Instructional Design for Wine Online

In a previous post, we discussed the unique opportunities and challenges of teaching wine in an online format.  The bottom line is…this is an in-depth style of wine study that aims to go far “above and beyond” the mere memorization of grape types and places of origin. If you’d like to read the original post, you can find it here:

 In this post, I’d like to share with you some of the written assignments I have used in various versions of Miss Jane’s Online Wine Class.  These types of assignments are challenging to create and assess, for the following reasons:

  • They must be preceded by class activities that introduce, demonstrate, and offer practice in the general knowledge base and the particular skill set that will be used.
  • They must be perceived as being highly relevant to the “real world” of the hospitality industry as opposed to being merely “busy work.”
  • They must be adaptable to objective grading criteria via a pre-posted, assignment-specific grading rubric.
  • They must be either impossible to plagiarize (as in mathematical calculations) or be certified “plagiarism free” via a service such as “”
  • They must be revised every block!

Written Assignment:  Design a 25-item wine list for a fine dining restaurant.  A wholesale wine catalogue and the restaurant’s menu are both available on the class portal. Format the wine list exactly as it would be presented to the customer, including categorizations and pricing.  Include both by-the-glass and bottle pricing along with a spreadsheet that shows your calculations for each price. Include each item’s contribution margin and beverage cost percentage in your spreadsheet.  In an accompanying memo, explain how you selected your wines, how they support the concept of the restaurant, how you chose to categorize the wines, and how you expect your list to maximize sales and profitability.

Written Assignment:    Design a wine tasting event patterned after a  famous wine competition.  Begin by reading the instructor’s article on “The Judgment of Paris,” located on the class portal.  Next, do some research and find another example of a paradigm-shifting wine competition, challenge, or controversy.  You can use a historical event, a current event, or a widely publicized “challenge” of sorts from a magazine or television show.

Next, design a proposal for a wine tasting event billed as a “re-match” or “re-enactment” of your chosen subject.  Design your proposal, to be pitched to the General Manager of a big city hotel, to include a proposed tasting lineup, event timeline, budget, pricing structure, breakeven point in customer attendance, and a press release.   

Written Assignment:  Design a one hour wine and food training session to be delivered to the staff of a casual dining restaurant.  Use the wine list and menu provided on the class portal. (Note:  this is a simplified menu of 8 food items and 8 wines.)  Assume that your audience is comprised of mostly novice servers and bar staff.  Design a minimum 15-slide power point deck that defines the basic principles of food and wine pairing as discussed during this week’s chat sessions.  (Watch the recordings if you were unable to join us live.)  Be sure and include specific examples of suggested pairings using the menu and wine list, and discuss why the pairings are recommended.  Include your speaker’s notes in the notes section of your power point presentation.  (Just for fun, I’ve often rotated this assignment with a similar beer and food pairing session.)

 I hope you have enjoyed my little series on wine education online! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at



You Teach Wine Online?

Many of my colleagues- and most of my friends – find it quirky that I teach wine classes online.  Just about every time the subject comes up, I get asked, point-blank, “How does that work”?  The simple answer is that I teach an academic, theory-based professional wine studies course…not the type of wine tasting class one might take at the local wine bar.

Of course, most people still don’t get it.  However, I can tell you that online wine courses are big business.  Over the past five years I have taught up to three online wine courses at a time, each worth three college credits and lasting between six and eleven weeks, and they’ve all been full, most with a waiting list of students eager to join.

The basics of my online wine class, like all the other online classes I teach, revolves around reading, online chats, individual and group assignments, and discussion forums.  Here is a typical week worth of classroom assignments and activities:

  • Two or three chapters of assigned reading in a text book or other assigned readings.
  • Two or three “online chats” which resemble the “webinars” that most of us are familiar with.  I design the visuals, provide a lecture, and using teleconferencing or the platform’s  chat function, create an interactive classroom for about an hour at a time (it’s exhausting).  These are recorded and available for viewing on the online class platform.
  • One or two discussion forums where I post a discussion topic and students can, over the course of the week, post their ideas and opinions. Facilitiating an online discussion is certainly a learned skill.
  • An individual or group written assignment. Feedback on written assignments in a online classroom is paramount, and assignment-specific rubrics need to be designed and made available to students at the beginning of class. 

Ok, I still know what you are thinking…”but how do you teach wine online”?  In this type of class, it is not about tasting (although it can be done, more on that at a later date).  To give you a better idea of how this works, here are some examples of discussion forum topics I have used in teaching wine online.

Discussion forum topic:  A customer in your fine dining restaurant orders the following three-course meal:  Scallop Ceviche with Candied Jalapeno, Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Glaze served with Couscous and Grilled Asparagus, followed by a cheese plate with Gorgonzola, Brie, and Manchego Cheeses.  Your customer is dining alone, and would like you to suggest one bottle of wine that would go well with all three courses.  What wine would you recommend to him and why?

Discussion forum topic: A customer in your wine bar has just “discovered” Chianti and it is his “new favorite wine”.  He requests a glass of Chianti, but you do not carry Chianti, or any Sangiovese-based wine for that matter.  What wine would you recommend to him and why?  Be sure and describe  the attributes that your chosen wine has in common with Sangiovese-based wine, how it differs from a Sangiovese-based wine, and what it is about this wine that you feel would appeal to your customer.

Discussion forum topic:  You are the food and beverage director of a large resort hotel.  You are holding a training session for six new servers and are discussing the wine list.  One of your new recruits is surprised that your wine list includes a large selection of rosé.  She wrinkles her nose and says something like “that’s what my mom drinks – it’s like Kool-Aid!  I thought this was a fancy place”!  How would you address her comment? 

Stay tuned later this week for further discussion of teaching wine online, including examples of individual and group project assignments.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about online teaching, contact me at