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Distance Learning | School of Professional Studies | Northwestern University

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Add a Guest Lecturer to Your Sync Session

Add something unexpected to your class by inviting a guest lecturer to your sync session. Students get to meet, talk with, and question an expert in the field. And you can use this opportunity to highlight a particular aspect or concept in the course by inviting the lecturer to share what they know about it.

How do I prepare for this?

First, what do you want someone to talk about? Is there a “hole” in the course that needs to be filled? Do you really want to emphasize the importance of a topic by featuring it in this way? Do you have a friend in the industry (or your field) who would be a good fit? Is there an alum that would be a good match?

Contact the guest lecturer at least 6-8 weeks ahead of the appearance so there’s plenty of time to plan. Decide on a topic--something that will align with a learning objective--and ask the person to teach about it rather than just talk. Be specific. And set a very clear time limit--keep it manageable, no more than 20-25 minutes, with plenty of time to answer questions

Ask the guest lecturer to have some questions for the students to keep it lively. Use the chat function in Zoom and explain that students can ask questions through that. You will need to monitor those questions and pose them to the guest expert in a timely manner. Closer to the day, do a quick Zoom test to make sure they are ready.

How can you ensure a lively, meaningful session?

Ask students to do some pre-work, ideally related to assigned readings or videos for the week. Give them videos to watch or blog posts to read for context. Ask students to have questions ready to ask the guest. You could ask them to post questions ahead of time, so that you’re sure they are prepared with some meaningful questions.

Why should I do this? What will students get out of this experience?

First, your students will be listening to you a lot through your videos and your writing, so, it will be a nice change to hear from a new expert in their field. Students can be exposed to new information and new perspectives when they get to interact with a guest speaker. Your guest will bring their real-life professional insights with them, which can help motivate students to engage with your class and their field of study. Students may also get a prime networking or mentoring experience out of this.


  • Ask participants to mute their audio and video and only unmute when they want to participate. This improves the audio quality.
  • Record the session and tell everyone that you are doing so.
  • Acknowledge the insights that students provide.
  • Thank your guest lecturer for their time.

Additional Resources