The Bright-er Side: Guest lecturers have improved my learning experience

Zoom classes have introduced me to some pretty extraordinary people

IILLUSTRATION: Alyssa Marie Umbal / The Peak

By: Sara Wong, Arts & Culture Editor

As happy as I am to return to in-person classes, a part of me will miss remote learning. Besides not having to commute anywhere and living in loungewear 24/7, I’ve enjoyed Zoom classes because they challenge professors to diversify their lesson plans. 

Some were more successful than others, but the one tried and true method was bringing in guest speakers. I found myself looking forward to these special lectures because they were engaging and created a relaxed environment. I got to hear from a diverse range of professionals — from climate activists to commercial publishers — instead of being shuttled into another breakout room full of awkward silence or someone complaining about their workload.

Maybe guest lecturers aren’t unique to remote learning (I wouldn’t know because I was a first-year when the pandemic began), but Zoom has undeniably broadened the scope of these appearances since the platform is available in over 90 countries. Thanks to Zoom, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from remarkable individuals across Canada such as Michelle Douglas, who played an instrumental role in ending the Canadian military’s discriminatory practices against its LGBTQIA2S+ members; Dr. Pam Palmater, Mi’kmaq activist and scholar; and Josefina Vidal, the Cuban Ambassador to Canada. 

The above examples come from a current humanities class being taught by Svend Robinson. While I realize few teachers would have the same connections as Robinson, a former Member of Parliament, the bottom line is that keynote speakers enrich course content and make the overall learning experience more dynamic and valuable for students. As we transition back to in-person classes, I hope the trend of including more guest lecturers remains.