5 clever ideas for using QR codes in eLearning


With the proliferation of mobile devices; mlearning or mobile learning has become a great way to provide learners with what they need, when they need it.

However, there are two questions that are often overlooked when thinking about providing learners with on demand m-learning:

  1. How will someone know there is learning available on the topic at hand?
  2. How will they get to that learning?

Too often, the assumption is that people will  be motivated enough to log into a mobile enabled LMS and search through the available material for what they need at that point in time.

Serious question; when’s the last time you needed information to complete a task, such as how to ergonomically set up your desk, and you logged into your company's LMS to find the information rather than just going to Google? I’ve been in eLearning for some time and my default action is Google and YouTube for everything from performing tasks in Microsoft Office through to tuning the rear derailleur on my bike.

Why? Because it’s easier for me to access the information I need via Google than it is in an LMS.

So given that in an organisation, we want our staff to do things in accordance with our processes and policies rather than generic information on Google. How can we make more attractive for our staff to access our internal eLearning or resources on the topic?

By providing quick and easy access to those resources using QR codes!

“What are QR codes?” you ask. They are those little black and white squares you sometimes see that you can scan and they will take you to a URL. A more in depth answer as to what these little squares of awesome are can be found in a recent post we wrote about them. Now that you’re across what they are, here are 5 clever ideas for using QR codes for eLearning.

Idea #1 - Around the office

Around the office, there are various tasks simple tasks that we may now perform often and may need a hand with completing.These are things like:

  • Changing the filter or cleaning out the coffee machine
  • More importantly, ordering coffee if it’s low!
  • Connecting a device to a screen in a meeting room
  • Setting up your desk ergonomically
  • Joining the lunch club
  • Replacing the toner or unjamming the printer

If you don't often perform these tasks, completing this task usually involves grabbing a colleague or IT guy to help out, or time wasted through trial and error. This can be disruptive and often will mean having to wait until someone is available to help you.

Creating short explainer videos or learning bites for completing these tasks, then putting QR codes that will take people directly to the relevant material would be a easy way to allow staff to quickly learn what they need to, without disruption to others or delays.

coffee machine in office with qr code
coffee machine phone instructions office with qr code

Idea #2 - In a retail store

The use of QR codes can be great in a retail environment for both staff and customers.

Let’s take the example of a shoe retail store that has constantly changing shoe stock and a big range. There is a need to keep staff knowledge current so that they are able to provide customers with the right information and know how to sell the various shoes.

Implementing QR labels on the shoe displays, would allow staff to access short learning bites or videos about each shoe during quiet period in the store. At the same time, for those customers who just want to browse uninterrupted, they would be able to use the QR codes to learn about the features and benefits of the shoes they are interested without having to ask a salesperson about everything.

We would obviously need a way to differentiate who is scanning the QR code, a customer or a staff member, to take them to the relevant information. This would be achieved simply by having a specific QR scanner app that staff would use. By default any generic QR scanner would take people to the URL of the customer focused video or learning bite. The app that staff would be required to use, would interpret that same URL slightly differently and take them to their staff training material.

You could even take this idea one step further, and gamify the experience for customers and staff alike. This would be done by creating an app for loyal customers and staff to use.For staff, each time they scan and learn about a shoe it would contribute to their “Learning Missions” and award them badges and recognition for their efforts.

For loyal customers on the other hand, you could design a loyalty program that gave them rewards for scanning shoes, kept track of shoes they already have, allowed them to keep shoe wishlists and made suggestions of shoes they may be interested in based on their preferences and history.

In all these cases, the QR codes on shoe displays would both serve as a gateway to information or learning, but also a visual reminder of what is available to staff and loyal customers.

nike shoes qr code
nike shoes phone instructions qr code

Idea #3 - On the showroom floor

We’ve already looked at how QR codes can be used in the retail space when it comes to products such as shoes, but this concept could also be applied to the automotive sales industry.

