How esports keeps students connected via remote learning

By Katina Papulkas, Education Strategist, Dell Technologies 

Katina Papulkas, Education Strategist, Dell Technologies

The rapid transition from in-person, on-site education to remote, digital learning has disrupted post-secondary institutions and students across the country, forcing teachers everywhere to get creative with facilitating engagement in this new normal. 

With the health and safety of students top of mind, most athletic programs continue to be on hiatus as classes begin again. It’s likely that students will feel isolated and distanced from their peers, but with esports they have an alternative way to engage in a team-building activity. Through scheduling exhibition matches, recurring virtual team meetings and more, esports can help students maintain some sense of normality this new school year

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

At Dell Technologies, we completely agree and have launched various initiatives catered towards esports. To help those in post-secondary and k-12 who are responsible for the success of their school’s Esports program, Dell hosted a North American three-part series on esports, to help start and/or continue esports programming. This series addresses several facets of esports, including how to get a program started, diversity and inclusion issues as well as what esports in education looks like.

Furthermore, to help build the confidence of young girls and get them excited about esports, just this summer, Dell Technologies partnered with the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) to facilitate a program known as Girls Who Game. This virtual summer camp, for girls in grade 4-9, taught critical skills to a younger generation and allowed them to learn different topics within STEM.. The girls were also introduced to esports through Minecraft Education Edition games, and through this virtual camp, these girls learned and practiced critical thinking, collaboration and digital citizenship through gaming.

Stemming from Dell’s esports initiatives, below are some useful ways to use esports to keep students engaged this coming school year, especially when learning is remote:

Schedule an exhibition match. Social distancing has altered the schedules of students across Canada. If you already have an organized team, as classes begin again, it’s a great time to check in with players and other coaches to gauge interest in a friendly scrimmage between teams, or possibly other schools/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 encourage CS students, game designers or 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 teams remain locked out of their practice facilities, esports allows students to continue honing their skills on the same equipment they usually access. Work with school administrators to recognize student lead esports teams to provide players access to gaming machines and coaches during this distance learning period.

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 may be temporary, the lessons and skills learned during this time are directly transferable to a traditional learning environment, fostering global competencies that last a lifetime.