Embedding tutorials into physical objects

The Problem:

A student approached the desk for assistance with double sided copying the other day. I figured it would be easy to help her even though I have never tried it on this copier myself. I thought this because I knew there were printed instructions. (I love step by step instructions) I noticed that they were tucked up inside the copier, so she must have overlooked them. I started going through the steps one by one, but stumbled on step two when it asked me to Select a Print Size. There is nothing on the copier’s display that mentions print size, and I know that we actually only have one paper size in the copier. So I figured I could skip on to step three, which was to select Duplex. Again, nowhere on the screen does it say Duplex.

At this point I decided it was time to bring in a more experienced staff member. Luckily I ran into the Director of the library. He was able to show us both how to go through all the steps to make a double sided copy. I noticed that he did not try to follow the instructions, and instead relied upon his experience to guide him through.

Creating Better Documentation

I realized then that there was an immediate need to write up some new instructions for the copy machine, and I received go ahead to put my project into motion.

First I rehearsed the steps and made sure I knew how to make a double sided copy. Next I took pictures of the key steps involved. Then I put them altogether in a simple step by step instruction sheet.

After printing it out I had to laminate it. I asked a coworker to show me how to use the laminating machine (hold for 60seconds)

Lamination Machine


I then replaced the old instructions with my new version.

I put the resulting documentation into the back of the copier. The discussion continues concerning where to put these so students will see them when the need arises.

laminated tutorial on how to make a double sided copy

Copier documentation

Video Tutorials

I thought this might be a great opportunity to demonstrate using QR codes to link tutorials to physical objects so I decided to make a tutorial video.

Our library had just purchased some Bloggie cameras for users to check out so I thought I would learn how to use them while making this video.

I shot several scenes and downloaded them to my Mac. I used IMovie to put the clips together. When I looked at the finished product I realized that I had left a few key parts out (placing a page on the copier and having the paper come out of the output tray) I also noticed that I had shot the video too far away to see the individual button text. So, I reshot everything and moved the camera in closer. I also increased the video resolution to the highest setting.

This time when I compiled the video everything looked great. Now it came time for inserting audio voiceover. Unfortunately I found out that the mac mini’s audio input is a line-level input. I have put in an order for a webcam with mic which will solve this problem in the future. But, I really didn’t want to wait. So I used my phone to make a voice recording and emailed myself a copy. I then used ITunes to convert it to MP3. After deleting the audio of the original video I overlaid the audio voiceover track and adjusted the settings.

Everyting was looking pretty good so I exported the movie (.mov) and uploaded in to the Library’s Youtube account.

After describing the video and adding tags I took the resulting link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_k-hpAZTso and created a shorter URL using Google’s URL shortener goo.gl/mbDf3

This will give us the ability to track it’s usage over time using their analytical tools.

Making the QR code part work

I took the goo.gl URL and put it into Kaywa’s QR code generator http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

I copied the resulting QR Code (small) and pasted it into a word document. I typed underneath it some descriptive text “Double sided Copies” and printed it out. I cut out the relevant portion of the page and taped it to the copier in a prevalent position and used my phone to make sure it was working right.

QR code that links to a youtube video

embedding tutorials into physical objects

This is my first attempt at making an embedded physical tutorial so I’ll use it to make the case for additional instances.

Here is the Video:



Filed under library

6 responses to “Embedding tutorials into physical objects

  1. Hey,

    This is great! I was searching up ways on how Universities can use QR Codes for my video blog and this is an excellent example!

  2. Pingback: Embedding tutorials into physical objects « Boring and Mundane | pixelquarium

  3. Wow! This is cool stuff. Opened my mind beyond the use of QR codes for contact info.

  4. Ok. Now how do I enlarge that to 150% of the original?

    Just kidding – it always gets more complicated. Nice job on your tutorial instructions, but a sad statement on the need for us to provide such details for something that should be simple – and that’s the fault of the copy machine designer. Many of these machines were not intended for public use – but by office people who would learn and remember all the routines – you can tell we have the same issues.

    What’s interesting to note is that we are trying to move to self-serve scanners to reduce copying. The newest units have monitors built into them that show a video tutorial whenever someone starts to use the equipment. So you are moving in the right direction – but it’s nicer when it’s right there on the equipment.

    • Steven, First, thank you for your kind words. I just wanted to comment that I have noticed at my library that a lot of the scanning we see is done to avoid the $2 charge for our fax services. I will often suggest to users that they phone ahead and verify that an email is okay and then scan the document (we don’t charge for that). I think since I’m acting head of the library for the moment I’ll go ahead and commission a new series of these tutorials from our circulation supervisor. Originally I just wanted to fix an immediate problem and create a proof of concept post.

  5. Oh, I also meant to say that I really like that you found something in your library that was “broken” and you didn’t just throw up your hands and say “this is awful” and just leave it at that.

    Great when you see someone taking personal responsibility for something that doesn’t work, and tries to improve the user experience.

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