I often work with graduate students at a particular university in Europe (I am in the US), in a kind of supervisory role.

In the past, I've used a shared wiki for this kind of collaboration. The students take informal but very detailed notes on the wiki as they work. I regularly check on the latest contributions, and comment on the wiki directly if I have something to add. This is analogous to the way I can "drop in" on local students and check in/help out whenever I find myself with some free time on my hands (which is much more frequent than my availability for "real" scheduled meetings.)

It is especially useful because the difference in timezones makes it hard to schedule "face to face" meetings over Skype.

A student I am currently working with has informed me that he has dyslexia. His writing speed is slow, so keeping copious notes on a wiki is just not practical. (Even instant messaging is difficult.)

Any suggestions regarding how to facilitate this collaboration?

  • 2
    Why don't you schedule skype/facetime meeting with that particular student? I understand scheduling can be difficult as you have mentioned, but maybe for one student its worth the time?
    – The Guy
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:49
  • @TheFireGuy "the difference in timezones makes it hard to schedule "face to face" meetings over Skype."
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:50
  • 2
    "I understand scheduling can be difficult as you have mentioned, but maybe for one student its worth the time?"
    – The Guy
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:51
  • @TheFireGuy It's not a matter of lack of time. It's a matter of him being awake when I'm asleep, and vice versa.
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:52
  • 4
    I totally understand, what I'm trying to say is that YOU might have to sacrifice to accommodate his/her needs (or even him/her has to sacrifice, simply just because you have the advisory role). I also understand that this might not be a good solution for you, but if it was me and I had to do a weekly (is it weekly?) meeting, I would try to schedule something for weekends (maybe?).
    – The Guy
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


There are interesting aspects raised by this question, not the least at which end of a distant interaction does the adjustment take place. Should the dyslexic collaborator make adjustments or should the other party make accommodations? The issue of the influence any legislation is also interesting.

If the collaboration arrangement is a formalised one, does any anti-discrimination laws apply at the US end which would require the US party to make adjustments? Not knowing details of local laws I cannot say, but local advice might need to be obtained. Even if it is not a requirement to do anything there may be other imperatives such as the protection of university reputation that could be affected by not being able to enable effective collaborations with disabled students.

At the European end the location would indicate if their university should be providing resources to enable adjustments. If it was the UK (I know it is not) the the student's university would already have an obligation to support adjustments to enable the participation in the collaboration on equal terms.

Having discussed who might have to make adjustments, lets looks at possible means of adjustment. The most obvious mechanism is speech to text software, but even the best software has trouble with non-native (and some native) accents as well as the technical material often contained in Phd research discussions. Many regular uses of text-to-speech use a special "talking-to-the robot" form of speech to ensure accurate transcription.

This leaves two other approaches. The move to a reduced text content or human transcription.

Many dyslexic people find lengthy textual prose difficult. Often diagrams or speech are better. A tools that is often recommended are idea capture using brain-ware mapping. An example of such a Tool is Inspiration. The research ideas can be captured in diagram form and pasted into a discussion wiki. Using a diagram the dyslexic and non-dyslexic collaborators can communicate on equal terms.

If speech transcription seems to have a rôle then, perhaps, junior researchers, such as undergraduate volunteers could be used to transcribe. This could happen at either end depending on availability of labour or funding.

For a dyslexic student where funding is available there are software solutions that are very helpful in preparing text. Some tools assist in the conversion of non-linear expression into structured text (such as Inspiration as already mentioned), but there are also writing tools. I find Texthelp gold can be very useful, but others are available.

I final thought; It is often said we are two nations divided by a common language and as such there can be linguistic difficulties between the most erudite writers on different continents. Just think how much harder it can be when dyslexia is introduced into the mix. As with both issues dialect or dyslexia, a little tolerance goes a long way.

  • Using "A dyslexic" and "the dyslexic", rather than "A dyslexic person" and "The dyslexic person"; strikes me as off. Gramatically legal, I think, but poor style. I need to get home and find my APA Style Guide. I have a feeling it is good style that when a condition is both an adjective and a noun in common use, to always refer to the the person with the condition as <Adjective> Person (or <Adjective> Collaborator in this case). I believe this is also on of the reasons for as not refering to women as "females". Once I check, I may propose an edit to your very good answer (+1'd). Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 1:53
  • @Oxinabox Yes: You are correct. Very sloppy of me Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 8:57
  • @Oxinabox: Speaking of introducing linguistic difficulties ... ;) Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 10:49

Have him take verbal notes and try automatic transcription software to post the notes to the wiki. This might be somewhat faster for him than writing by hand.

  • 2
    I shudder to think what automatic transcription software will do to technical content...
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:45
  • 2
    Verbal notes may be the way to go. If the transcription is bad just load up the voice note. It seems like text is not good for this collaboration under any circumstances, so using voice seems natural. Also there any many people using voice memos on their phones so it may be that the student already uses this.
    – Dirk
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 5:10
  • @Dirk - Very nice. I would ask that you put your ideas in an Answer. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 19:25

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