ONVU Learning and Aston University Engineering Academy – a partnership that has teaching and learning through 360-degree video coaching. 

The innovative nature of the collaboration to further develop teachers

Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA) sets itself out to be different from other schools, with a clear focus on educating the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow. To continue to be innovative AUEA knows that it needs to attract the best teachers and give them the opportunity to further develop. 

To help with this vision AUEA has become the first school in the world to install discreet, always-on 360-degree cameras in every one of its 28 classrooms. The Lessonvu systems are fully controlled by teachers who can reflect on their normal lessons and ask for support from each other – or share great teaching experiences. They can also share lessons with external experts for in-depth instructional coaching.  

The partnership pilot: getting started with 360-degree cameras in a classroom

AUEA started thinking about installing videos in classrooms in 2016. Principal Dan Lock-Wheaton saw that a 360-degree view of the classroom was far superior for teacher review, reflection and coaching than a standard camera and could lead to far more opportunities for teacher collaboration and coaching and instigated a pilot study with one Lessonvu camera at the start of 2017. In the pilot study volunteer teachers worked with Dr Sean Warren, Teacher Development Lead at ONVU Learning. He helped them develop their reflection skills and to get more value from reviewing their lessons, coaching them in, “professional noticing”.  

The initial feedback was encouraging. One of AUEA’s Maths teachers reported back quickly that they had found it ‘a truly engaging experience’ and that it had ‘revitalised their interest in their own teaching abilities, driving them to become a better teacher’.   

All the volunteer teachers valued the different view on their classrooms through the 360-degree video and “curious” became a common word used as they zoomed in to different areas of their classroom and set up different camera views to compare and contrast the reactions of students to different teaching methods. Colleagues reported that in seeing their lessons through Lessonvu that they felt that they were able to determine more to reflect on and discuss areas of interest with others. 

Whole school deployment: Implementing 360-degree video lesson observation to every classroom

In a progress meeting between AUEA and ONVU Learning it became apparent to both parties that from the initial pilot work there were many positive outcomes but with some areas for refinement. After a series of meetings ONVU Learning proposed an action-based research partnership over the next three years whereby ONVU Learning would invest in equipping all classrooms with Lessonvu Systems and AUEA would commit to a program of teacher use of the system aligned with the school’s development plan and improving student outcomes. The decision was made to move to cameras in every classroom. 28 cameras went live in June 2018.  

The benefits for AUEA: The impact on teacher development

The use of the Lessonvu system at AUEA is now similar to that of sportsmen being coached by reviewing video

footage of their practice; they are recorded ‘in action’; the technology is not intrusive or distracting to their practice, team or opposition, and they can review any unpredicted critical moments that had an impact on their performance. We’ve seen the impact that video has made to sporting performance for many years and are pleased to be at the forefront of achieving a similar step-change in teaching in partnership between AUEA and ONVU Learning! 


Vice-Principal David Chapman outlines the benefits he has seen from his personal experience:  

One of the first things Lessonvu has helped us do was to find and help individual students who weren’t achieving to their potential – making a huge difference to them and the classes they are in as well as helping us live the school’s vision to create an inspirational learning community. 

Classroom teachers are seeing the benefits of watching real lessons and over 60% have already chosen to have their formal performance management reviews done remotely. This means that observers can give better feedback in less time. But the impact isn’t just for classroom teachers – the pictures below show the Director of Engineering and I (David Chapman) watching a live lesson. We’re not in the classroom, disrupting it as the presence of two senior leaders would invariably do, so we can talk to each other, discussing the good parts of the lesson and the advice we are going give the teacher. And we’re learning from each other about becoming better coaches.  Andrew Goff from ONVU Learning was with us at this time, observing us using the Lessonvu system, chipping in as an ex-teacher himself, but more importantly listening and taking away research from the experience to help make the Lessonvu system even more fluid to how we work with it. 

 With staff fully engaged in using Lessonvu we can now move forward with it as part of continual improvement. For example, we’re introducing a simple self-reflection form for teachers that will enable them to focus on any areas of the lesson they’d like to improve and to quickly request footage from the relevant part of the lesson to review (see below). 

We’re also working on whole-school issues. For example, we know how important quick engagement at the start of the lesson is to learning. We’re going to share best practice and our aim is to increase learning time in each lesson by 2 minutes. This might seem negligible – but it adds up to over 5 student learning-hours each day! 

AUEA’s experienced Head of Maths points out the importance of having time to look back at lessons – when you are training, you’re constantly reflecting, but when you’re teaching there is little time to reflect with other teachers – we’re always busy but there are so many brilliant moments we need to share. We have brilliant mathematicians – how do we develop them further?  

Another exciting development draws on AUEA’s strong cadet force links. As part of their CCF (Combined Cadet Force) training, student volunteers develop skills as instructors. They can then come back to school and record themselves teaching – this can be added to their growing ‘digital CVs’. And we want to work with our creative and engineering departments to help other students store and share their work – whether that’s an English play or an innovative new design. 

Using Lessonvu for teacher recruitment: 

AUEA has also begun to use Lessonvu to improve recruitment by using camera to review ‘interview lessons’The presence of teachers at the back of a classroom will invariably affect the learning environment for a new teacher, there’s an obvious limit to the number of staff that can fit into a room and observers aren’t able to talk to each other while watching and have to discuss the teaching later. 

But when recruiting a new teacher recently, AUEA streamed lessons live from classrooms using Lessonvu and had 4 members of staff watch and discuss the lessons in real time.   

 After all, candidates had taught, they were each provided with a laptop and headphones in order to review their lessons privately for 30 minutes, then asked what they had learned from the process, enabling AUEA to assess how reflective the teachers were – a key skill they are looking for in their quest for continual improvementOn this occasion, the successful candidate commented thatit had been the best CPD that they had experienced in 10 years of teaching.’ 

Cost-effectiveness and ROI of a 360-degree video lesson observation system

Each Lessonvu system is available at a fixed one-off cost. However, reacting to the marketplace and listening to what education customers want, ONVU Learning will be shortly introducing a rental scheme aligned to schools needs around the Early Career Framework.  It is not envisaged that all schools will equip all classrooms as here at AUEA but will concentrate on what strategically makes sense to them; most pertinently their NQTs. 

ONVU Learning is developing a total return on investment tool, using the impact at AUEA as a benchmark. This includes: 

  • Availability – The Lessonvu systems are automatically always on during lessons recording all lessons without a thought or action so there is no ongoing labour cost and its “normal, natural and meaningful teaching” that is recorded and made available for coaching purposes. 
  • Reduced observation costs – being able to observe parts of several lessons, confer with colleagues during lessons and give feedback saves 30 minutes of senior management time per member of staff per year – at AUEA this will save over £10,000 per year.
  • Reduced staff turnover costs – rather than dispiriting ‘performance’ observations that produce tick sheets full of ‘actions’, video coaching means that teachers can genuinely lead their development and even carry out classroom-based research.  
  • Reduced ‘lost time’ due to low-level disruption – in 2014 Ofsted found that schools were losing ‘up to an average of an hour per day’ in some schools due to low-level disruption.  
  • Reduced CPD costs – rather than buying in scripted external materials, Lessonvu allows a school to build up a bank of real exemplary lessons that show local good teaching, learning and behaviour management.  



Extra Resources 

We believe in the power of video so we created Lessonvu, an incredibly powerful video lesson observation system for teacher training and CPD. 

Find out about further results of using the Lessonvu system on the evidence page of the website.