Esports has the power to improve learner outcomes in more ways than you might think.
Esports represents a unique opportunity
Students love gaming.
Educational institutions, meanwhile, are always looking for new ways to teach learners of today for the world of tomorrow.
Esports represents a unique opportunity to bring these two strands together to enrich education in ways that might not be immediately obvious.
Look at it from a different angle
Esports may still be stereotyped as a niche and overwhelmingly male interest with questionable value in the educational curriculum, but the role of esports in education goes beyond just indulging students’ enthusiasm for playing games.
Rather than replacing traditional sports, esports has the potential to benefit an entirely different section of the student body by combining the best of sports and gaming. For example, some of the softer skills fostered by esports can go a long way towards improving engagement and employability, especially for disadvantaged students.
Esports is one of those activities – like traditional sports, art, drama and music – that can be used as a vehicle to develop not only a range of industry-specific skills, but a wide spectrum of transferable skills as well. The key is to harness students’ enthusiasm for gaming to increase their engagement with the lessons that can be taught through structured esports.
Steering pupils into STEM learning
At earlier stages of education, esports could help build a pipeline of students with an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, skills which are increasingly in demand to meet the needs of the workplace of the future.
Offering esports as an extracurricular activity – or even building it into the school or college curriculum – could be a great way of encouraging more young people to pursue learning in STEM-related fields.
When pupils take part in esports in school, teachers can capitalise on their enthusiasm to nurture a passion for STEM and guide them to explore STEM careers.
It’s well understood that traditional sports teach and nurture skills such as teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and communications. Yet not all students enjoy – or are able to participate in – physical activity.
Esports is part of a lucrative global industry that presents educators with a valuable opportunity to teach these important lessons to students who would not otherwise benefit from the experience. In an educational setting, esports teaches the same core principles as physical sports. The key difference is that esports is accessible to students who are less traditionally ‘sporty’ because the physical aspect of playing is removed.
Esports can make learning this set of skills more enjoyable and interactive for everyone, even encouraging students to attend courses who might otherwise lack the motivation to do so.
Gaming can be an isolating pastime, and gamers can feel left out of mainstream student life. When students are given the opportunity to join a college or university esports team, however, it becomes a more social experience.
Organised esports can bring disengaged students into the fold, helping them become accepted and respected members of their learning community.
Autistic learners, for example, can find esports beneficial when it comes to developing communications skills. Delivered in the right environment, esports can improve teamwork and build a sense of a community where interests are shared. The ability to learn through play can be of huge benefit in the development of disadvantaged students, emotionally and socially as well as educationally.
For those who don’t necessarily want to play the games, new career paths are being established that require a range of different skills that can be taught within an esports education framework. Esports teams need people to develop and manage websites, run social media accounts, manage team logistics, handle videography, and provide play-by-play reporting and commentary.
As well as preparing learners for careers within esports, the discipline also improves cognitive skills and attention to detail, which can increase success in roles outside esports. These transferable skills can aid progression to employment, either directly or via further study, and are highly valued in an increasingly digital workplace.
The challenge for colleges
More than 70 colleges across the UK now offer esports BTEC courses covering everything from esports business and marketing to coaching and video production, while also focusing on more transferable skills such as entrepreneurship, events management, and health and wellbeing.
However, colleges wanting to incorporate esports into their curricula can often be hampered by the costs involved in setting up the requisite studio facilities with state-of-the-art kit.
It’s not about finding the funds for students to play video games, though. Rather, it’s about investing in the fundamental technology needed for teaching digital skills and computer science – and then being able to run esports as an added bonus.
It’s also about sweating your assets, making them work smarter by scheduling routine tasks to run at off-peak times, for example; or allowing external visitors to use the facilities, which could provide an additional revenue stream to offset the original costs.
Nottingham Trent University’s ConfettiX esports arena, for example, will host prestigious industry events such as the British Esports Championships, and they will be talking about the project at Jisc’s 50th annual Networkshop event taking place at Nottingham Trent University, June 8-10th.
Find out more
At Networkshop50 we’ll explore how colleges and universities can successfully put forward the business case for investment in esports and share practical steps that need to be in place to move forward. Book your place at Networkshop50 to attend in person or online.
If you’re unable to join us at Networkshop50, you can still be a part of the discussion about esports in FE by booking a place at our Networkshop community fringe session on 23 June 2022 at 11:00.