The occasional technical issue is inevitable as an online tutor – whether it’s your first session or your 100th session here is your perfect troubleshooting guide.
Updated in June 2019 with the help of Fluentify tutor Steve Mol.
1. The student can’t connect at the beginning of the session
Reason one: High PING
If the student’s ping is higher than 500 it means that they have a weak connection.
This can lead to a choppy, frozen, or disconnected video call.
The first solution to try
Ask the student to refresh the page.
The second solution to try
Ask the student to close any other programs or windows/tabs that they have open. Next ask them to close all Chrome tabs and reopen and reconnect to the session.
The third solution to try
If you’ve already tried to close everything and refresh a few times and the video quality isn’t any stronger, then at this point you can ask your student if he/she would be willing to switch to Zoom.
Zoom is extremely easy to use and you don’t need to share your contact details with the students, and also your students don’t need to download the app to join the call. Make sure YOU install Zoom on your computer as a back-up.
Alternatively, you can use Skype (not recommended). You can either share your personal account or create a specific Fluentify/ English Teaching account. If you do switch to Skype or Zoom make sure to write a note to the customer service (email@example.com) at the end of the session informing them that you had to switch and give the name and ID number of the student.
Reason two: The student isn’t using Google Chrome
The Fluentify platform is designed specifically for use with Chrome. If your student is experiencing connection problems ask them which browser they are using. If they are using another browser, ask them to switch to Chrome.This should solve your connection issues.
Reason three: The student is using a tablet or a phone
First, make sure the student is using the Fluentify App (Fluentify Live) if using an Apple device because it is usually impossible to connect via Chrome.
If the student is using a non-Apple device (i.e. Android), he/she should be able to access Fluentify via the Chrome app.
While Fluentify tends to work pretty well via mobile, you are more likely to experience connection issues when not using a computer. Inform your student of this and recommend that he/she try to use a computer for the best possible quality session. If the student can’t switch, try to complete the session as much as possible. You might need to refresh from your end often and the student may have to close the app and login again if you experience more issues.
2.You can’t hear the student or vice versa
This is usually a simple issue of microphone connection.
The person with the microphone issue should close Chrome and reopen. This will solve the issue 99% of the time.
If it still doesn’t work, the person should go into their personal computer settings and check for the ‘sound’ options to make sure that the ‘output’ sound is connected to the headphones rather than internal microphone (or vice versa if the student isn’t using headphones).
It could also be a headphone problem – try unplugging and plugging in headphones to see if there is a change. Some headphones have a physical mute button on the cord. Be sure it is not muted!
If none of these things work, try to switch to Zoom to see if the audio works there.
3. You can hear the student but can’t see them
This is usually a connection issue from one side.
Check the PING numbers and follow the steps above. Stay calm and patient. Sometimes you’ll be working with students who may not be very tech savvy, so make sure to explain slowly and clearly how to complete the steps above.
When there are major issues or you can’t complete the session at all, you can switch to Zoom or Skype. However, you must always write to the customer service (via the chat box or at firstname.lastname@example.org) and leave a note about the session time, student + ID, and what happened.
Some cameras have a privacy shield — a physical cover that prevents the camera from working properly. Ask the student if the camera has a cover and if so, it is open.
If you see something, but not the student, they may be using the wrong camera! Microsoft Surface computers are notorious for this.
If this happens, have the student click the “Settings” button in the video conference screen (it looks like a gear). Then, ask them to make sure they can see themselves in the camera window. If they have more than one camera, there will be a list they can choose from.
Once they can see themselves, they need to click “Update” and then “Return to session” for the change to take effect.
4. You have finished one session but can’t open the next one
A simple ‘refresh’ of your session page will bring you directly to your next session.
When a tutor closes a session, it takes a few seconds for the feedback popup to load. Then if you have another session directly after, you have to wait another few seconds for the ‘go to your session’ popup, and this all adds up to at least 30 seconds of lost time between sessions. However, if you wait until the timer gets past the end of the session (00:30:01 or later for a single session, 01:00:01 or later for a back-to-back session) and then hit ‘refresh’, you will be automatically transferred to your next session.
5. Someone starts hearing their voice echo
The OTHER person needs to refresh. I’m sure it has happened in the past that out of nowhere, either you or your student can hear a terrible echo of their own voice. Here’s a trick- it’s not the echoing person that has to refresh, but the non-echo person. The echo they hear is their voice coming back from your computer (or vice versa). So the next time your student complains of an echo, make sure that YOU do a quick refresh and it should all be fine.
6. Open articles, videos, other resources in another WINDOW rather than a tab
We all know that our PINGS can be very sensitive… you click on a link to a document or article and all of a sudden your PING shoots up to 5000! In the future, open up that resource in another window rather than in a tab next to your Fluentify session. When you do this, it affects your internet connection much less and you are able to use the resource while working with your student simultaneously.
7. The picture of me (or the clock, or student information) is blocking my view.
In the upper left corner of the block, there is a paddle lock. Click on it so that it ‘unlocks’. Then, stop moving your mouse. The block will disappear momentarily.
If you move your mouse over the browser, all hidden blocks will reappear for a moment.
To return your screen to normal, simply “lock” the paddle lock by clicking on it again.
How much bandwidth do you need to have a smooth session on Fluentify? By Steve M.
Internet service providers (ISPs) quote numbers like 10Mbps (10 million bits per second) or 25Mbps when they sell a consumer bandwidth. Now here are some important things to realize about those numbers:
Download speed vs. upload speed
First, they’re quoting you the download speed (the speed at which data will go from their server to your computer). This does not automatically mean you’ll get the same upload speed, (the speed at which data goes from your computer to their server).For YouTube, you don’t need to care about upload speed. But, when tutoring on Fluentify you’re sending video as well as receiving it, so you do need to be concerned about your upload speed.
For DSL and Cable connections, the upload speed is generally 10%-20% of the download speed. If your download speed is, say, 25Mbps, your upload speed on a DSL is probably going to be 3Mbps to 5Mbps. For Fibre connections, the speeds are generally the same both ways, so Fiber is definitely a much better option.
You won’t get all the speed that ISPs promise
Another problem: The speeds they quote you are not the speeds they promise. Generally, they only promise about 5%-10% of your quoted speed, which means that there probably will be times you get only 3Mbps on your 25Mbps connection. (Again, Fiber usually fares better than DSL or Cable.)Most of the time, however, you should get 50% (DSL or Cable) to 90% (Fiber) of your quoted speed.
Factoring in third party servers
And there’s more…These speeds are only the speed at which your data goes between you and your ISP’s Server. Your connection speed to Fluentify’s servers, Skype’s servers, or Zoom’s servers is going to be far less. Generally, you’ll lose 50%-70% of your speed when you measure to the other end.
How much bandwidth do you need?
Good video over WebRTC will take about 200Kbps, or 0.2Mbps at a minimum, according to specifications. Factor in 10 times that amount for a clean, stable connection.
So, you can see how difficult it is to say what is “good.” If you have a 25Mbps DSL, you’ll probably usually get about 15Mbps to your ISP’s server, but that will drop to about 3Mbps by the time you get all the way through the Internet. With a need for 2Mbps for a relatively stable WebRTC connection, you really don’t have much margin for error.
Is it possible to have these conferences with less? Of course – most of our students have less. But the less bandwidth you have, the more problems you’ll have maintaining a good connection. As a professional tutor, 25Mbps is probably a minimum quoted connection speed to have. At that level, most likely any anomalies you have during your sessions will be caused on the student’s end.