Monday, March 25, 2013

QR Codes – Short-Lived Fad or Long Term Solution?

By Dean Hawkinson

It seems like only yesterday that we began to see websites being posted for the first time on advertisements as the internet became more and more popular among advertisers and consumers. It got to the point that you were hard pressed to find advertising without a website associated with it.

Jump several years into the future to today where we now carry the mobile internet in our pockets with our smartphones and tablets, and are never without the internet at our fingertips. Now, I sit down to enjoy my large coke at my favorite fast food establishment and low and behold, there is this strange looking image on my cup that allows me to pull out my smartphone, use the AT&T Code Scanner app (or other scanner app) to “grab” that code and go directly to a website where I can enter a code to win a free order of fries or simply browse their web page. This technology is known as a QR (Quick Response) code.

Go ahead and try it out for yourself! Below is a QR code that you can scan to jump directly to the Integrated Learnings website. You will need to download an app that can read QR codes – there are several free apps available for all the major cell phone operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows). The AT&T Code Scanner is available free of charge for all three.

QR Codes and Learning

So, what do these QR codes have to do with learning? There are numerous ways that Instructional Designers and Trainers can take advantage of QR codes to enhance learning. It is as simple as creating the QR code (more on that in a bit) and downloading it as an image to be added to documents.

Let’s take a look at a few ways QR codes can enhance learning:

  • Instructor-led TrainingPicture a classroom without paper – not too much of a stretch in today’s learning environment – where your participants are using tablets for their interactive participant guides. QR codes can be imbedded into your PowerPoint presentation for instructor-led training and projected via the overhead projector. Using the tablet’s camera and downloadable scanner app, participants can obtain those participant guides and any other resources/job aids stored on a shared site or to be directed to a particular website to support the concepts being learned.
  • Virtual Training – Same principles as Instructor Led training, but you will present the QR code via your Microsoft Live Meeting, Adobe Connect or other virtual classroom. It truly adds an element of interactivity to your virtual training.
  • eLearning – In a web-based course, QR codes can be presented on your pages for easy scanning to access websites via a smartphone or tablet, or to obtain documents stored on a server. You can obviously link directly to websites with a link for the computer, but the QR code would be available for purposes when the document or site needs to be accessed via a mobile device.
  • mLearning – QR codes would not be as widely used in an mLearning course as your learner would already be using a mobile device to access the training, so it would just be a matter of placing links in your material to go directly to the website or document. However, you would be able to use a QR code on the computer or printed material for that mobile device to scan and access the mLearning course itself.

Creating a QR Code

There are many different websites that allow you to build QR codes, and most of them are free. One such site is This site will allow you to create QR codes by simply entering the website address into a field and then downloading the code as an image file. You will need to establish a free account to use the site. However, performing an internet search for QR code generator will find many different websites that allow you to do the same thing.

Once you download the image, it is simply a matter of adding the image to your documents for scanning.

QR Codes are Here to Stay (at least for now)

It seems to me that with the simplicity of creating and using QR code technology in learning that this technology is here to stay for the long-term. As we begin to move more into the area of paperless training and using technologies such as tablets and smartphones for use in partnership with training, QR codes will be a very beneficial solution to use.

Have you had experiences with using QR codes in your training design & development? Feel free to share your experiences.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Are You Really Serious About Effective E-learning?

By Jonathan Shoaf

I recently came across an infographic about determining the costs of a custom e-learning course. From my years of experience doing e-learning, I think the graphic is dead on. To summarize, it lists three important factors that determine the cost of an e-learning course:
  1. Graphics and multimedia
  2. Level of interactivity
  3. Instructional design time
I'm not going to go into the details now. Just know that the more complex each of these are, the more costly the project will be.

Out of curiosity, I took a poll at my organization to determine the level of complexity of each area used in our projects. The consensus I found is that instructional design is often the most complex. My area of the organization deals with a lot of technical information so this is not surprising. However, I would venture to say that most e-learning projects are instructional design heavy when it comes to cost.

So why would I say this? Instructional designers are the foot soldiers when it comes to creating learning. They are often asked to wear many hats but their expertise is instructional design and that is where most of their time goes.

Wearing many hats is so common that organizations often don't hire the expertise they need for the other two areas that effect the cost of e-learning: graphics and multimedia and level of interactivity. That is why most e-learning is weak in that area. It's not because instructional designers don't think about these things that they get omitted, it's because they often don't have the time or required expertise to achieve them.

Graphics and multimedia often requires a graphic designer or expert in video production. Creating interactivity often requires the use of Flash or other skills that a web developer would have. Organizations often don't hire the required skill sets to excel in these areas. They either don't budget for it or don't know how to find the skills needed. I personally think the skill set required is an emerging field in the workplace.

This gap leaves well designed e-learning without the support of informative graphics and other multimedia. Instead, stock graphics or poorly produced video ends up being used. Sometimes multimedia is "repurposed" for the e-learning but it ends up not being the ideal presentation to the learner.

Interactivity that engages the learner is left out. Learning through discovery is not provided. The e-learning often becomes a page turner with lots of reading or voice overs that drown the learner in words and voice. "When can I click the next button again?" they ask.

So I have to ask:
  • Are you really serious about effective e-learning?
  • Why put all the instructional design resources into a project but then leave it lackluster and disengaging?
I know, I's cost.  It's all about costs.  Well not always. It's also because of a lack of in-house skill sets.

I think those are valid reasons e-learning often comes up short. However, I think there is something else. Most organizations have not fully committed to e-learning. They understand the cost savings aspects of it. But they have found it difficult to make it even close to as engaging as face-to-face training because of a lack of initiative.

Most learning and development organizations know how to win at face-to-face. But e-learning? Are we really doing what it takes to win?