Lecture Handouts

Handouts are useful tools for student preparation, comprehension and revision. While handouts can follow many different formats and include a variety of content, they generally summarise the material covered in a lecture, and may include some added exercises or questions for reflection. Inclusive handouts will be accessible, accurate, and will add to the students' learning experience.

Lecture Handouts- Who Benefits?

Making lecture handouts available to students in advance of class can benefit a number of students. Please find case studies of students who may have particular difficulties below.

Cases Issue Solutions for students
Mature Student Lower stamina means this student may find it difficult to write continuously for an hour. Thus missing vital points that are forgotten by revision time. Student uses lecture handout as a template during lectures. This means it is no longer necessary to take notes of every point.
"Traditional" Student Student finds that lectures become an exercise in speed writing and this hinders active cognitive engagement with the content. Student uses handouts in lectures as templates onto which they can add their own notes. This means less writing, and gives students the chance for cognitive engagement.
Student with a Disability Student sometimes must miss lectures due to medical appointments. Student downloads lecture material before the lecture and engages in relevant reading in her own time.
Student with a specific learning difficulty Some students will find it hard to follow the structure of the lecture aurally. Student looks at handouts in advance and familiarises herself with the lecture structure.
International student It can be difficult to follow a lecture, and to write notes, in a second language. Student uses handouts in lectures as templates onto which they can add their own notes. This means less writing, and also gives students the chance to reading key words and names they may miss it only relayed orally.


Action plan for lecturer

Post lecture handouts online in advance of the lecture so students can:

  • engage in advanced preparation,
  • use the lecture handout as a template onto which to add their own notes,
  • reuse the lecture handouts as a study aid at exam time.

Another useful strategy to ensure students get the most from your lecture and use it as a study resource is to record the lecture and release it to your students as a pod cast.

Inclusive Guidelines for Lecture Handouts:

Follow the Accessible Information Guidelines.

Provide reading lists in advance of class. By providing students with handouts at least 24 hours in advance you allow students to prepare for your lecture (e.g. consider any questions for reflection, read any preparatory reading).

Furthermore, handouts lessen the need of students to take notes. This means that they can engage at a greater cognitive level with your materials because they are not occupied with the mechanical task of writing.

Don't leave handout circulation until after class. Students will feel the need to take more notes if lecture handouts are not available within the lectures:

  • in case handouts are not circulated as promised, and
  • because they will not know what details are included within notes.

Student feedback indicates that students are often promised a copy of presentations / handouts after lectures and either do not receive them or receive them many weeks into the future. 

Extensive note taking during lectures can be particularly problematic for students who experience fatigue for any reason, non-native English speakers, and students with certain disabilities (e.g. physical disabilities, dyslexia).

Msc Student, Non-Native English Speaker

‘I do not have time to listen to the professor, to understand him, and to take proper notes. I cannot do all this together….doing two works, all three does not'


A note on provision for print disabled students who use assistive technology

Resources often have to be adapted, or alternatively formatted for print disabled students using, for example, screen readers, or screen magnifiers.

The lecturer can help ensure the provision of accessible materials to students with print disabilities when preparing lecture handouts and reading lists by preparing in accordance with accessible information guidelines, and circulating in advance of classes.

Consider electronic resources when compiling reading lists. Increasingly material published after 2002 (particularly journal articles) is available electronically.