Esports is a hot topic right now in today’s educational environment, where 80% of participating students have never been part of an extracurricular program previously. When these students log in and start playing games online, their GPAs go up by an average of 1.7 points and their school attendance records increase by 10 percent.
These are significant numbers in a world where student engagement is often seen as a leading indicator of academic success. With the rapid growth in video gaming, K-12 schools and higher education are responding with esports programs and getting their physical spaces set up to accommodate this emerging educational program.
Five esports success strategies
Realizing it’s not enough to simply join a workshop, invest in computers, and purchase a few chairs for students to sit on, districts are benefitting from professional development and an experienced consultant to get their esports programs set up and operating.
Below are several key considerations when implementing an esports program:
- One size does not fit all. Think about ergonomics before buying furniture, desks, and other components. Avoid the “coolest” options and think about the learner who will be sitting at a desk for 3-4 hours at a time. Schools may buy equipment after reading about the benefits of an esports program but possibly have not considered the potential pitfalls with that approach. Thinking proactively about the right technology, as well as the furniture and its flexibility and functionality is critical. For example, select chairs that reinforce healthy computing habits and tables that are offer height adjustability.
- Find the most appropriate and inclusive furniture possible. Schools must provide a learning space that supports a diverse range of learners. Students may range anywhere from 4- to 6-feet-tall and could weigh anywhere from 80 to 200+ pounds. Working with an innovative furniture manufacture like MiEN Environments, spaces can be developed to accommodate all students and promote a very diverse and inclusive environment.
- Space to Play. As popularity and participation grows for esports, schools will want to gradually establish and invest in a space where the team can meet, discuss strategy, plan practices, scrimmage, and bond. Start with a multi-purpose space, such as a makerspace that can also flex to a gaming room or be utilized by CTE programs. An effective gaming room layout with ergonomic player seating, old computer and science labs may also be ideal esports arenas. Additionally, creating the gaming space in a high area of visibility, such as a media center or common space, will encourage participation, grow curiosity, and offer a fun spectator experience.
- Meeting Areas. While gaming is not intended to be played on the couch, comfortable collaborative meeting areas for athletes and coaches to work together to plan and debrief are necessary. These meeting areas can be outfitted with soft seating because players are not live on a computer, but collaborating and discussing with their peers, sponsors, and/or coaches. Whiteboard table surfaces and/or mobile whiteboards will support gaming brainstorming and strategizing in the meeting areas. Large monitors in these areas will also allow players to review film and strategy.
- Create a safe and inclusive environment. Give careful consideration to what infrastructure is necessary to maintain a safe and inclusive esports environment. Go beyond the hardware and consider options like Healthy Player One, which utilizes technology to monitor for symptoms and includes a mechanism to alert you when a student is being harassed. It’s important to build a culture that promotes digital citizenship and sportsmanship.
A space where students can thrive
Rapid growth for video gaming in both K–12 and higher education is helping schools to improve student engagement and boost recruitment. With the fall 2020 athletic calendar tabled for the foreseeable future, schools may be looking at esports as a viable alternative. In fact, amidst COVID-19 this is now the one competitive activity that students can remain part of, and if necessary, compete from home. To design the best space for this environment, schools should follow the above tips and work to create a flexible, ergonomic, multifunctional environment where students can thrive.
Elliott Levine is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Healthy Player ONE, and Chief Academic Officer for STS Education, a national educational technology services firm. Formerly the first Distinguished Technologist in Education in Silicon Valley, Elliott is a past school district official and adjunct professor.
Bryan Shark has been a leader in the PK-12 education industry for nearly 20 years, Currently, he leads the Sales and Customer Success teams at STS Education. In his previous role, Bryan focused on driving esports and shared service initiatives.