Thursday, April 8, 2010

QR codes: linking digital and physical space

Time for another update… Many of you would know that QR codes are a pet project for me and I’ve been trying to wangle them into the library for a while now. My nagging recently coincided with the decision to increase our video content and so viola - QR codes and our YouTube channel are a match made in heaven! We worked with a team of people to prioritise the content of the videos, then scripted them and early this year two colleagues and I agreed to star in them. We shot the vids and now you can enjoy watching them at your leisure on our YouTube channel! Most of them are very short (20-40 seconds) and informative or instructional about areas or services in the library.

For example, you can see in these images how QR codes are being used next to our self-service loans machine to link people to our video about how to use the machine. Our most popular video by far (starring Ashley – soon to be guest blogger) is the one explaining our printing system. The vids are also embedded in our website at relevant spots and it’s always fun to teach an IL class and come across a video of myself on the website… “hey, that’s you”… lol. I recently gave a presentation and introduced myself with 'you might remember me from such places as the library youTube channel...'

The two other stars of the videos and myself were recently recognised by the university for our contribution to social media because of this QR code video project. We were invited to ring the university bell to mark the start off semester. The festive occasion was much fun and we were honored to ring the bell and receive a commemorative pen.

I also recently had a paper published in inCite called QR codes and the mobile web. I'm putting a pre-print up for those who haven’t seen it yet.

QR codes and the mobile web
We are engaged in the delivery of high quality information literacy training and services to clients. We endeavour to maintain awareness of emerging trends in technology and communications with regard to their impact on educational and library settings. Through this process we hope to better meet the needs and expectations of our clients by creating an evolving and dynamic teaching, learning and research environment. One way we are trying to achieve this is through the use of QR codes. QR codes are barcodes for the 21st century that can be scanned by a web-enabled mobile device and link you to digital content such as a website, video, podcast, quiz, pdf, or almost anything!

Recently, Australia has experienced a massive increase in the use of mobile devices and clients now expect to access library services and resources anywhere, anytime. The nature of a mobile device means that digital content can now be accessed immediately, in context, when it’s most relevant or bookmarked for later. QR codes are a simple way to achieve this by connecting the physical and digital worlds through the use of a mobile device.

Trend watching: What the experts say
The recent ANZ Horizon Report (2009) outlines key technology trends they recognise as emerging in educational settings over the next two to five years. QR codes are recognised in two categories:
The delivery of mobile content and augmented realities emerging within the next two to three years.
  • This includes the development of educational gaming programs using augmented reality layers and making use of geo-location technology

  • QR codes are included in this category because of their ability to deliver mobile content when a connection between the physical and digital worlds is required
As part of a group of ‘smart objects’ which are classified as technology that connects the physical and digital worlds, emerging within the next four to five years.
  • Includes technology such as QR codes, RFID, smart cards and microchips
  • QR codes are included in this category because they combine “the ability to collect and transmit information with the means to immediately use that information“ (Horizon, p.22, 2009)

Physical and digital spaces
QR codes have been used in a wide variety of contexts such as music, museums, games, marketing, libraries and education. In all contexts they have been used to connect users in a physical space to contextualised digital content.
We are trialling QR codes in a number of ways. We are placing them on objects in the physical library such as self-check machines and printers where assistance may be required. This allows clients to take a photo of the QR code and immediately watch a short demonstration of the service they are trying to use. Traditionally, instructional and promotional materials have been text-based, however with the addition of QR codes these resources are now enhanced with more dynamic content.

QR codes can be used on promotional bookmarks and brochures to connect clients to online content in context. QR codes can also be used online to link to specific mobile content. For example, we are launching a mobile website in February 2010 which runs on a range of mobile platforms including iphone/itouch, Android, Windows mobile and Opera mini. A simple way of promoting the mobile site to clients is placing a QR code on the library home page. The code links clients to the new mobile site and they can immediately move around the library searching and browsing at the shelf rather than at the PC terminal. Similarly, databases are starting to provide mobile platforms and QR codes could be used in the OPAC to link clients directly to mobile databases rather than having to type in a long URL. While these ideas are simple, they provide library clients with easy access to mobile content and services.

Moving forward
We are raising client awareness of QR codes so that clients can use this new technology more effectively. We will monitor this pilot project by tracking usage statistics of the content we link to and engaging in discussion with clients through our social networking sites. We see the addition of QR codes to our promotional and instructional material as a way to enhance traditional services rather than replacing them altogether. As the number of people using mobile devices increases, so does the demand for mobile content. Here, we aim to meet that demand by continuing to develop services that address client needs. Through the use of QR codes we will enhance our existing library services and create a more engaging and dynamic library environment.

More information can be found in this poster Sophie presented at the UTS Teaching and Learning Forum and at the HCTD Mobile Research Workshop both held in November 2009: The ANZ Horizon report can be found here:

1 comment:

  1. I've been having a bit of a fiddle with QR codes (since I read your thingie in inCite). Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be a useful technology at MPOW simply because mobile reception is quite dodgy in our building. Some of the areas where we would be most likely to use the codes are deadspots, or data is limited to 2G speeds.

    Nevertheless, I'll keep having a fiddle and see what I can work out :-D