This guest blog post is based on a current QR code project to help students with referencing. Nic Howorth and Sarah Munks are Subject Librarians at the University of Huddersfield. Sarah is based at the Barnsley campus and has responsibility for Art, Design and Architecture and Music subject areas. Nic looks after the School of Education and Professional Development. Both regularly deliver information skills sessions to students and staff.
To make use of QR code and mobile technology to provide in-hand, timely, text specific referencing advice for students.
- Utilise QR code/mobile technology to improve student’s citation and referencing skills
- Provide referencing support to students anytime, anywhere
- Enhance the student learning experience using mobile technology
- Cross collaboration: liaise with module leaders to ensure key texts are included in the project
- Cross collaboration: liaise with academic skills tutor to ensure referencing and citation information is accurate
- To reach those student who may be unwilling to ask for help
- Promote QR codes as a tool for learning
The project is based at our campus library in Barnsley and is investigating the willingness of students’ use of mobile and QR code technology to access learning support. Recent research has suggested that the rise in use of mobile technology is resulting in more and more learning taking place outside the traditional classroom or lecture theatre (Solvberg & Rismark, 2012) and the increase in and availability of mobile devices and developments in technology (smartphones, tablets, portable music players etc) allow users to readily and easily access the internet or download applications (Walsh, 2012).
Students want more choice with regards to when and how they learn and increasingly want to be able to use their own mobile device to access teaching and learning materials. Using QR Codes is an ideal way of utilising user owned mobile technology to engage and support learners. As a result a short survey was conducted at the campus and revealed 66% of respondents owned a smart phone, and 68% of these students would use it to access help with referencing which started the project.
Two courses were identified within the School of Education and Professional Development but with a different demographic of students for each course. The project hopes to identify if students on a particular course and part of a particular demographic were more or less likely to use mobile technology to access learning support. A reading list from a PGCE in-service module and Early Years BA (Hons) module were utilised and a blog entry for each title on the reading lists was created. The blog entry advises students how to produce an in-text citation and reference using our institutions Harvard referencing guide. QR codes were then produced linking to each of the blog entries and attached to each text on the reading lists with text advising students what the code was for. A decision was made early on to promote the QR codes to one group of students and leave the other to their own devices with a view of seeing if promotional activities make a difference with regards to usage.
- During December we promoted the QR codes in referencing sessions delivered to the PGCE cohort.
- During March we ran an exit survey to gauge the level of awareness of QR technology amongst our student population. The results are being reviewed.
- The project is still on-going and the next steps are to arrange focus groups with students to gain qualitative feedback. In particular the usefulness of delivering advice/support using QR codes and mobile technology, the analytics of hits/views to the blog posts will also be reviewed.
We used the free Kaywa QR code generator as this allowed us to produce and save multiple QR codes. We have since discovered Power QR which allows you to produce a QR code then change what it links to remotely without having to re-produce or re-print additional codes. This wouldn’t have worked for our referencing project but would be ideal if you’re thinking of using QR codes as promotional tools (i.e. you could link to a different site/resource each week using the same QR code).
As the referencing information was probably going to be viewed using a mobile device we used WordPress to create our blog as their blogs are optimized for viewing on a mobile device. Where possible, we included an image of the book cover for each blog post to make it more visual – see the Mobile Referencing blog for examples.
Solvberg, A., and Rismark, M. (2012) ‘Learning spaces in mobile learning environments’. Active Learning in Higher Education. 13 (1), pp.23-33.
Walsh, A. (2012) Using mobile technology to deliver library services: A handbook. London: Facet.
We’ve previously shared some tips and advice about how to use QR codes, but today we’re looking a slightly different angle – how do you decide which tool to use? To cover this topic we have a guest blog post from Neil Ford, Academic Liaison Development Manager for Library and Learning Support at Bournemouth University. Neil has previous experience in health, public, commercial and academic libraries, current interests include: digital literacy and academic skills support, QR codes, collection development, co-creation of reading lists in academic liaison.
Recently colleagues and students who want to use QR codes in their work have been asking “which tool should I use”? With so much choice it can be a difficult question, and one that depends partly on what you want to achieve with your QR campaign. In this post, I’m going to discuss some criteria that can be used to evaluate URL shortening and QR code generating tools. I’ll be drawing on experience using these tools on a recent project at Bournemouth University that introduced QR codes to our book shelves to guide students to relevant ebooks.
Many online tools now enable you to create shortened URLs and QR codes. This dual functionality makes a lot of sense as the shorter the URL, the easier the QR code is going to be to scan.
Are all URL shorteners equal? Well no!
In terms of technical performance there is quite a difference between different providers.
