It is nice to see studies confirming that we’re not all as taken up with shiny new technologies and clever marketing strategies as it sometimes seems – here, a “youth marketing company” finds that, out of a sample 500 college students, 79% could not successfully scan a QR code. Only 19% did not have smart phones, and only 20% weren’t familiar with QR codes, so that leaves a large portion of students with the awareness and ability but lack of inclination to have ever figured them out. I suspect the comment about not wanting to download an app to handle QR codes is a big part of it.
I ran into the study at an interesting time, because I had actually be thinking about whether QR codes might be a useful way to get information out to students. I had been talking to a colleague about the inconsistently updated physical signage about the locations of offices and departments inside the entrances to buildings on our campus, and if there was a technological solution. While tablets or touchscreens would produce electronically updateable content, it occurred to me that people may prefer to have the information on a small screen in their hands that they can browse more privately and carry with them as they try to find their destination. QR codes would be a quick way to direct people to the precise information for their current location.
And hey – maybe it would work. When you look at the details of the study, they asked very generic questions, like “How likely are you to engage with [QR codes] in the future?” Without a reason to engage with a QR code, my answer would be not likely, the same as most of the respondents. And so far, the uses I have seen for QR codes have not been compelling – mostly to direct me to websites trying to sell me things, and I suspect most students have had the same experiences with these codes.