For car salespeople, they need to know a lot of technical information about a wide selection of vehicles that they have available for their customers to purchase. There are often also subtle differences between version of a particular car, that are not immediately evident from the exterior.

To help provide timely information in manageable chunks about each car, we would be able to create learning assets that focused on the key areas of knowledge for each car:

  • Engine
  • Boot
  • Driver controls
  • Entertainment system
  • Safety
  • Wheels
  • Cabin

In each of these areas, we would have a subtle QR code that could be scanned and take the staff member to a comprehensive piece of eLearning relating to that area of the car.

Again as with the shoes idea, this concept could be designed in a way that so customers would be given access to the information they want about the vehicle they are looking at, before they go and ask a salesperson for more specific information from a sales person.

car engine qr code
car engine phone instructions qr code

Taking the idea of on demand learning for both consumer and staff in the automotive sales industry, we would implement a more immersive solution by using AR (Augmented Reality) technology rather than QR codes. Hyundai actually already uses AR technology to provide eLearning to their consumers in regards to maintenance and use of their cars.

This same technology could be adapted to be focused on providing training material to staff on the various vehicles they sell as well as providing potential customers with a way to learn about the cars they are interested in without being tailed by a salesperson the entire time.

Idea 4: New employee induction

Employee inductions and onboarding is critical to engagement. Many organisations already provide their new starters with engaging eLearning inductions that are designed to build a connection with the organisation, and empower them to be self sufficient.

However, while completing eLearning at their desk is great, getting new starters get up from their desks to explore and learn about their new working environment is a great way to expand their induction experience.

Designing a “The Amazing Race” exploration experience around the office would be a great way for new starters to get familiar with their workplace, as well as getting them to learn things that are going to be useful in their day to day roles.

To implement this idea, you could have the final page of the online induction instruct learners to download a QR scanner and scan the first code which would be displayed on screen.

From there, they would be taken to the instructions on where they have to go to find the next QR code in the building and complete an activity. At each location, the learner would scan the QR code, complete a an activity which would then give them the instructions on the location of the next QR code.

qr code office induction day
qr code office induction day phone instructions

This concept could also be incorporated into an existing face to face induction strategy. This time, during the facilitated face to face session there would be certain times that a QR code would appear in the presentation. These QR codes would provide participants with “missions” to complete tasks around the office and the facilitator would be able to moderate who completes each the quickest.

Taking this idea even further, we would use AR to provide a really immersive experience. This would be great in organisations that are very tech focused as the audience would already be interested in technology and cool gadgets.Let’s say you started as an intern at Google. As part of your induction, you could have one “self exploration day” where you would be given a pair of Google Glass glasses. From there using an app and the glasses, you would be set various missions and tasks to complete over the course of the day which would help you learn about the various departments, amenities, meet staff, etc.

Idea 5: Contractor Site Safety Training

Many organisations that have multiple sites require contractors to complete safety and compliance training before being allowed to work at a location. This usually involves having to organise LMS logins, assign the required training and chase up ensure that training is completed before they are permitted on site. For contractors that may need to visit multiple sites in a short time, this can become a rather complicated web of eLearning and LMS reports.Instead, you could create a system of QR codes that are placed on signs at the entrances to your various sites. Upon arriving, contractors would scan these QR codes and be immediately taken to the relevant safety and compliance learning bites they need to complete before being allowed to work on site.

Once the contractor completes the required learning, the eLearning would generate a unique pass that included the contractor details and an expiry. They would then show this pass to reception of security to be allowed to begin work. The eLearning would also be able to send a notification to the HR team with the details of the contractor.

construction training qr code
construction training phone instructions qr code

QR codes can be used in creative ways across a variety of industries. The key, as with all concepts and technologies, is ensuring they are implemented to deliver real value rather than the sake of doing something different.

I believe that given the trends in on-demand learning, microlearning and m-learning, there is an opportunity to explore how QR codes and similar technologies can benefit learners with a more seamless and accessibly learning experience.