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Be an Online Learning Barista

picture of a latte on a teal background

Designing and structuring online learning is a bit like being a coffee Barista.

For the uninitiated it can look straightforward, yet it requires a lot of technical skill, theoretical understanding, deftness, and creativity developed with time and experience.

As a guide to this process, we present the ingredients of the LATTE:

Learning units

Online learning provides new ways to structure the module. Long gone is the need to design sessions around hour-long blocks, instead, adapt them to the needs of the material being covered, particularly for asynchronous activities.

Break existing lectures into smaller pieces that focus on a single idea, theory, concept, or skill, and enrich them with exercises and activities that encourage the learners to integrate the new knowledge into their existing understanding.


Online learning supports a wide range of learning activities, from traditional activities such as discussions and reflective writing through to creating video animations or exploring historical sites through 360 degree visual content..

There may be ways to use the technology to enhance the experience – try using reflective videos instead of writing or 'publishing' the results of the activities on appropriate social media platforms.


Consider the timing of learning units and activities so that the learners can gradually develop their knowledge in a logical manner, as well as whether synchronous or asynchronous is the most appropriate approach. 

Maximise the learning value of the limited ‘live’ situations available by focusing on interaction. Think about the literal timing of synchronous sessions - learners might be in different time zones or have other commitments that make attending difficult.


Learners will have personal preferences around which tools they want to use. However, it may be necessary to ‘force’ learners to use tools contrary to their personal preference - in these situations, have a sound justification for your choice.

To accommodate that, you could give learners the freedom to select whatever tool works best for their own skills and interest, or, if part of the assessment is explicitly of a specific skill, provide a list of acceptable tools.



The online environment provides a range of information sources and alternative perspectives. Therefore, it's key to structure resources logically and clarify what is essential reading or viewing, what is further background knowledge and what is optional.

The VLE often allows teachers to release particular materials based on performance. This is useful for maintaining interest and engagement regardless of learner's level of understanding without overwhelming them with information.


Remember: The teacher’s role is to help the learners make sense of what they are learning and how things fit together and to support them in selecting content, critiquing findings and linking them to learning outcomes.


Reflective Activity:

Think about the current LATTE ‘recipe’ for your course. How can you adapt it to online delivery so that it meets the requirements of both the learners and the overall course?


This is an extract from Adapting Higher Education Teaching for an Online Environment by Rachel Stone and Ian Glover