For many students, online classes, distance learning, and virtual sessions have become the new mode of education during the global pandemic. As students and institutions adapt to a virtual learning model, we’re seeing new digital interfaces and technologies arise out of this sector—but schools that were quick to add esports to their collegiate programs in recent years are already ahead of the curve.
Prior to the pandemic, the world of esports was a nearly billion-dollar industry, with organized professional leagues engaged in competitive, real-time video games streamed live around the world. For higher education institutions, the industry also created a new opportunity for recruitment by combining interest in competitive sports and gaming with real-world training in STEM or related fields like media or broadcasting.
A drive for student recruitment and marketability
Information technology personnel at colleges and universities are embracing the growing popularity of online gaming. Institutions are recognizing the correlation between esports and student enrollment and recruitment, and how incorporating esports into academia will not only attract those who seek careers in the professional world of esports, but also prepare up-and-coming gaming “athletes” as they enter a bourgeoning billion-dollar industry.
In Leveraging Esports in Higher Education, Karen McGrath says that there are already more than 1,600 esports clubs across 600 universities in the United States. Collegiate programs are even offering student scholarships to attract the best players. Schools are now investing in high-end training facilities and competition arenas as a means of offering state-of-the-art facilities that go beyond the typical computer lab setting. Such facilities can lead to better player and team performance, which can redefine a school’s reputation and become a new revenue stream that previously did not exist.
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