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Volume XXXVII, No. 22 | October 9, 2015

Using QR Codes as Communication and Documentation Tools in Higher Education

Lehigh Carbon Community College’s (LCCC) Teacher Education department recently started using QR codes to address some specific marketing and instructional needs. Because the department includes more than six major programs taught in various formats, faculty members wanted a way to promote a shared vision and mission to current students and instructors, as well as a way to provide an accessible, comprehensive means to document the department’s history and programs to prospective students and the community.

The original plan was to design a poster that could be displayed on campus and that could be taken to national conferences. Typical posters, however, have a space constraint and are often laden with small print, making them inadequate to communicate all aspects of the Teacher Education program. A decision was made to connect today’s technologically savvy college population to the necessary information by using Quick Response (QR) codes to link printed information with the virtual world. Incorporating embedded technology into a hardscape documentation panel rather than in a paper poster allows for engaging photographs and an exponentially higher amounts of content. An aesthetically pleasing format also increases the likelihood that participants become interested enough to stop, read, and digest the displayed material.

A QR code documentation panel titled “Striving for National Prominence in a Teacher Education Interdisciplinary Model at Lehigh Carbon Community College” was developed to promote the department’s mission and to generate prospective students’ interest in the early childhood education, special education, early childhood education, early intervention, paraprofessional, special education, and education programs. Featured on the documentation panel are model college classrooms and photographs of student/faculty engagement at LCCC. Three-dimensional flaps house QR codes with links to college media and brochures that can be easily updated. Key topics include guiding principles, service learning projects, innovative teaching strategies, faculty awards, social media, community partnerships, and professional development. The board also features program requirements for each teacher education major and profiles of U.S. Department of Education grants awarded to the college, including Project REACH, a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs grant that helped to fund the documentation panel and faculty workshops about integrating QR codes into course syllabi and in-class interactive experiences.

To make teaching and learning more visible, the trifold manufactured panel is prominently displayed outside department offices. Current students can scan the board from their own smartphones or from iPads borrowed from the department. Prospective students touring the campus and community members attending evening non-credit workshops can scan the board on the spot or capture it for later viewing.

Marketing has been impacted through this display board because prospective students who are on campus when classes are not in session can experience a vivid display of small group work, service learning engagements, and documentation of students’ projects by scanning authentic photographs and video clips. Anecdotally, the effectiveness of marketing through this board is evidenced by workshop attendees asking faculty members about taking credit-bearing courses. Quantitatively, faculty and staff are currently calculating the number of QR scans and links that have been accessed to evaluate their actual use.

The QR code documentation panel was presented at a poster session at Temple University’s 2014 Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence where an iPad was also used with the board. The use of embedded technology served as a prototype for offering an exponentially higher amount of content than that typically available in a traditional poster session. The session, which was very well received by faculty attendees, exposed participants to this innovative technology-based format that can be used for data-driven posters or for marketing displays by institutions of higher education. Visit to view the documentation panel.

An additional marketing strategy is using Teacher Education bookmarks that have QR codes for the department’s Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook pages. The bookmarks have been distributed to current students, to community workshop attendees, and to hundreds of high school students visiting campus. Within these social media outlets are hundreds of photographs of LCCC faculty and students that showcase curriculum projects and internship classroom environments. Links include archived Project REACH department newsletters that connect to websites, professional development opportunities, and articles about a specific special education topic each month. As an indication of its effectiveness, the department’s social media outlets have many hundreds of followers.

Workshop presentations at LCCC have highlighted how to create QR codes and incorporate them into course syllabi and college courses. Instructional uses include syllabi with embedded QR codes linked to the class website, electronic resources for class reading, or textbook supplemental materials. QR codes in syllabi can also send students to national organizations’ websites or video clips, or can highlight examples of completed course assignments with rubrics.

The use of QR codes in syllabi may save the college money due to less copying of lengthy syllabi being required and fewer paper handouts being required for class. The use of QR codes also makes sharing documents, photographs, and websites among faculty members and students much more efficient. Currently, some faculty members also use QR codes for in-class interactive experiences. The QR codes can also provide self and group assessment through surveys, and they can provide directions for using lab equipment and for small group experiences.

Pinning QR codes to walls around the classroom offers students an opportunity to move in small groups to view clips of national museums or to evaluate websites. One of LCCC’s early intervention adjunct faculty members states, “In ECI 230, one of the major assignments includes the self-paced and self-guided evidence-based CONNECT module, Embedded Interventions. For approximately half of the class sessions each semester, students individually and independently explore the website to complete activity sheets, watch videos, and view website handouts. Students use the QR codes to quickly and easily access these materials and work at their own pace. It has been so nice for students to be able to scan the QR code in a split second rather than having to type in the entire website address each time they needed to access the website.”

Some faculty members are planning assignments in which students create their own QR codes to showcase their own curriculum materials and project work. In teacher education, students can practice creating QR codes to better document teaching and learning for children’s displays and open houses in their future classrooms. In education, QR codes can be embedded into paper or online newsletter formats for family communication. The use of QR codes can also create differentiated instruction for auditory and visual learners who may benefit from multiple means of communication.

Lehigh Carbon Community College is continually seeking new avenues to fully engage students, to ensure a shared vision among all teacher education students and faculty members, and to market its programs. QR codes are used extensively in advertising and in museum displays; however, their use and effectiveness with college students and in poster sessions at professional conferences in higher education has not been fully explored. In upcoming semesters, the teacher education faculty at LCCC will continue to investigate ways to embed technology into syllabi, course assignments, and in visual documentation panels that communicate the department’s mission and history.

Melanie Wursta, Professor and Coordinator, Teacher Education
Carly Simon, Making Learning Transparent Specialist
Judy Brown-DuPaul, Part-Time Faculty, Teacher Education

For further information, contact the authors at Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078. Email:

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