Campus esports programs are spreading across the nation--and the globe--in a movement that combines immersive technology with other core disciplines.

UK launches landmark esports program

Campus esports programs are spreading across the nation--and the globe--in a movement that combines immersive technology with other core disciplines

Academic development: The university and Gen.G will host a speaker series on campus, featuring leading gaming and esports executives, athletes, and content creators. The series will be streamed globally and will showcase content that is customized for students and alumni from relevant UK majors and degree programs.

The university also will run an open call with faculty to discuss the potential new academic program and examine the possibility of a gaming-focused certificate program.

Community development: UK will initiate an open platform for Kentucky high schools, giving local teenagers a head start on careers in the global gaming ecosystems.

Professional development: The university intends to develop a university conference serving the gaming and esports ecosystems. The inaugural event, scheduled for spring 2020, will convene relevant thought and business leaders annually to explore the most pressing issues and facilitate the entry of UK students into tech-forward careers in gaming.

More than 70 percent of schools are considering starting an esports program, citing an opportunity to improve the campus experience for students and foster STEM learning, according to a survey from Extreme Networks and eCampus News.

The report, which surveyed 281 technical and administrative leaders across K-12 and higher education, found that 1 in 5 schools already have an esports program, and 71 percent are considering or might consider adding a program in the future.

Only 9 percent of schools cited lack of student interest as a reason for not having a program.

The results underscore the momentum of the esports market and indicate that schools are embracing these programs to boost student recruitment and retention, better prepare students for the job market, and blend on-campus and online experiences.

Esports improves overall campus experience, drives recruitment, and diversifies learning–88 percent of schools with esports programs in place said that their program diversifies extracurricular activities, 56 percent said it improves overall campus experience, 47 percent said it fosters interest in STEM, and 41 percent said it helps with student recruitment.

Schools also find that it can help develop in-demand job skills. SUNY Canton, home to the first varsity esports squad in New York State and the first New York State team to join the National Association of College Esports (NACE) leverages its program to offer degrees in game design and development, technological communication, cybersecurity and graphics and multimedia.

Laura Ascione