7 ways higher education can use QR codes to connect with current and prospective students


qrcodeQuick Response (QR) codes (or box codes) are two-dimensional codes that can be scanned by the camera on a smartphone device. Snapping a photo of a QR code will automatically connect you to text, photos, videos, music, or Web sites associated with that code.

The beauty of using a QR code on a flier, pamphlet, booklet, or anywhere else in higher education is that it creates a bridge between real-world material and online resources. There’s no need for students to memorize the address for your event’s Web page or search around your school’s Web site looking for more information. Just point, snap and connect – instantly.

Although the technology hasn’t quite become mainstream yet, QR code readers are readily available for most smartphone platforms (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc). As more people begin to embrace and utilize these codes, your school should be ahead of the curve and ready to take advantage.

Are they going to take off tomorrow? Probably not. In fact, QR codes may never fully take off for the majority of students. But they’re a low-cost, low-risk way to link students to resources and information, and the people that do use them will be glad you made it convenient for them to access whatever information you linked to the codes.

We recommend that you start a pilot project now. Connect with your IT team to uncover opportunities (see the list below for some starters) and try it out. Of course, you’ll want to ensure that you have strong tracking mechanisms in place.

Here’s a list of ideas for how to use QR codes in higher education:

  1. Add links to your school’s Facebook page (you have one of those, right?) on any promotional material you send to prospective students. This will make it easier for your students to dash on over to Facebook to see what the campus is talking about.  (Not sure your social media strategy is up to par? My team has some great experience and ideas for you.)
  2. Have professors include links to supplemental online materials and readings in QR code format. Students get very frustrated when they are not sure what they are supposed to read for a class. Take out any confusion by offering up a direct link.
  3. Create a scavenger hunt of online material to get new students familiar with the campus and the school’s website. Make it fun for students to learn about your campus and Web site by creating a social activity. Offer prizes to participants.
  4. Advertise new upcoming classes with attached Web site information for full course details. Making an easier transition from finding out about a new class to actually registering will help build interest and registrations.
  5. Create one- or two-question surveys that can be accessed via QR code. Gauge student sentiments quickly and easily by hosting a mobile-friendly one- or two-question survey, making it accessible by QR code so students can participate on the fly.
  6. Incorporate QR codes into your print and display advertising resources. Since I spend most of my time in airports, I’ve noticed more of those backlit displays offering QR codes to get further details or make an inquiry. This makes facilitating the connection fast and simple. Consider creating a custom landing page somewhere in your Web site that’s optimized for people coming in via these codes.
  7. Create a self-guided tour of campus. Create QR codes for each major stop along your ideal campus tour, turn them into stickers and cue users to look for them as they walk along. Reward their enthusiasm with “insider view” video clips about each venue and even use this opportunity to connect them with upcoming events or classes in each building.

It’s always fun and easy to come up with the ideas, but the trick is implementation. Here are some resources to help you take next steps toward a pilot project:

Some other real-world implementations I’ve received from some colleagues include:

  • Seth Meranda, the user experience architect at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and an associate consultant at Noel-Levitz shares that the UNL campus has created their own URL-shortening service that creates branded QR codes. Check out UNL’s QR code generator.
  • Tricia Petty¸ associate vice president for University Relations Operations at West Virginia University says that they’ve started utilizing QR codes at international recruitment events. In Asia (especially Korea and Japan), QR codes have become much more widely adopted and are perfect marketing tools for these markets, she says. Also, she sees value for the codes at in-person events, such as college fairs, where faculty can quickly educate students on the technology.
  • Brian Gallagher, director of online technologies at the University of District of Columbia, has begun implementing the codes. They use a URL “shortener” and code combination to make small, fast codes that include Google Analytics tracking code information. They also work to educate students on how the codes work by including a link with each use of a code to a spot on the UDC website where they can learn more.

Have any questions about how QR codes work or want more tips on how to implement them on your campus? Just drop me a comment below and we can discuss. It’s exciting to think about all of the possibilities that QR codes open for interaction between schools and their students.

About the author

Stephanie Geyer directs website development and e-communications projects for Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

Ms. Geyer has served institutions such as the University of Arizona, Saint Louis University (MO), and The University of Findlay (OH). Her Web consultation services are based on current best practices in enrollment management and are frequently integrated with recruitment and marketing consultations and market research projects.

Read more about Stephanie’s experience and expertise »

Reach Stephanie by e-mail at Stephanie.Geyer@RuffaloNL.com.

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