR Codes within the context of higher education. As with any technology that is still widely considered to be "high tech/cutting edge," QR Codes remain fairly unknown to most practitioners.

The nice thing about the REI example is that even if you didn't know about QR Codes, they provide a nice introduction on their mailing for how you could use the code:

"If you don't already have a QR Code reader on your phone, there are lots of free apps you can download. When you've got your app, point your phone's camera at the QR Code, and watch the magic happen."

QR stands for "quick response." A QR Code scanning app can quickly interpret data from the code and display it on your phone. Several sites offer QR Code creation tools. Bit.ly, KAYWA, and Google have easy to use QR Code creators. Here's an example of a QR Code from Google's URL Shortener. If you don't have a QR Code reader on your phone, here's a great site for finding an app that will work on your phone.

QR Codes have a tremendous amount of potential for higher education. Being able to scan a printed code from either a piece of print collateral or a web page creates opportunities for several student affairs functional areas. Here are a couple of ideas that come to mind...

Admissions offices across the country frequently send out mailings to prospective students. A QR Code in a prominent place on a viewbook can provide links to YouTube videos, information about majors, and a direct link to a campus visitors center.

Student Activities / Involvement departments can use QR Codes on posters to link students to event information.

Campus Auxiliary Services units can use QR Codes for promotional purposes. Incentives can be given out to students who scan in the codes and special sales events can be promoted via QR Codes.

Campus units can use QR Codes to build a fan base on their Facebook page or to increase their Twitter followers. The intersection of traditional marketing with new technologies and the social web allows for enhanced communication channels for student affairs practitioners to connect with students.

I plan on putting a QR Code on my business cards. Anyone with a smartphone and a code reader can then readily access any URL that I wish them to browse on their mobile phone.

How are you using QR Codes?

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