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Bringing Esports into education: 7 things to consider

Groupe_887Apr. 26, 2021

By way of background, for anyone not familiar with the concept, Esports is a form of organized multi-player video game competition. While these types of competitions have been around for a while, the rise of the professional player is relatively new. This evolution in the industry has created opportunities for players to participate at a more advanced level of play; as well it has opened new avenues within the education sector. In addition to aligning with traditional STEM activities, today’s students can participate in Esports-based courses and apply for scholarships at the collegiate level.

To help navigate the landscape I’ve pulled together the following 7 considerations that educational institutions should think about as they embark on implementing an Esports program:

1. Figure out what games the students are interested in: Survey the students to determine which games have enough interest to create a culture and a program. Make sure the program offers the games most students would be interested in playing. If there’s not enough interest in the games, there may not be enough participation. Also be open to rotating the games to keep pique interest, after all the “hot games” change regularly. You can either informally survey the students and collect their feedback, or conduct a formal survey and possibly make suggestions for the top three games currently being played.

2. Determine the competitiveness of the students: Should the program have tryouts? One thing to keep in mind is that Esports should be all-inclusive. It’s not essential that a student be athletic to be successful. Reaction time and dexterity rather than how fast players can run a 50-yard dash is key. If your students have goals of becoming a professional or earning a college or university scholarship, then forming a competitive team may be an option. If you decide to go that route, I also recommend a non-competitive team to maximize student engagement. As noted previously, exposure to Esports can have a direct impact on STEM interests and create opportunities for student for the future.

3. The next thing to consider is training: Training should include physical exercise which gets synapses sparking so students can focus. It’s a fact that endorphins get released during physical exercise. Endorphins are good for increasing brain activity which is beneficial to maximize student engagement. Perhaps consider 30 minutes of physical exercise before every Esport practice. As for how often and when? Think about what time will allow most students to participate. Most programs take place after school but if it’s easier for students to participate before school then that is an option as well – whatever works to draw the most participants. Start out with three days during the week and perhaps a weekend session.

4. Time to think about the training facility: In terms of a training room, I have seen a couple different solutions. Some groups use a spare classroom or the computer lab. Any available room with the appropriate network devices and infrastructure, lighting, and PCs could become the Esports room. Furniture is also sometimes overlooked but it does make a difference. Consider high back gaming chairs since it will be more comfortable for the participants. Good seating can eliminate physical discomfort students may experience during practice or competition. As well, the layout of the room should be taken into account. Layout should include a half or quarter circle but will ultimately be determined by the existing furniture and space.

5. How about that coach? You may need to consider someone who is familiar with gaming, or if the students are self-sufficient, consider a monitor. Either way, choose someone who is technical, to assist with any troubleshooting that may be required with the gaming PC’s and/or network. If the students are competitive, make sure you have a coach that can offer advice and provide tips and winning strategies.

6. Computers are key: The program will require appropriate computers. It’s best to standardize on a computer make and model to make support easier. You may consider building your own computers with the assistance of the students. This would be a great opportunity to have students explore possibilities in STEM related fields. It will really depend on the competitiveness of the program and what’s available. Dedicated school provided PC’s are the best solution, but if you’re just starting out, perhaps the students could bring their own laptops.

7. Don’t forget about the network and security: Lastly, and some might argue, most importantly, you need to understand the school’s current network infrastructure. Is it CAT5e cable that would need to be upgraded or CAT6a cable or greater that will handle up to 10Gbps, or fiber between the closets that is capable of handling even more bandwidth? To ensure there are no bottlenecks, find out how big the internet pipe is at the school or school district and understand each players’ bandwidth requirements. Consider how many users will be playing simultaneously, and how many switch ports will be needed. Make sure there are at least gigabit switch ports for each PC. From a security perspective it’s recommended that your Esports network be isolated from the school’s network, and can be activated by time-of-day, and day-of-the-week. Measures must also be taken to prevent DDOS attacks, among a myriad of other attacks. As well, a network that provides intelligent management can ease use and support requirements.

One of the great things about Esports is the diversity and inclusivity of the environment. It extends beyond gender, culture, and socioeconomics boundaries. As Esports breaks ground in the education sector, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is here to support your initiatives with a portfolio of switches available to meet or exceed your requirements to ensure your network is robust enough to handle the usage and prepare for the future. If your school’s network has CAT5 cabling and cannot support gigabit speeds, now is a good time to upgrade your infrastructure with the appropriate cabling switches and routing to support gigabit, 10, 25, or 40 gigabit speeds. ALE switches and Network Management Systems can intelligently prevent many types of attacks and guard the CPU from being overloaded. To learn more about ALE solutions for the education sector, contact an ALE representative who would be happy to assist in determining your needs.

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