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15 Heads Are Better Than One: Using Guest Speakers in Your Online Course – Featuring Jenni Gudapati


“Why settle for one expert when you can have 15?! I knew a lot but I didn’t know everything.” That was Value-Based Healthcare Program Director Jenni Gudapati’s explanation of her decision to include two instructors and up to two guest speakers per week for each of the courses in the master’s program in Population Health and Systems Management and the Value-Based Healthcare certificate.

Having guest speakers is not unusual per se, but it’s uncommon to invite so many. “I just reached out to colleagues and asked if they would be willing to give their takes on things,” Gudapati said. “I’ve never had anyone say no.”

How Students Have Responded

While they may not be household names, many of the guest speakers are rock stars in their field. One speaker, Kimberly Brandt, controlled a 1.4 trillion dollar budget. Another guest speaker, Chris Peterson, played a key part in advising congressional officers in writing the Affordable Care Act legislation. Speakers like them are a key part of each course, and student evaluations indicate they are highly valued. One reason the students like them is because many are industry professionals looking to advance their careers, so the quality of speakers builds program credibility and allows them to hear directly from thought leaders. Gudapati is actually the only faculty in her department; all of the other instructors come from industry.

We get so siloed and think that all the course information has to come from other academics. But there is real benefit from hearing from people in the field. Peer reviewed journals publish information years after it happens, but students in our program are learning it today from the people who are making these things happen. We need to look to industry experts.

Want to know what a typical class session is like? Watch this sample video with Dave Dillon discussing Actuarial Science & Healthcare: What’s Now, What’s Next.

Smoothing the Path

So how does Gudapati do it? After reaching out to a potential speaker via LinkedIn, it is a matter of respecting their time and making things as easy as possible. She usually schedules a Zoom meeting, gives the speaker some context on how the talk would fit into the class, has the speaker record their talk, and relies on the eCampus production team for video editing and captioning — and voilà! The result is a guest lecture that can be used over multiple semesters without making any more demands on the speaker’s time.


Gudapati is frank about what is involved. She notes that arranging and producing at least one guest speaker for every week of every course is the most time-intensive thing that she does. Still, she strongly believes in the value that guest lecturers bring to her program, and she encourages those who would like to try this in their own departments. “People are more willing to help than you think!”


For help designing and teaching an online course, contact eCampus Center and request a consultation. If you have an idea for an online program, reach out to Assistant Director of Program Development Services, Carl Melle at

Article Credit

Thanks to Jenni Gudapati, and Greg Snow, the eCampus instructional design consultant who worked with Gudapati on the Population Health and Systems Management program.