POST TIME: 7 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 6 March, 2019 08:39:23 PM
Why a guest faculty is needed in universities
Hearing new voices provides students not only with different points-of-view, but also with potential resources they can apply in later courses
Mohammad Majharul Alam

Why a guest faculty is needed in universities

It’s quite a well-known fact that one of the major problems in our education system is that it’s mostly theoretical and purely result-oriented. Grades are greatly appreciated there. As a result, graduates often struggle in practical life. Universities are supposed to make students ready for taking real world challenges, but unfortunately students after graduation, find themselves vulnerable in the professional arena. Sadly, most of the universities take almost no steps to resolve this critical issue. But the good thing is the prevention is quite straightforward. Having a Guest Faculty, which will be responsible for involving guest lecturers occasionally into university curriculum, could be a major step to resolve this issue. But the problem is that this innovative practice is not widely used everywhere equally in our country just yet. More importantly, most of the universities don’t even see it as a possible solution.

It may sound surprising, but the truth is that in our country, a very large portion of fresh university graduates don’t know how to send an email appropriately and professionally. A big portion of them are unable to make the proper use of subject line of the email address, unaware about the salutations at the beginning of an email and separating each parts of an email body. Despite completing an MBA in Banking or Marketing, a big portion of them feel like an alien at first when they start working in a professional environment. Even though some programs do offer internships by which graduates do get some real-world work experience, but those are limited, time-bound as well as not all programs offer it.

Solutions are certainly not straightforward and could always be arguable, but the prevention can be. Authorities should keep on taking new innovative steps. I believe universities should initiate the practice of bringing guest lecturers on a regular basis for providing lectures/lessons in some part of the curriculum, and those guest lecturers should be someone who has an impeccable career in practical fields. Bringing in guest lecturers with proven expertise in a topic provides added credibility to the lessons. Hearing new voices provides students not only with different points-of-view, but also with potential resources they can apply in later courses.

This culture is somewhat practiced in Dhaka, but not so much in other parts of the country. For example, taking a single MBA class once in a while by an experienced Bank Manager or a Marketing Leader could offer potential benefits to the students that can’t be attained otherwise. A more specific instance could be the example of Amitabh Reza Chowudhury, a prominent filmmaker of Bangladesh, who is also a Sessional lecturer of Dhaka University.

It goes without saying that the lessons provided by a professional can be far more career-centric and practical than any orthodox lecturers (even with first-class BSc./MSc.), because most of our university lecturers don’t possess extensive practical knowledge. They attained habitually theoretical knowledge all their lives. Upon getting hired by the universities (generally for having

higher grades), typically what they are doing is distributing the only one thing they were digested with, The Theoretical Knowledge!

Potential benefits of the solutions:

1. One important benefit that is derived from having a guest speaker is the enhancement of the students’ educational experience. They essentially get a glimpse into the everyday life of the speaker, which they can’t get anywhere else.

2. Another added benefit is the link that students get to make between what they learn in their textbooks and what they learn from the guest speaker. Research indicates that it helps students build important connections between what they are learning and the real world.

3. Moreover, a guest teacher may be able to drive home a concept that you just couldn’t nail down through a regular university session.

Working with the guest lecturers

Sometimes we hear news where Guest Faculty encounters problems regarding payments and stuff. But this is not our concern for the time being. First, we need to cultivate the guest faculty culture. Culture can’t be instructed or enforced, it is something that needs to be cultivated. I have reasons to believe that Professionals upon being request to provide a lecture will be happy to comply and won’t be bothered about payments. The reasons are:

• They will see it as an exciting workshop, therefore, they will consider it as one of their social-corporate responsibilities;

•Meeting and building relationships with people itself is a part of some professionals’ duty (e.g. Bankers, Marketing Professionals etc.). So, they would love to take it as a huge opportunity of meeting people in a much larger scale and that along can be considered as a massive reward by them.

Like all guests, guest lecturers 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 materials from your guest lecturers with your students. It was found that the flipped classroom format could be used by guest faculty, but it was slightly less effective than when used by regular faculty (perhaps because it combines new materials and an unknown instructor). So, allowing more classroom time for review when using that teaching strategy with guests can resolve this issue.

Be very clear with guest faculty about the content you want covered, the time and technology available, and the class size and composition. Determine who has which responsibilities, such as posting or printing handouts or other learning materials.

Formal letters of thanks are useful in the business world and the academic world. In the academic world, it is a good idea to copy the appropriate Dean or Department Chair when thanking faculty for their help.

Higher education worldwide today embraces the ideas of interdisciplinary thinking and performance, and what better way to model this than to have guests from other disciplines teaching content from their perspective. It takes both prior planning and organized follow-up, but is well worth the effort.

If you have any comments or suggestion then feel free to contact me directly.

The writer is a Statistical Programmer, Shafi Consultancy Bangladesh.

Email: majhar.sas@gmail.com