Guest speakers may share perspectives on topics they are familiar with and personally interested in. However, these topics may not be relevant to students’ interests and may not be in coherent sequence to the course subject matter. The professor need to be careful and mindful on how inviting guest speakers in his/her class will benefit the learning progress of the students.
Guest speakers are called way too often and sometimes students may end up being lectured by a series of speakers instead of being involved in the whole process of creating meaningful learning through experience. The professor should work closely with the guest speakers to make the experience an experiential learning engagement for the students, which will not involve solely lecturing but will also have the students participating in dialogue, activities, sharing experiences, making connections to prior knowledge, conceptualizing, reflecting, engaging in critical thinking, and problem solving.
Some students feel that most of the guest speakers are from academia, and they would be interested in having people from the industry and community being invited in their classroom instead of people who will most likely provide a theoretical review or perspective on a topic. Additionally, a professor may consider inviting speakers from a different discipline to elaborate on a topic from a different perspective.
Instructors should be mindful in the selection of the guest speakers to ensure they have good public speaking skills, are able to convey their thoughts and views in an interactive way and/or are not there to promote personal interests (which might have no value to the students).
Due to time constraints, organizing a guest speaker session may have repercussions on curriculum scheduling and covering the assigned topics. Instructors need to do some planning ahead to determine which learning outcomes inviting a guest speaker will address.
Another challenge might have to do with the availability of the guest speakers and the travel expenses, which are usually covered by instructors or faculty. The use of technology, such as video conferencing, can address this issue. Research indicates that when guest speakers sessions are invited in online courses, the participation rate of the students in discussion boards and postings is increased significantly (Hemphill & Hemphill, 2007). One of the reasons for this success in students’ involvement in discussion boards might be due to the fact that students, especially those who are introverted or shy in public speaking, may feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts in a computer-mediated environment rather than sharing thoughts during a face-to-face session.