Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A new kind of learning is taking off at William & Mary and it involves video games

William & Mary is in the early stages of creating an esports league for students. (WYDaily/Flickr)
William & Mary is in the early stages of creating an esports league for students. (WYDaily/Flickr)

William & Mary is forging the way for gaming technology on college campuses.

The college is in the early stages of planning a new esports program that will provide students the opportunity to play video games competitively as representatives of the school.

In recent years, the concept of esports has taken off and the Virginia High School League has even started a pilot program for high schools in the state.

“I think it’s a natural evolution,” said Jeffery Rich, chief marketing officer for the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. “For many years now we’ve known that millennials are heavy gamers and it has evolved in the social space where they meet, and interact. So now we are making that practical application.”

Terry Trojak, senior creative producer of academic innovation with the School of Business, said they’ve been aware students at William & Mary have been playing competitively for years. As the school continuously looks for new ways to form communities for students on campus, Trojak said it seemed like something they should look into.

The school issued an online survey to students to gauge their interest and Trojak said he’s excited to see the benefits of esports reach campus. 

“Esports offers opportunities for everyone,” Trojak added in an email. “It requires teamwork, effective communication, proper fitness, and wellness. Participation in esports offer experience in coaching, broadcasting, event management, team management, and social marketing.”

This isn’t the college’s first time considering how video games can be used on campus. Karen Conner, director of academic innovation at the School of Business, said the school has been looking at how “gamification” can be interwoven into teaching methods.

The idea for esports started when Trojak and Conner, were discussing academic innovation at the School of Business — they thought about how game-based learning could be used as a part of a University Teaching & Learning Project in the Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation.

“I see how much an impact that esports has in student lives,” Trojak said. “It can be more than just a hobby or pastime, to some it is a lifestyle by which their social lives interweave. Why not leverage that energy and motivation for better learning outcomes?”

Gamification is a term, when applied to higher education, that means more interactivity and engagement through gaming technology, Rich said.

“What that means in practical application is instead of creating passive static content, you could turn that into a learning module that is interactive in nature,” he said. “It’s trying in its purist form to create interactivity, its a great source of motivation and you would be surprised by the extra amount of effort people will do when it is framed differently.”

Rich said gamifying the curriculum could mean including videos with hotspots or simulation modules and more.

“As gamification as a concept takes hold here and as we socialize gamification, all these tactics creep into our curriculum,” he said. “The benefit for the university is our academic programs will be more effective and sought after.”

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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