QR Codes and Augmented Reality: What Are They and How Can I Use Them in the Nursing Classroom?

By: Alaina Herrington and Cedar Wang

Smartphones have become an unavoidable extension of our educational toolkit. We snap photos of everything. So how do we embrace the usefulness of this emerging technology and capture the attention of the digital natives in our classrooms and simulation labs?

The use of QR (quick response) codes and augmented reality applications provides a new means of communicating complex data with the quick click of a smartphone camera. QR codes are unique, two-dimensional, matrix-based images (i.e., fancy bar codes) that, when photographed and read by a smartphone camera, immediately link to a website or online content.

When was the last time you tried typing in a long website address, only to have keyed one letter or number incorrectly? By entering an incorrect URL you find yourself staring at an error message, rather than the intended webpage. QR codes and applications like Aurasma prevent this waste of time, offer a new level of learner engagement, and have limitless uses for education, industry, and health care. Many online QR code generators and barcode readers are readily accessible, easy to use, and free.


At our hospital-based simulation center, we use QR codes in our course registration printed materials to link readers directly to the online registration page. Instead of printing resources we want to provide in class, we hand out business-card-size leaflets with a QR code and the resource title enabling students to store the correct file on their tablets – something they prefer to do anyway. When we use interactive polling software in our PowerPoint presentations, students access the poll by snapping a photo of the QR code on the screen. Instead of using moulage to create a messy wound on a simulator, we place a QR code on the wound location. Students snap a photo of the QR code that immediately links to a web-based image, allowing them to zoom in on the wound border and assess it more closely.

We also ask students and faculty members to complete evaluations using QR codes. The QR code connects them to the Survey Monkey evaluation form on their personal smart device. This process ensures that we receive feedback before the user leaves our facility.

Here are tips for creating and scanning QR codes.

To create a QR code:

  1. Use a free website such as http://www.qrstuff.com
  2. Select data type you would like to attach to the QR code (e.g., a website, email, event, image, etc.).
  3. Connect content by uploading or copying and pasting text.
  4. Download the QR code.

To scan a QR code:

  1. Download a free QR barcode reader on your device.
  2. Open QR code reader.
  3. Hold device over QR code. On most apps the QR code should automatically scan but sometimes you have to push the camera button. If you have trouble, try backing away or moving closer to the QR code.
  4. The data should display on your device.

Aurasma is a free, augmented reality app that can be used in many different types of learning environments. For example, students will often have a hard time “connecting” to a simulated patient, leading to a lack of “buy in” and decreasing the integrity of the simulation. Consider using an augmented reality clip that allows the student to see the expression on the patient’s face and hear the patient’s barking cough. This technique will create in the student a sense of urgency for treating the simulated patient.

We have a video that  displays how to use Aurasma with an example patient. (click image to play video)


To learn about other ways to utilize Aurasma throughout your curriculum check, out this video. For step-by-step instructions detailing how to create an aura, trigger image, and video, check out this attachment. (click image to play video)



6 thoughts

  1. We were excited to read your post about incorporating augmented reality into simulation using QR codes. We have been developing a similar project called “ARISE,” (Augmented Reality Integrated Simulation Education), and are open to collaborating with anyone with similar projects or research. You can read more about our ARISE project that uses a free app called “ARIS” at our website http://www.ariseproject.com. Our project began in October 2014, with funding by a Department of Labor TAACCCT4 grant, and to date, we have developed over 75 simulations and serious games incorporating augmented reality using QR codes. All teaching plans and software games are free, open educational resources and are available at our website. We presented our project at the IMSH “Spectrum of Ideas” showcase, and will also be presenting at the INACSL conference in June 2017. All scenarios are currently being used by 16 technical colleges in the state of Wisconsin, across multiple disciplines including nursing, respiratory therapy, EMT-Paramedic, Medical Assistant, and Pharmacy technician. Survey results from faculty and students from these 16 colleges have been overwhelmingly positive. For more information, go to our website http://www.ariseproject.com.
    Kim Ernstmeyer, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, CHSE and Theresa Meinen, MS, RRT, CHSE

  2. Your project looks fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing. Please leave your email address so I can collaborate with you further. We also developed our program through funding from a TAACCCT grant!

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