guest lecturing via Skype: nice opportunity or playing the mug?


Today I received this query via email--from a legitimate person (says the institution's website) from an oil-rich country:

"I intend to invite eminent persons in the field of [something close to my field] to speak over skype or through a teleconference on one of the topics/periods we cover in the course. I wonder if you can help us in this regard and join us in one of these skype/teleconference talks. This will be a good opportunity for students not only to read from the texts but also to listen to authorities in the field. Our students at [this university] are very eager to pursue their graduate degrees at universities in the UK, USA and Canada. By arranging for these on-line talks, I believe they be encouraged more to continue their education and choose a university they believe they have at least heard from or seen someone they spent a course working in his/her line of research."

Part of me is flattered, happy to help, etc. The other part of me wants to say, I don't work for free my friend, and I teach my own courses, how about you?

What do you Forumites think?

I have done this very occasionally -- but the people I have approached have been close friends or business colleagues who have genuinely had some expertise I wanted to expose my students to.  In the few cases, I have approached someone I didn't know personally, it has been because my students read (and purchased) the individual's entire book and were genuinely excited to meet this person.  (In the cases where it's a colleague there is often an expectation of reciprocity -- you speak to my students and I agree to read and critique your paper, invite you to be a co-panelist, speak to your students down the road, sit on somebody's MA thesis committee in your department, etc.)

I also do ONE of these per semester -- as noted, with a really good reason for doing so.  (The other reason I do them is because my uni does not have big bucks for bringing in guest speakers and I do genuinely want my students to have an opportunity to interact with someone other than me during the course.)

The idea that this individual is somehow attempting to build a lot of his course around bringing in guest speakers sounds dubious to me -- especially if you are only one name among many, absent a close personal relationship or compelling reason for inviting you specifically.  Also, absent any reciprocity down the road.
So yes it sounds like you are being suckered.  (No doubt the letter writer is really proud of his scheme to get out of teaching, too!)

Just read the 'oil rich' part.  Ask him if there's an honorarium?  a big one?

Suggested reply: I would be delighted to give a guest lecture for your class. My honorarium for a 45-minute presentation, followed by a ½-hour question-and-answer period, is [appropriate dollar amount that will compensate you for your time].


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