How esports keeps students connected via remote learning

Collaborating, team building and engaging in critical thinking can help players maintain a sense of normality as they operate from a distance.
By: | June 29, 2020
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The rapid transition from in-person, on-campus education to remote, digital learning disrupted higher education institutions and students across the country.

With the health and safety of students top of mind, most athletic programs came to a complete halt. But during a time when students may feel isolated and distanced from their peers, esports can continue as an engaging team-building activity. Through scheduling exhibition matches, recurring virtual team meetings and more, esports can help students maintain some sense of normality.

Esports fosters collaboration, critical-thinking and good digital citizenship. Participating in competitive gaming creates opportunities in academics, athletics and the entire field of STEM.

Multiplayer games require a detailed understanding of communication and advanced motor skills. A study of esports athletes in Germany showed top-tier players release stress hormones equivalent to those found in a professional race-car driver and reached heart rates near those of a marathon runner.

Here are a few ways to use esports to keep students engaged, especially when learning is remote:

Schedule an exhibition match. Social distancing has altered the schedules of students across the United States. Now is a great time to check in with players and other coaches to gauge interest in a friendly scrimmage between teams, or possibly other campuses. Just like traditional sports, it’s always wise to keep the muscle-memory fresh, and in-turn, players will benefit from the leadership and structure.

Encourage students to design something new. Schedules have never been more open, so now is a great time to encourage players to brush up or develop coding and game design skills. Once they develop a new game, players can take part in matches to test it out. This is a fun way to keep everyone involved and the new skills will benefit students as they launch their careers.

Open the virtual gym. While many sports remain locked out of their practice facilities, esports allows students to continue honing their skills on the same equipment they usually access. Work with university administrators to provide players access to gaming machines that may typically be housed on campus during this distance learning period.

Watch the pros. We can all learn from our favorite athletes and esports players are no different. Encourage students on esports teams to emulate strategies displayed by professional esports athletes. The lack of live sports created a national platform for esports as many major sports networks have begun broadcasting live esports events. Fox Sports turned to virtual racing and networks like ESPN and MLB Network broadcasted an MLB players league on a popular baseball video game. This increased attention to esports should excite young players as new audiences begin to embrace the virtual sports world.

Hold team meetings and stay connected. Social distancing can feel lonely, so it’s important to give students the option to reconnect with other team members virtually. Set up open office times via video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams so players can see each other, share best practices and reconnect with their peers.

In addition, find ways to connect with students 1:1 either through office hours or scheduled conversations. This can be an important way to check on their well-being.

Participating in esports presents an opportunity for students to maintain a sense of normality in a very uncertain time. Keep students active in developing the many skills provided by esports. Remain in contact with students and encourage engagement, and remember that while distance learning is temporary, the lessons and skills learned during this time are directly transferable to a traditional learning environment.

Adam Garry is the Director of Education Strategy at Dell Technologies and is also a keynote speaker for the inaugural Academic Esports Conference & Expo.

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