How schools can take e-sports to the next level

How schools can take e-sports to the next level

Over the past few years, the growth of e-Sports has been staggering. As of 2020, the industry is estimated to be worth more than US$1.4bn.

Recognising this, traditional sporting clubs have been investing into the e-Sports market, which now includes major league soccer, NFL and the Australian Football League.

Australia’s universities are also seizing on this growth by offering courses for gamers to move from amateurs to professional players and creating industry opportunities for students who are interested in a career in e-Sports.

In fact, the massive disruption wrought by COVID-19 last year provided some teachers around the world with an opportunity to leverage e-Sports in some new and innovative ways.

At Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, two physics professors took inspiration and technical know-how from the world of e-sports to make their online teaching as effective as possible for the students.

“We realised pretty quickly that we could learn and benefit from the expertise and technical solutions that have been developed over a long period of time by professional e-sports streamers, and apply them in an education environment to create a distance learning studio,” Andreas Isacsson, Professor at the Department of Physics at Chalmers, said.

To understand the concept, the professors studied in detail the technical setups of several experienced e-sports professionals and successful Youtubers for live streaming and interaction with their co-players and followers. 

Now, Professor Isacsson and his colleague Philippe Tassin have built two teaching studios with several webcams, a high-quality video camera, a specially optimised computer, wireless microphones and more.

The cameras allow the students to view, for example, detailed calculations written on a blackboard, much like in a traditional lecture. The studios are in high demand for teaching physics students at Chalmers.

According to the five course evaluations carried out so far, the concept has been enthusiastically received by the students.

“The professors have really handled it well based on the circumstances. They are really trying to do everything they can to make the teaching as successful as possible for us,” Rebecka Mårtensson, a first-year student at Chalmers, said.

The success of the studios has recently been evidenced by the fact the professors were awarded the educational prize “Guldkritan” (The Golden Chalk) from the physics students, for their remote education efforts.

The distance learning studios have also received a lot of attention from teaching colleagues at Chalmers since the start of the semester last autumn. More and more students have had their lectures broadcast from there as the academic year has progressed.

Professor Ulf Gran, Vice Head of the Department of Physics, said the new concept makes it easier for lecturers too, whose workloads have increased greatly due to the pandemic.

“By being able to give the lectures in a more usual environment, the transition to distance education is much less labour-intensive. And since the students appreciate this form of teaching, it is a clear win-win situation”.

In recent years, Australian schools and universities have been leveraging e-Sports to great effect.

In 2018, Ormiston College rolled out an e-sports program for its Years 9-11 students in a bid to improve their digital literacy.

Bringing e-Sports into the school environment has provided the College with a unique opportunity to develop our own digital literacy component to the program. This includes compulsory targeted lessons each week which focus on teamwork, peer to peer learning, resilience and good sporting play behaviours in online environments.

Another school making interesting strides in this area is Queensland-based St. Hilda’s School, which pioneered the state’s first inter-school e-Sports competition for upper primary and lower secondary school students.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which launched Australia’s first university e-Sports program in 2017 with a purpose-built esports arena at its Gardens Point campus, has also been ramping up its involvement with the initiative.

The QUT ‘Tigers Academy’ provides students with a consolidated pathway towards becoming a professional esports player. By joining the academy, students are provided with professional performance coaching, fitness and nutrition support, academic support under the Elite Athlete Program, access to our state-of-the-art esports facilities, and opportunities to compete at local, national and international levels.