Day 18: Uh Oh, It Doesn't Work!

20 Days to Being a Better VC Coordinator

One of the scariest things about videoconferencing is when it doesn’t work and you have a classroom of students waiting. Yesterday Roxanne gave you some great tips for accessing your lifelines. Today, we’ll examine the most common problems in a videoconference and give you tips for solving them. This is actually part of a training that I conduct for my coordinators, and we try to simulate each problem during the training.

First, there are four parts to a successful videoconference: sending video, receiving video, sending audio, and receiving audio. Most of the common problems related to one of these four parts.

The solutions under each problem are listed in order. The top ones are the most common solutions to the problem.

TV is Black / I Can’t See / I See Black / I See Blue

  • Check the TV/monitor/projector. Is it on and is it connected correctly? Some of my coordinators keep a picture or drawing of how all the cables are supposed to be connected.
  • Check the monitor. Is it on the right channel? Make a note for yourself on which channel it should be.
  • If you were able to see the dialing screen/menu before you connect, then it’s not your TV/monitor/projector. A blue or black screen is often a firewall problem on either end of the call. Try one of these test numbers to make sure you can connect outside your district on your own. Have the other site try connecting somewhere else too. If you can both connect to other places but not to each other, it’s probably a firewall problem. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).
  • Once in a while the flat screen TVs won’t cooperate. If so, unplug the power, wait, plug it in.

Audio: I Can’t Hear

  • Check your TV/monitor volume. Check your videoconference system’s volume too. Both should be about in the middle (if your system uses both).
  • Have the other side check their microphone. If you see a Far End Mute icon, you know their microphone is muted. (This only shows up in point-to-point calls). Ask them to unmute. Tell them you can’t hear. Have them nod their head or wave if they can hear you.

Audio: They Can’t Hear Me

  • Check your microphone. Are you muted? Check your screen – usually you’ll see an icon if it is muted. Or Polycom microphones are muted when the light on it is red. Unmute so the far site can hear you.
  • Their TV volume might be turned down. You may have to write them notes on a sign to hold up in front of the camera or write on paper under the document camera. (Or call them on the phone.)

They Can’t See Me

  • Have them check their monitor/projector/TV. Is it on & on the right channel?
  • It may be a firewall problem on their end. See “I Can’t See” above. Have them try connecting to the one of these test numbers. They should determine if they get a picture and then call you back again and report. If they can’t see a picture on your system or the test site, they should talk to their tech person. If you can both connect to other places but not to each other, it’s probably a firewall problem. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).

Call Rejected or Busy Signal or Call Rings & Rings

  • If you call and get a “call rejected” error, usually the other person is already in a call.
  • If the call rings & rings, usually something in the network between you & the other site is not allowing the call to negotiate. Both sides should try a test site. If your test call just rings & rings, then it’s not connecting through firewalls. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).

Alerts: What Do They Mean?

  • IP Network: If this is down, then you don’t have a live Internet connection. Try another Ethernet jack in the room. Using a spot where a computer was connected and working usually guarantees a good connection.

When All Else Fails, Reboot or Redial

  • If you have a lot of connection problems, sometimes redialing will help clear it up.
  • If nothing is working, reboot the camera. Turn the camera off (reach up!!), wait, turn it back on.

Polycom Specific: “Flippy-Do-Button”

My schools all have Polycom endpoints, and another common problem is when you accidentally get yourself in the big screen and the far site in the picture-in-picture. How do you switch it back?

This happens with the button that I call the “flippy-do-button”. I’m sure there’s a more technical term! 🙂 On a VSX7000, if you press the Camera button while you are in a call, you’ll see an icon with two arrows pointing around. If you select it, you’ll swap the far and near pictures. It’s easy to change it accidentally by pressing the camera button and then 1 or the enter key. To get it back, just press Camera, 1. Whew!

Comment Challenge

  • Take this Word file with basically the same information presented here. Fill it in with your favorite test site number and your videoconferencing support number. Add the channel for your TV/monitor (if applicable). Then tape it to your videoconferencing cart in a prominent location.
  • Please comment and add any other troubleshooting tips you have.

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