How I Work With Industry Guest Speakers

I bring in guest speakers from industry into my courses, a lot. The benefits of doing so are are mostly that (1) industry speakers can cover some topics better than me and (2) the change of pace in teaching keeps students interested. In general, I don’t save time, though, because engaging industry in my teaching requires extra work.

Industry guest speakers (unlike co-lecturers) cannot be put on the students’ critical path to achieving the learning objectives. Hence, in a given course, a guest speaker cannot cover a core topic, but only an ancillary one. There are plenty of interesting topics that enrich the student learning experience, I just can’t use them for grading.

I don’t randomly accept talk suggestions but rather turn it around and look for guest speakers who can cover relevant topics. I then suggest these topics and the underlying concepts to interested parties. The idea is that the guest speaker both understand the core concepts of the topic and also can teach them well by drawing on their experience.

This combination of concepts and didactics is important. Sometimes, industry speakers are colorful and engaging, but beyond random stories have nothing to tell. The inverse, having concepts but being boring, is reserved for professors. This then requires both extra work on my side as well as on the guest speaker side.

Done well, however, it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps you, dear reader, are up to the challenge? If so, please take a look at our courses and get in touch.

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