While the MALDT and DET programs at CMU offer students the opportunity to learn more about blended and online instruction, there is another aspect of digital education that is growing increasingly popular – esports. Esports is competitive video gaming where players establish teams and alliances and compete against others to win in a wide-range of game types.
In December 2019, CMU announced its plan to establish an official esports program on campus. The program at CMU will join the National Association of Collegiate Esports and create a space for esports and gaming. Further, this past June, the Mid-American Conference announced their assistance through an independent league to help with scheduling and competition in collegiate esports.
The support for esports is growing nationwide. Not only has there been growth in colleges such as CMU and others in the league, but programs are beginning to show up in K-12 environments as well. The High School Esports League (HSEL) now has over 3,100 schools represented on their mission to “Make Esports available to every student as a legitimate varsity level sport in high schools across the nation.” The benefits of esports for students are vast, ranging from helping all students engage with a school community to fostering STEM learning.
In the article “Why Esports in Schools is a Good Thing,” the author outlined several positive reasons for encouraging students in esports. Some of the top skills students can gain are:
- Interpersonal skills
- Strategic thinking
- Time management
Many of these skills are likened to traditional field sports as well. The change here for esports is that traditionally, gaming is thought of as isolating rather than social. Calvin Hennick of Ed Tech magazine noted that schools can get more students involved by offering esports options alongside standard high school sports like basketball and football. Further, Michele Israel of Ed Scoop commented that competitive video games can boost fluency in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering, as well as leadership and communication skills useful for college and industry.
Educators who support and recognize the importance of technology in education could be catalysts for bringing esports to their schools and districts. The HSEL offers a grant for schools to apply for a free esports gaming lab to be built; for more information, see their website.