Another point to consider is whether the tool been designed as a URL shortener or as a QR code generator or both? This might seem like a silly question but, how the tools developers see the product, could have a profound effect on its usability for your purpose (see the section on user interface below).
The size and quality of a QR code can have a significant effect on how easy it is for devices to scan. It’s worth comparing the images that different tools produce to see how well the image meets your needs. How big is the QR code that is produced? Will it meet your needs or will you need to edit it using an image editor?
Again this may not matter too much if you are only producing a couple of codes. If you’re working with large numbers of codes you will want to avoid too much work manipulating images. In general: the larger the image, the better! It’s much easier to shrink an image and maintain quality than vice-versa.
The media that you use to deliver your QR codes will affect how important this criteria is to you. If you are producing codes for a small handout or business card then image size may not matter (as users can get right up close to scan the code). If you’re using codes on posters, signage or lecture slides it may be more of an issue. Creating and testing a prototype using a variety of tools will help you to find out which tools meet your needs.
How easy is it to shorten the URL and get a QR code out of the interface? If you are just producing a few codes for posters then this may not be such a concern for you. If however you are producing hundreds or even thousands of codes then ease of use is going to matter! Even a couple of extra clicks could make a great difference. Half way through our QR code project at BU, Bit.ly’s user interface was “enhanced”, which added extra steps to the process of getting to a QR code. Whilst you can’t control how web tools develop their interfaces, you can select a tool that demonstrates concern for their user community when implementing change.
Seeing the number of hits on your QR code should be a key part of your ongoing evaluation of your QR campaign. Does the service you’re using to create your shortened URLs and QR codes enable you to see the usage? Statistics about how and when your users access library resources can be part of the added value that you can get from a QR campaign. As well as promoting resources, usage statistics can tell you about how and when your users want to access library resources.
You may need to dust off your crystal ball for this one. Free, web-based tools offer us great opportunities but it’s important to remember that, even though the tool may be “free” you are investing your time and work in using it. There is always a risk that the tools will change, move, or even disappear… (did anyone else feel slightly nervous when that whole Delicious thing was going on?). While there are no guarantees, if reliability is important to you then it may be worth going with a well-established tool like Google, even if you prefer a different user interface or URL shortener. If the worst happened and the tool that you’ve used for your url shortening were to disappear, how easy would it be to move your shortened urls and QR codes to another platform? Keeping a record of the targets that your QR codes point to is one way to recover from such a disaster with minimum fuss!
Persistence vs flexibility
Similar to the last point, you may want to consider the life cycle of your shortened URL/ QR code. One of the main reasons that we chose to use Bit.ly for our QR code shortener was that it guaranteed that the shortened URL was persistent and would not expire. At the time this seemed like a benefit. Reflecting back though, being able to change the target of our QR codes would have been a better attribute. Shortly after our QR codes were added to the shelves, we learnt that our library catalogue (our QR codes point to catalogue searches for ebooks) had changed ownership and as a result would be changing their URL! This means that we will need to create new shortened URLs and QR code labels for about 1,000 catalogue searches!
Fortunately, we have recorded our searches and will be able to complete the work efficiently. Looking on the bright side, this gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate the tools we’ve been using and move to one that better meets our needs in terms of usability, metrics and flexibility.
I hope this has been a useful reflection. I’d love to hear about your experiences creating QR codes. Which of the criteria above are important to you? Do you have any other considerations when choosing this sort of tool?
This guest blog post is written by Annmarie Lee, an Assistant Liaison Librarian – Enquiry Services for Library and Learning Resources at Birmingham City University. On a day to day basis she is part of a team that provide enquiry services at the University’s Health library and Art and Design libraries. She has participated in several strategic projects including the development of a single Help Desk within the libraries, the implementation of a library online chat service and more recently the use of mobile technologies in libraries.
As part of Library and Learning Resources’ Mobile Technologies working group at Birmingham City University, a small working group was established to look at the development of the library facility on the Birmingham City University Mobile App (iBCU).
Surveying other libraries
Our first task was to find out what functionality is currently being offered by libraries through mobile apps. We devised a short survey asking libraries to share with us what their mobile app included.
A total of 28 responses were received from both public and academic libraries both within the UK and internationally.
Respondents indicated that 61% used Apple devices for their library apps, followed closely by 54% using Android devices. 82% indicated that they used a mobile web app (accessed via mobile browser).
