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VARK stands for Visual – Aural – Reading – Kinesthetic. It refers to the way people learn. It’s worth understanding VARK because it can be very helpful to reaching your audience and I suggest it may influence how you prepare your project documentation. Let’s examine each and provide some ideas on how it can be used.

Visual – show it to them. Think Powerpoint presentation. Think diagrams. “A picture is worth a thousand words”. A large percentage of people are visual. Include diagrams, tables, process maps, flow charts,  in your documentation where ever possible to enhance its value. When I’m scanning a large document the first time, guess what catches my attention – diagrams and tables. They can convey a lot of information much faster than having to read pages of words to explain the same thing. Try it – take a diagram and try to explain it in words – tedious isn’t it?

Aural – let them hear it. In a classroom, this would be the teacher / professor lecturing at the front of the class.  To produce ‘audio’ documentation, connect a video camera to your PC and record a movie of yourself explaining the documentation.  I created a handover video after the meeting was cancelled and rescheduling was not an option.  With the stack of binders and manuals I’d produced at my side, all clearly labelled, I identified the document, explained why it was created, why they might want to use it, and what the document contained. Yes, softcopy was also left with the customer. There is about 20 minutes of video explaining the documentation for anybody, at any point in time in the future, to playback and hear the Subject Matter Expert (me) lecture on the documentation. An exercise for you – what else might you want to video and playback at future dates? Maybe the kickoff presentation for your project, useful for new members joining the team? Hint – store the video with the softcopy documentation.

Reading – exactly what it describes – old faithful – write it down, some people learn best by reading, the lecturing, the presentation doesn’t work for them. My wise friend Julie taught me, “If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.” Not a lot to say here, except learn to write well. Practice by blogging (yes, it helps). An interesting test of your writing – hand it to an average Grade Eight Student and ask them to identify any sentences that just don’t sound right. I had my son do this for me; it didn’t matter that he did not understand the terminology, he did find some confusing sentence structure that I modified to improve the readability.

Kinesthetic – learning by sense, by feel, by touch, by smell, by doing. In the traditional education environment, this would describe Woodworking, metal shop, sewing, baking, etc. Winetasting – taste AND smell. How do we leverage the Kinesthetic aspect of learning to enhance our documentation? This really depends upon what you are documenting. If the shoe fits, provide samples of what you’re dealing with, to evoke touch, feel, smell. Kind of hard to do with software, though. With project management training, this could be role playing, practice completing templates, group exercises.

VARK – you have a new item in your documentation toolbelt now. Consider your audience – consider what works best.

To learn what your VARK score is, how you learn best, visit http://www.vark-learn.com/

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