Friday, December 11, 2015

QR Codes and Your Syllabus

Ever feel like your syllabus becomes a major work of contractual obligation, spelling out expectations, clauses for different areas of the college, purpose, and intent? Do you feel like much of your syllabus is based on issues that have come up in the past and need amending? My syllabus feels like a complex governmental document that doesn't always outline the creativity and importance of the course - but just a lot of boilerplate things that the students don't read anyway.

There is a lot of different ways to reinvent a syllabus, but I would like to add a few QR Codes to my syllabus. By adding Quick Response Codes in my syllabus, students have some quick access to me. Here are some ideas.

  • By scanning a QR Code - students will be able to load my contact information into their phones with one quick scan, including my phone number, email, and office location. 
  • By scanning a QR Code - students will be able to find my office on Google Maps and get there without excuses. 
  • By scanning a QR Code - students can link to the course website or upload a copy of the syllabus to their phones or tablets. 
Students are coming into the classroom phones and tablets. These once basic things are now very powerful. Using CR Codes in developing a quick connect to elements in the syllabus might allow students to quickly access information that would take time to enter into their phones. 

This does not mean that we will discard traditional syllabus information and institutional goals and templates. But it does give students Quick Response Codes that will allow them to gather information quickly and have it in their devices. 

For students who are not interested in scanning codes - they still have access to the printed material and information. While it might seem like a novelty - it also can guide them to places like the course website, the login space for a LMS, or even take them to the library homepage for help with subject guides and other resources. 

Assignment Sheets
This concept applies to assignment sheets. When I present an assignment to my class, the first thing I do is pass it out on paper. If there is a QR Code on the top of the assignment sheet - students can then use their phones or devices to access the URL where they can find the electronic versions of the assignment. On that sheet, students might also find QR Codes for library resources and other elements. While I would provide links and other pathways to discovery for non-scanners, this would be an easy why for students to find this information. 

Tutoring centers could develop their own QR Code - a key to signing up for tutoring appointments or schedule. 

I should mention - I really admire the practicality of QR Code boxes, however, I think they look oppressive. I've seen some graphic designed boxes that look cool. I wonder where the line can be draw between funcationaly and looks when it comes to these codes. I annotated a poem using QR Codes and it looked so odd. 

In searching for cool QR Codes I found these and -- they work! Try it! 

Like all technology, we run the risk of putting too much focus on a particular element of technology. In looking at different ways to use these boxes, it has allowed me to study a peice of imprintable media that can be used in a variety of ways. It isn't all very functional. In fact, sometimes, it doesn't work at all. But it is a way for us to help students input, access, and share information on the devices in their hands right now. It has also allowed me to develop and think about how these odd electronic keys might open different opportunities for me and the students in an academic setting. 

Any feedback, ideas, or collaboration on these ideas are always welcome.

Ron Samul is a writer and educator. For more information or to contact him, go to 

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