In terms of library features, contact details, a facility to search for books and library opening hours prevailed with the highest response rates. Library locations and account information were also popular features available. The one feature we were particularly interested in was the ability to book library tutorials via a mobile app; however no respondents listed this as a feature of their mobile app. The chart below shows more information on the results:
Surveying our users
Following on from this, we decided to survey our users to see what library features they would like to use through a mobile app. In order to avoid a clash with the National Student Survey and also to gain insight from users who may already be familiar with mobile apps, we decided on conducting a Facebook and Twitter poll posing the following question:
Early results indicate that managing library accounts are of most interest, with searching for books, accessing electronic resources like e-books and e-journals, and booking study rooms also likely to be popular features.
The iBCU app already has a library facility to view your account details. The next step will be to work with ICT to look at the feasibility of adding functionality to this like the ability to renew items. A separate working group has also been established to look at embedding mobile apps like that of the EBSCO database into the existing iBCU app.
Last week, American Libraries Live held a discussion hosted by Jason Griffey with contributors Maurice Coleman and Robin Hastings. They discussed what they mean by mobile, gave examples of some of the ways libraries are using mobile technologies, and answered questions posed by viewers. You can view a recording of the session by clicking on the image below or directly via this link.
Some of the highlights I took from the session included:
- The importance of knowing your users, the technologies they use, and things they would like to use their mobile devices for. Google Analytics was recommended as a tool to help with this as it includes information on devices and browsers used to access your website.
- Also consider those who aren’t currently using the library. Mobile services may be one way to reach out to the people who don’t currently use library services.
- Users tend to expect to be able to use their mobile devices for simple discovery of resources (e.g. catalogue), location and opening hours information, and to contact the library.
- Some libraries are experimenting with using mobile devices for circulation (all speakers agreed that it would be great to be able to offer users the ability to borrow items by using their mobile devices to check them out).
- Mobile payments are gathering traction and are likely to be used more in future (e.g. Square Register and Square Wallet).
I recently attended a webinar hosted by the American Library Association Library and Information Technology Association Mobile Computing Interest Group. I created a Storify to share the presentations and related resources.
Unfortunately I’m not able to embed the Storify but you can access it from the link below.
Myself and one of my colleagues at Birmingham City University are interested in finding out what functionality is currently being offered by libraries through mobile apps. If your library has a mobile app, please complete our very short survey to share with us what your mobile app includes. We’ll be sharing the aggregated results on the blog afterwards.
The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/libmobapps
Time for another guest blog post, this time from Hugh Murphy who presented at the LIR/AGI Mobile Technologies Symposium. The day generated some really interesting discussion on social media, and all presentations and videos are now available at http://lirgroup.heanet.ie/mobiletech. First a brief introduction to Hugh…
I have the wonderfully protracted title of Senior Librarian, Collection Management Services here at NUI Maynooth. Basically this puts me in the enviable position of having responsibility for and causing general confusion in our collections (print, rare and digital), our technical services and systems departments. I find technology to be both a massive enabler but also frequently an inhibitor – and this is one of the critical things that fascinates me about mobile – when it’s good, it’s very very good, but when it’s bad (or ill conceived)… well, I am also a dedicated fighter in the battle against techno determinism. If you want to talk to me, consider a carrier pigeon, flag semaphore or, more realistically either email@example.com or @hughtweet
Over to Hugh for his event report…
Two powerhouse communities of librarians in Ireland, LIR and the Acquisition Group of Ireland joined forces to host Mobile Technologies Symposium recently in Dublin in November 2012. Featuring a variety of interesting presentations from practitioners on both sides of the Irish Sea, the high attendance was a sure sign that it was a topic of interest to those of us who work in libraries (and beyond). Throughout the talks and from informal discussions, there really was a genuine sense that ‘mobile’s time has come’ – so many of the tools are in place, however what appears to be frequently lacking was the sense that adequate resourcing could be put in place.
I had the honour of speaking in an introductory capacity, with “Getting a handle on handheld” and I was at pains to stress the point that mobile is a service option – it is not something that we should simply do because we can. Thankfully my talk and this point in particular seemed to be quite well received (who wants to die on stage!) and the evidence from those giving case studies seemed to indicate both a considerable amount of thought having gone into the provision of a service, but also thinking seriously about the ‘why’ of it.
Next up was Mobilising your e-content: scholarly information on the move from Alison McNab – who is undoubtedly familiar to many as one of the more prominent voices in this area. Alison’s talk could scarcely have been more comprehensive and strikes me as a perfect stepping on point for anyone looking to dive into this arena. (Warning – the arena, being mobile, may have moved so look before you leap). A critical part of Alison’s presentation focused on the gulf that exists between what commercial vendors and publishers are supplying and what we as librarians, and what our users need. That gulf is vast.
