Improving engagement and behavior is always a priority for the faculty. Often our solution is to gamify our lessons with an interactive quiz. But what if there was a way to bring gamification further into our educational institutions to encourage broader engagement?
For those new to the term, eSports is not the same as simply playing a video game for fun. Instead, eSports is a competitive video game on the same level as more traditional sports like soccer or rugby, with built-in prioritization of players’ mental and physical health, as well as in-game skills.
At St Vincent College, Gosport, our Esports journey began in late 2019 when we discovered the British Esports Federation and their student championships through our Level 1 IT students. We joined a team and quickly found that being able to give our students the opportunity to compete against other schools and colleges from the comfort of our classrooms gave them a platform to practice their understanding of IT terminology and hardware could develop and a hobby to pursue.
Initial acceptance was tremendous, and our first step was to set clear expectations. In order to enter the competition, we have insisted that all of their work must be turned in on time, their attendance at classes must be high and their behavior must be excellent. They committed and we saw a significant improvement for the students involved.
Lockdowns had an impact, but our students’ understanding of esports and the industry had grown in the short time available, allowing us to continue participating in friendlies known as scrims. We were able to stream these games, Allow students and staff not directly involved to observe and assist the only active team at the time.
Our expectations set at the beginning of the year have also been met through the lockdown as all of our students wanted to compete and represent their team nationally.
This is how the sport has kept our learners busy during lockdown, with many of them completing tasks at home which helped develop their hard and soft skills and made our team, the St Vincent Sharks, the organisation that it is now.
The students used their own resources and creativity to bring the team to life, from designing the logo and t-shirts to launching social media pages and a YouTube channel.
Alongside this, they made further advances in other subjects – from literacy in the form of writing to potential local sponsorships to arithmetic, working out profit percentages and costs for producing jerseys. This opportunity for enrichment proved to be a great success and when we returned to on-site learning we were pleased to find that it was just as effective in re-engaging learners as it was when we started.
As a result, we have evolved our curriculum to offer our students the Level 2 and Level 3 BTECs in Sport. We are also very proud to have forged a professional connection and partnership with Dell Technologies which has resulted in the creation of our very own 30 seat esports arena nicknamed The Shark Tank.
Of course there were hurdles along the way. Ours was configuring our cybersecurity protocols to allow access to video games and the multiplayer aspect on-site while keeping learners safe online.
But the bigger hurdle for many is probably negative assumptions about gaming. For our part, we can truly attest that the benefits of esports far outweigh any negative perceptions.
Not only can they be used as a platform for students to develop the transferrable skills that employers need, but it is a format that is truly inclusive and equal for all and engages players through their in-game skills rather than academic or physical skills combined.
We know the benefits of extracurricular engagement. We take this on with music, traditional sports and even chess clubs. We gamify our subjects all the time to bring some of that competition and fun into our classes.
Esports are here to stay and every college can benefit from their inclusion. Also, the sharks need some competition.