Online Instruction - the Seven Virtues or, How to Avoid the Seven Deadly Presentation Sins

By Simonson, Michael | Distance Learning, May 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Online Instruction - the Seven Virtues or, How to Avoid the Seven Deadly Presentation Sins


Simonson, Michael, Distance Learning


Luck and mystery have long been associated with the number seven. Seven is a prime number. It is the most important number in dice games. There are 7 days in a week. There were 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. Who can forget the Magnificent Seven? And, there are seven deadly sins that are balanced by seven virtues. The seven virtues are humility, charity, patience, diligence, kindness, temperance, and chastity. Centuries ago, these seven virtues were proposed to help people avoid the seven deadly sins.

When it comes to education and online teaching, seven is an important number. It takes seven years to get tenure, seven is the number of classes normally taught in a year, and there are seven best practices of the online instructor. We could call these practices virtues, and apply them as ways to avoid the seven deadly presentation sins often seen in classrooms, webinars, and videoconferences.

Humility is the first of the seven virtues and is the virtue that counters the sin of pride. For the distance educator, humility means avoiding the talking head. In other words, when presenting in a webinar or videoconference the person doing the presenting should not dominate the screen, the monitor, or the podium. Certainly, the speaker should establish themselves, but quickly more relevant visual information should be shown - graphics, visuals, definitions, and examples.

Charity is the virtue that counters the sin of greed. When teaching online, charity means keep the length appropriate. Sometimes presenters think that their topic is so important and complex that they "overpresent." To minimize the tendency to runon in a lesson, the class should be organized around single concepts. The single concept is the building block of effective instruction. The single concept is easily presented in 3-5 minutes with a strong introduction to the concept, an explanation with examples of the concept, and a summary statement that clarifies how this concept fits with others.

Patience is the virtue that is the opposite of the sin of wrath. In online teaching the instructor needs to plan for interaction. Expecting students to interact automatically, without prompting, is foolhardy. Instead of being disappointed, even wrathful, if no one asks relevant questions, the online teacher should plan for interaction by seeding questions, using chat areas for small group discussions, and developing strategies that tease out interaction.

Diligence is the virtue that wards off the sin of sloth. For the distance educator, this means preparing and planning. No matter how many times a topic has been taught or hardware has been used, the need for careful planning and preparation are a must. …

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