Alison’s presentation was complimented in many ways by Ronán Kennedy from NUI Galway who gave us “Who’s doing what: a quick guide of how providers are approaching mobile content”. Ronán’s typically pithy presentation showed what his institution are doing, but also placed it in the context of broader mobile solutions – again including those offered by vendors generally.
UCD, as Ireland’s largest institution could well be expected to be on the cutting edge of developments in this area and they certainly appear to be moving in the right direction, judging from Joshua Clark and Samantha Drennan’s presentation on “The Mobile Library at UCD – Achievements and Plans”. Talking to us about developments in UCD and beyond, they really conveyed a sense that the sea change towards mobilised content is growing ever stronger. UCD have taken the opportunity to include mobile optimised content when redesigning their whole web experience – a decision which presumably will continue to pay off for them for some considerable time.
In terms of policy – Ros Pan (also of UCD) spoke about “library apps: their place in an overall mLibrary strategy and options for creation” Ros is working on a project which will endeavour to give a national snapshot of where we are in terms of library apps and mobilised content. No doubt we can learn from colleagues in the UK who have already undertaken (and benefited?) from a lot of this type of work.
NUI Maynooth was ably represented by Louise Saults, who spoke about a very successful NUIM Library Kindle Pilot project which we put in place in 2011 and which is still going strong. The success of this project, to my mind proves that it doesn’t have to be entirely ‘bells and whistles’ – that sometimes the less elaborate option is actually the service solution which our users needs. That said, the success of this project suggests to me that our users might be ready for another, new solution and it’s up to us to find one that suits them.
David Kane, of Waterford Institute of Technology and Jil Fairclough, of Brighton & Sussex Medical School gave talks which, while arguably more ‘niche’ were no less interesting for it. Jill spoke about “putting digital mobile resources in the hands of medical students – impact, lessons learnt and the future” which detailed findings of the MoMEd project. This project seems to have been very comprehensively planned and carried out and, from a technology view point, it was fascinating to see the challenges which occur when a project straddles a few years – the tech involved in delivering content has changed dramatically – from PDAs (remember them?!) to Smartphones. David spoke about the creation of a Plug-in for Moodle and how best to optimise their intuitions’ services in this regard – for mobile and beyond.
Andrew Walsh, University of Huddersfield, is very familiar to many for his participation in Lemontree and he spoke about this in his presentation on “Lemons, badges, fun and games: Gamification and Libraries”. Having followed the progress of this work from afar it was great to get some detail from one of the central players. What was particularly interesting to me was the fact that part of the potential outcome of the game is to affect user attendance patterns – for example to incentives coming in at certain times.
In conclusion the symposium was excellent – and it would have been hard to give greater illustration of the sheer breadth of work that can fall under the mantle of ‘mobile’. Of course this diversity brings even greater challenges in many ways, but also indicates to me, that there is huge scope for librarians and others to think very creatively in terms of provision of a new type of service – a service which our users do appear to want. It would have been nice to have seen somebody discussing Augmented Reality in a library context – this will have to go on the post Christmas to do list. Which will, of course be on my Smartphone!
One of the areas mentioned in our surveys as something to investigate for future was Augmented Reality. Birmingham City University library’s Mobile Technlogies Working Group have been considering different ways of using augmented reality as this guest post by Anthony Humphries demonstrates (recreated with kind permission from BCU eLibrary blog). A brief introduction to Anthony…
I’m the Learning Resources Co-ordinator within a busy Lending Services department, supporting the Help Desk to improve our customer’s experience as much as possible. A committed techno-positivist, I am highly interested in the ability of emerging technologies to enrich the experience of our users and sustain the relevance of our libraries. I am always keen to discuss my ideas and if you want further information please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now for his blog post…
Of the many emerging mobile technologies that libraries are looking at one that has always appealed to me is augmented reality (AR). Compared to other technologies that are discussed AR has:
- fewer introductory barriers to overcome
- is virtually cost-free
- does not require specialised technical staff
- the general public will increasingly have some familiarity with it.
- can also be a lot of fun.
So I committed myself to turning some of these ideas into practical demonstrations for a group of interested colleagues.
I used the Aurasma platform as it’s free, straightforward to use, and has considerable market penetration. It works by having a pre-prepared image – a trigger – uploaded to their servers. Then when a device using the Aurasma browser focuses on one of these triggers information in the form of images and movies are overlaid onto the image in a predetermined way. Digital information is ‘superimposed’ onto what you are seeing through the devices camera. The big advantage of this optical approach compared to location based AR is that you can be precise with the location and it can be used over multiple floors without interference. There was a steep learning curve initially, learning what worked well (formats, sizes, scales) as a trigger and overlay, but after some trial and error using the software is actually quick and easy. Development forums provided some useful advice but a thorough introductory ‘best practice’ guide would have been welcome.
