I Think I Could Set A Guinness World Record

The Chronicle of Higher Education had a story this week about an upcoming Guinness world record attempt by a History professor at University of North Texas.

On August 24 at 9 a.m., Andrew Torget will take to the podium armed with 500 pages of notes and 1,600 PowerPoint slides. Forty-five students will be seated in front of him, notebooks — no laptops! — at the ready.

His goal is to successfully teach the longest recorded history class ever, which is currently 24 hours. Torget is hoping to reach 30 hours.

There are some rules Torget needs to abide by:

  • Torget and the students will earn a five-minute break for every hour of class that they complete. The plan, he says, is to accumulate the breaks and space them out strategically: Every three hours, they’ll pause for 10 minutes, and they’ll take a longer break around 3 a.m. on the second day.
  • At least 10 of his students will have to stick it out, too.
  • Engagement is a key component of Guinness’s requirements. “The students can’t just sit there and stare at me,” he says. “The witnesses need to attest that they saw the students being engaged.” They must pay attention to what he’s saying, answer questions, that sort of thing.

The course will cover Texas history. All of it, he says, “from cave people up until last week.”

Torget has been prepping for this day for a while; here are a couple of his training practices:

  • He’s cut out coffee for the past six months, because it’s a diuretic and because it dries out your vocal chords. Instead, during the class, he’ll have a few “flat Cokes” in his stash. He also plans to steadily munch food and sip water and apple juice.
  • He’s been increasing the length of his lectures, going from 2 to 4 to 6 to 8 hours.

Torget is using the world record attempt as a way to raise money for the university’s Portal to Texas History, a vast online archive of digital resources about the American Southwest.

As I read this article, I realized I have a real shot at a similar world record. Of course, the topic would be different; my lecture would be all about Accounting.

And the category would be slightly different – my attempt would be for the

“Longest Perceived Accounting Lecture”.

Perhaps it is no surprise that I hold the current record at 24 hours. When I attempted that record, the rules were nearly identical to the ones noted above. The lecture the day I set the record included only three hours of talk time, but after the 10 students who attended woke up, they were asked to answer a couple of questions, with the second one of most interest to the researchers.

The second question was “How long did Borden’s lecture feel?”

On average. the students said it felt like 24 hours, some said a whole day (kids, …). And that was good enough for the world record.

So now my goal is to get students to feel as if my 3 hour lecture was a week long. I’ve been training for this by

  • getting my voice and pitch to be even more monotonic
  • see how many different ways I can rearrange the equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity, and then spend at least 10 minutes on what the meaning is of each of the different equations (e.g., A = L + E or A – L = E or A- E = L etc.)
  • practicing how to tell students that no electronic devices are permitted
  • get used to teaching in a VERY warm room. Students might drowse off, but not me.

I’m hoping a pillow company will get wind of this world record attempt, and offer to supply me with several pillows for the students to use during the lecture. If it goes really well, perhaps  I could become a spokesman for the company. (Are you listening Tempur-Pedic and Flo Beds?)

I plan to attempt the record the first day back to school this semester, August 27.

It’s nice to know that something positive may come from all the student comments I’ve heard over the years that go something like this:

an hour lecture with Borden can seem like an eternity.

If that’s the case, let’s have Guinness recognize as so.


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