Large Lectures

Some students with disabilities face challenges in large lectures. Needs vary greatly among individuals. Students are the best source of information about their needs.

General teaching strategies beneficial for all students include:

  • Clear and well organized class outlines and visual aids.
  • Clear descriptions of visual aids.
  • The availability of course materials before each class session.
  • Availability of course materials electronically.
  • Opportunities to ask questions electronically via email.

Considerations and typical accommodations by disability type are summarized below.

Learning Disabilities

Some students with learning disabilities may have difficulty processing, organizing, and remembering large amounts of spoken information. Taking effective notes may also be challenging due to poor organizational or writing skills.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with learning disabilities include:

  • Note takers.
  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Use of a laptop computer in class for note taking.

For more information about students with learning disabilities, consult the Learning Disabilities section of the AccessSTEM website.

Blindness

Students who are blind cannot see visual aids, class outlines, nor demonstrations.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students who are blind include:

  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Student use of a Brailler for note taking.
  • Outlines and course materials in electronic format so that they can be converted to speech output.
  • Clear verbal descriptions of visual aids, graphics, and writing on chalkboards or dry-erase boards.

For more information about students with blindness consult the Blindness section of the AccessSTEM website.

Low Vision

Students with low vision may have difficulty seeing visual aids, handouts, and demonstrations.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with low vision include:

  • Note takers.
  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Preferential seating.
  • Large-print handouts and visual aids.
  • Clear verbal descriptions of visual aids, graphics, and writing on chalkboards or dry-erase boards.

For more information about students with low vision, consult the Low Vision section of the AccessSTEM website.

Hearing Impairments

Students who are hard of hearing or deaf may be challenged by verbal presentations. Students with residual hearing or a hearing aid may require amplification. Other students may need to lip read or use a sign language interpreter. Certain environmental conditions may impact a student's ability to hear or read lips effectively. For example, hearing aids may pick up extraneous background noise and interfere with the clarity of sound. Poor lighting may make it more difficult to lip read. Likewise, background lighting from a window can cast shadows on a speaker's face.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with hearing impairments include:

  • Sign language interpreters.
  • Real-time captioning.
  • Captioned videos, films, etc.
  • Sound amplification systems.
  • Preferential seating for optimal listening or lip reading.
  • Providing essential course information in written format (e.g. on the board, email, handout).

For more information about students with hearing impairments, consult the Hearing Impairments section of the AccessSTEM website.

Mobility Impairments

Physical access to a lecture location may be challenging for a student with a mobility impairment. A student who has difficulty using her hands will have difficulty taking written notes.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with mobility impairments include:

  • Preferential and accessible seating.
  • Note takers.
  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Use of a laptop computer for note taking.

For more information about students with mobility impairments, consult the Mobility Impairments section of the AccessSTEM website.

Health Impairment

Students with various health conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily or have difficulty taking notes. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with health impairments include:

  • Note takers.
  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Use of a laptop computer for note taking.
  • Flexible attendance requirements.

For more information about students with health impairments, consult the Health Impairments section of the AccessSTEM website.

Psychiatric Impairments

Students with some types of psychiatric conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily or have difficulty taking notes. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention.

Typical accommodations in lectures for students with psychiatric impairments include:

  • Note takers.
  • Audiotaped class session.
  • Use of a laptop computer for note taking.
  • Flexible attendance requirements.

For more information about students with psychiatric/mental health impairments consult the Psychiatric/Mental Health Impairments section of the AccessSTEM website.

Other

Students with speech impairments may have difficulty asking questions in a large lecture. Some students with speech impairments use augmentative communication systems in order to participate.

Typical accommodations in lectures that can be used for students with speech impairments include:

  • Opportunities to ask questions via email.
  • Providing adequate time to allow the student to speak.

For more information about students with speech and other disabilities, consult the Other section of the AccessSTEM website.

Check Your Understanding

Consider the following situation. You teach a large biology lecture and a student with low vision has enrolled in your course. You use many visual aids and slides in your lecture. How can you make sure the student benefits from these materials? Choose a response.

  1. Provide preferential seating.
  2. Use clear verbal descriptions of the visual aids used throughout your lecture.
  3. Provide enlarged photocopies of the slides for the student to review.
  4. Provide a tactile diagram of the slides.

Check Your Understanding Responses

  1. Provide preferential seating.
    Preferential seating may work for some students with low vision. It would be important to talk with the student and determine the best seating location and to assure that he can see the materials adequately.
  2. Use clear verbal descriptions of the visual aids used throughout your lecture.
    This is a teaching strategy that all students may benefit from. However, it may not be enough if the visual content is essential information for the course and the student can't see the material adequately.
  3. Provide enlarged photocopies of the slides for the student to review.
    The use of enlarged photocopies can help a student with low vision access slides or other images if they are unable to view them from a large screen. Copies for review during or after class can help the student adjust the image to their optimal viewing conditions. For example, they can adjust the lighting, distance and position of the image, or view them for longer periods of time. The disability services counselor can help with these arrangements if they are needed.
  4. Provide a tactile diagram of the slides.
    Tactile diagrams may be helpful for students who are blind. A student with low vision would not likely need this type of accommodation.

Knowledge Base

For frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices, search the AccessSTEM Knowledge Base.