Game on! The benefits of esports in schools

Author: Rose de Fremery

Date published: June 26, 2024

Many secondary school students are avid video gamers and gaming fans. Until recently, gaming was considered a hobby that had little to do with educational goals. As K-12 schools begin to embrace esports in schools, that traditional view is changing.

Now, rather than simply competing against strangers online after the school day is over, students are playing esports—competitive multiplayer video games—alongside their classmates or in academic esports leagues. Some students even receive esports scholarships and join newly minted collegiate sports programs upon graduating from high school. Here's why esports matters from an academic perspective and how it can help set students up for promising futures in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).


Schools are discovering the potential of esports

Although some teachers and administrators might have once questioned why esports should be in schools, many now recognize its potential to help students cultivate crucial STEM skills that can serve them well in college and beyond.

Now, schools in neighboring districts are comparing notes on building and running an effective esports program and, in some cases, even jointly applying for grants to fund their initiatives. According to EdTech Magazine, an esports program started at a school in Pennsylvania when students began asking for instruction on game design, a central component of esports in education.

Schools are even forming and joining esports leagues, further broadening the collaborative educational possibilities associated with esports. One of the most well-known K-12 esports leagues is the High School Esports League (HSEL), which partners with over 6,000 schools and has over 50,000 students competing today. Meanwhile, the Middle School Esports League (MSEL) welcomes middle school students. The International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE)'s flagship ISTE Live 23 conference featured sessions on creating an effective esports program and mentoring students interested in esports careers.


What are the benefits of esports in schools?

Esports in education offers students a range of educational, social and experiential benefits.


Develop problem-solving skills

Esports in education allows students to develop higher-level cognitive and strategic skills as they determine the most effective course of action for winning a game or tournament. Esports also gives students opportunities to sharpen their problem-solving skills, as they must respond to unexpected situations with creative and novel solutions. Leadership skills also come into play when students form and lead teams composed of their classmates. Likewise, students who are involved in arranging tournaments have a chance to develop their organization and project management skills.


Stimulate STEM interest

Then, there is the STEM dimension of esports, which requires specific computing resources. While participating in an esports program at school, students interested in technology may be fascinated by how the underlying educational technology works and eager to learn how to optimize the systems that enable an effective esports competition. Esports can also give students a glimpse into the possibilities of a future career in technology, coding, engineering, graphic design or data analytics.


Boost student engagement

Esports in education offers multiple benefits from a social-emotional learning (SEL) perspective, as well. For starters, it can boost student engagement, increasing focus and class participation. It can also improve attendance and academic performance. Esports in schools also inspire better collaboration and teamwork among students, enhancing students' self-esteem and giving them a sense of belonging. Esports can support digital equity in education because it is available to anyone, regardless of physical ability. Anyone can play, no matter their skill level. Students of all genders, ages, socio-economic backgrounds and experiences can participate in esports.


Scholarship opportunities

Students who demonstrate special proficiency in esports may receive an esports scholarship and go on to join varsity esports at the collegiate level or even play professionally. According to Esport Scholar, over $16 million in esports scholarships were awarded to students in the United States during the 2020-2021 academic year, double the amount awarded in the previous year. In fact, Harrisburg University was the first school to offer full-tuition scholarships to students who join its esports teams.


What kind of infrastructure is required for esports in education?

In addition to gaming equipment—such as PCs, monitors, keyboards and mice—schools require robust network connectivity to deliver successful esports opportunities to their students. Ultra-fast, low-latency 5G networks can support the performance requirements associated with esports environments, enabling smooth gameplay for students as they compete with one another in near real time. Likewise, 5G connectivity can support the broadcast environments unique to esports in schools, providing the scale needed for larger leagues and their audiences to follow the action.

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is another strong option for gaming environments. Compared to traditional broadband in terms of network performance, FWA offers mobility and portability as needed. Should a school wish to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) technologies into its esports program, 5G and FWA can also provide the necessary connectivity.


Discover the potential of esports in schools

Not long ago, students and teachers may have assumed that esports were just for fun and had no meaningful educational benefit. Now, entire school systems are creating dynamic esports programs, joining forces with neighboring districts to develop and share best practices on esports in education. Along the way, students are exploring new opportunities in STEM careers and even receiving scholarships to pursue esports at the collegiate level. A strong network infrastructure is key to making it all possible, enabling the smooth and robust network connections that power today's dynamic esports environments in K-12 schools. In doing so, it can create a foundation for creative digital learning that allows students to compete, learn and thrive in novel ways.

Learn how Verizon's K-12 education solutions help close the digital divide, modernize classrooms and enable a smart school—with secure connectivity solutions and programs built for learning.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.


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