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Teaching Tip: Using Guest Lecturers in Your OM Class

November 5, 2014

potato chipsWhen I was teaching at Rollins College, one of my favorite classroom experiences was bringing in guest lecturers. Philip Crosby, the famous quality guy, lived in Winter Park and showed up every semester for 15 years. Alan Nagle, former CEO of Tupperware, was a regular, as were a number of VPs from Darden, Frito Lay, and Wheeled Coach. Now that I am semi-retired, I give 3-4 guest lectures per semester in other profs’ classes, at schools all over Florida and as far away as Mexico. It is really fun, and I remember the key points in having successful guest speakers: (1) Keep it interesting; (2) Keep it short; (3) Keep it interactive; and (4) Feed them! I will never forget the visits from Tom Rao, at Frito-Lay, who always brought a case of chips to each class. Students would just munch away, totally mesmerized with the free snacks.

So as you face the perpetual challenge of keeping each class session fresh and interactive, I suggest you consider this old idea. Guest lecturers have benefits for your learners and for you. Seeing a new face in front of the room can liven up the class; but there are also deeper pedagogical reasons for using guest lecturers, notes Faculty Focus (Nov.3, 2014). Here are a few to consider. None of us is an expert on everything, so bringing in speakers with proven expertise in a topic provides added credibility to our content. Research has shown that in a course with profound practical applications, such as OM, voices from the field carry as much credibility as we profs provide. Having a guest lecturer also opens your lesson design to new options. For example, you and your guest can work together to field questions or even debate issues. Let students apply their critical thinking to compare points of view.

Guest lecturers, of course, should be treated very well, especially if you want their help in future courses. Provide as much lead-time as possible so they can prepare and so you can share their materials with your students.  Be very clear with guests about the content you want covered, the time (no more than 45 minutes!) and technology available, and the class size and composition. Letters of thanks are always a good idea (with a copy to your Dean or Department Chair).

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