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How Esports Programs Help Students Succeed

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How Esports Programs Help Students Succeed

April 19, 2021

In the past few years, more and more colleges and universities have embraced the idea of setting up dedicated esports facilities on campus to help drive enrollment and student retention. However, boosting student interest in higher education isn’t the only reason why schools are starting esports programs across the country. Esports can also set students up for success, and it’s proving to be a game-changer.


Father and Son Gaming

A Sense Of Belonging

In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens aged 13 to 17, 84% of the respondents say they have access to a game console at home, with 90% saying they play video games of any kind on a computer, game console, or cellphone. Of the teen boys surveyed, an overwhelming 92% say they have access to a game console, compared to 75% of the teen girls. On top of that, 97% of the teen boys say they play video games on some kind of device, compared with 83% of girls.

Many of the teenagers who took part in the survey in 2018 are college-aged by now, and many more will be deciding whether to go into higher education in a few years’ time. For the current generation, gaming is more than just a hobby. It has become a lifestyle.

While gaming can be a solo and socially isolating activity, schools can get students involved in esports to encourage them to become active members of their school community. It can be a valuable outlet for students who aren’t interested in traditional sports, and it will help them become more engaged in class, and as a result, more likely to graduate.

“It’s attracted a lot of students who are not traditional sports athletes. They come from very diverse backgrounds, including students with special needs and students of all genders. The activity engages students who we don’t often see on a physical playing field, but they are rock stars on the virtual field,” Kurt Madden, Chief Technology Officer at Fresno Unified School District, told EdTech Magazine.

“Video games are a very inclusive experience. We’re starting to see more kids with borderline or failing grades, or a lack of participation and engagement, getting involved in esports programs,” said Jason Kirby, president of the High School Esports League. “Esports takes something they’re passionate about, and then puts them in a room with like-minded peers and adult supervision,” he says. “They get feedback and positive reinforcement, and they make friendships and feel like they belong.”

People with disabilities even have the opportunity to join these programs and connect with friends. In fact, some of them thrived in this environment despite their disabilities. Just take a look at former Columbia College League of Legends (LoL) top laner Ian “MistyStumpey” Alexander. Alexander was born with just one digit on his left arm, but he never lets that stop him from excelling. He even became one of the best LoL’s players in North America.

“This is the one sport where anybody can play. Anybody with mental, physical disabilities or who do not traditionally fall under the football/basketball [athlete type] can compete at a high level,” says Gidd Sasser, Coordinator of Esports and Head Coach at Catawba College in North Carolina (via The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal). “Students who used to go home and play on the computer by themselves now have to work as a team. That’s something those students have never experienced before.”

STEM Learning

There seems to be a strong correlation between esports and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and it is creating a pathway to college.

A recent study conducted by GYO Score shows that e-athletes are more likely to pursue STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) college majors. This supports what Riot Games Director of Collegiate Esports Michael Sherman said in 2018 when he revealed that around 62% of their League of Legends players had majored in STEM fields. That’s a significant jump from the 45% of all undergraduates in 2015 that planned to study STEM. This shows that offering esports as an extracurricular activity in college may be a great way to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.

Alexander is a good example of an e-athlete who took a STEM-related major in college. He was a computer science major at Columbia College. “I originally wanted to finish my CIS degree and go work for standard companies like Google or Microsoft,” he told SportTechie.

The Connected Learning Alliance also agreed that esports could encourage students to use gaming to learn STEM, and it can prepare students for highly coveted STEM careers by helping them develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“There are countless connections between those skills developed in STEM focused education, and those needed for all levels of gaming. By combining both, the skills are not only reinforced and practiced, but also given an application that can be fun and exciting for all ages,” North America Scholastic Esports Federation’s (NASEF) Nick Butts and Chris Shell said in a blog article they wrote.


Founded by six universities in 2016, the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) is now recognized as the premier governing body for varsity-level esports in the United States with over 200 member institutions. Its members offer around $16 million per year in scholarships to over 5,000 student-athletes. The world’s largest operator of collegiate esports leagues Tespa – with chapters at more than 270 North American universities – also awarded over $3.3 million in scholarships and prizes to students.

According to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), the majority esports scholarships are partial, and they usually range from $500 to $8,000 per year. Several schools do offer full tuition and full-ride scholarships. Again, Alexander is a great example of someone who took full advantage of the opportunities afforded to him by his scholarship. “I can study what I want to in game design and computer science because of League of Legends help financially,” he told SportTechie.

Of course, Alexander would go on to become a pro in LoL. Most e-athletes won’t get the chance to go pro like him, but collegiate esports can still help make college more affordable for many students.

See Original Article (link below) for bibliography.

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