I came up with 9 possible categories of uses for AR and put together a demonstration for each of these. The focus was on provoking ideas rather than fleshed-out practical application:
- Video demonstration Pointing mobile device at the screen of the self-service issue machines automatically plays a video guiding the user on how the machine operates. There is also a button beneath this video saying ‘Need PIN?’ – when tapped this takes the user to a website with information on this.
- Enhanced publicity/directional map Pointing a mobile device at a floor plan map (either on a plinth at the library entrance or in hand-held form) overlays a re-coloured map indicating areas that can be tapped. When they are at a photo of that location there is a pop up giving users a ‘virtual tour’ and more information on that area.
- Help on a screen-based service Pointing a mobile device at the Summon discovery tool overlays guidance arrows and notes onto the screen– pointing out the where to enter the search, where to refine filters & then view results
- Virtual bay-ends Pointing mobile device at a particular image (perhaps located near catalogue PCs) overlays directional arrows to where resources are located – giving users an initial idea of where to find what they are looking for.
- Enhanced instructional guide Pointing a mobile device at a leaflet about accessing our online resources automatically plays a video with screenshots showing the stages that they need to go through. To the right are buttons that could be tapped to directly call, email and complete a form if further help was needed.
- Induction/Treasure Hunt Students could scan a ‘frame’ placed in an area of the library. Once scanned a video would play introducing them to that area and how to use it – alongside the video a new question would appear that would guide them to another area to continue the ‘game’.
- Enhanced publicity material Pointing a mobile device at our main library introduction guide which is enhanced with pictures, videos and extra information beyond what could be included on a physical copy. Also all telephone numbers, email addresses and hyperlinks are made into tappable live links.
- Staff assistance/reminder. Pointing a mobile device at the borrower registration screen of the LMS that we use overlaid with extra information to show the various fields that need completing. It is designed as a quick check for staff to ensure that it is completed accurately.
- ‘Book Locator’/directional video Using a mobile device to scan an image near to a catalogue PC to bring up a virtual table containing dewey ranges, i.e. 000 – 070. Tapping one of these would make a simple video pop-up directing the user from that location to the approximate shelving run. Technically this does not use AR at all, but was an interesting use of the software.
The demonstrations went well and generated some interesting debate amongst my library colleagues. Some brief thoughts after the demonstrations:
- Point of need content – The way that triggers work allows them to be highly context specific, you are essentially just ‘looking’ at the thing that you want help with, i.e. a room, a screen or leaflet. Could there be a future where users just get used to pointing their device at things and getting assistance and extended content?
- AR vs QR codes – The AR feels a lot more immediate than QR codes. Whereas scanning a code sometimes feels like an additional step and takes you away from what you are doing the extra information from AR is more integrated into your activity. Aurasma allows extra functionality too.
- Getting library users onboard – Is an issue whenever something new is introduced. Some level of training would be required. People have to download the app, subscribe to a particular channel and then know where to scan. Technological improvements may mitigate some of this – for example Aurasma allow the possibility of integrating their software into an existing app, meaning that users will not need anything new or have to subscribe to channels.
- Ease of development – As described above, the platform is not as intuitive as it might be initially but after a brief explanation I could see colleagues from across the service creating content, all it takes is some very basic image manipulation. I was creating these rough demos in about 15 minutes. The technical barrier is very low.
- Range of devices – The demos all worked equally well on iOS and Android smartphones that I tested. They looked great on larger tablet devices.
Are you currently using augmented reality or planning to do so? Let us know your ideas in the comments.
The final report from the results of the end of project survey (responses collected July-August 2012) has now been published.
This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.
Respondents were asked to indicate from a pre-determined list the methods that they would use to support current and future m-library initiatives in their library/information service. Most respondents plan to use a selection of sources, including (in order of popularity):
- Keeping up-to-date with mobile technology
- Case studies
- Attending and following events
- Reading/following existing research
- Sharing and reading information via social media
- Library/librarian blogs
- Social media discussions
- How-to guides
- Mailing lists
- Conducting own research
- Project blogs
Other responses included collaborative projects (with other organisations or others within the organisation who may be more knowledgeable), dicsussion with/learning from colleagues, in house training/awareness sessions, creating your own m-library initiative, video demonstrations, and support from suppliers.
Some comments gave a little more detail:
Practical demos and sessions are always the most fulfilling so you can see the technology in action. This is what people remember.
Good case studies in relevant types of libraries (in our case engineering and industrial) might help.
Hopefully this blog will be one place to help signpost to these sources of information.