The recent implementation of a school curriculum that teaches college-and-career ready skills, alongside social-emotional learning through the lens of video games and esports, points towards the improvement of student GPA, attendance, and attitude towards long-term goals. The High School Esports League (HSEL) is the longest-running competitive gaming organization that looks to serve high school students and teachers.
The organization has proudly announced the HSEL Gaming Concepts, which is a high school course curriculum that uses student’s passion for video games to assist in improving academic success. This curriculum has been developed alongside Microsoft and by design prepares and supports teachers and faculty members during its initial implementation. The complete curriculum can be accessed directly from HSEL, including its standards, overview, and full lesson plans.
The program has been developed and piloted by principal Dr. Kristy Custer and teacher Michael Russel, based in Kansas. The goal is to prepare young students for life beyond the classroom. To do this, the curriculum focuses on topics such as self-advocacy, personal and social behaviors, interpersonal communication, fluency in technology, and strategy development.
The initial results of the project look positive. Dr. Custer and Russel state that there have been noticeable positive changes in the overall engagement and academic performance of involved students. In the pilot program, students saw an average increase in their GPA of 1.4 and had a 95 percent of an improved attendance record. These initial results are great to see, and it would be well worth implementing elsewhere in order to attempt to replicate the results to better support these claims.
Dr. Custer spoke about the results she found during this initial pilot program, stating, “Students with chronic absenteeism who do not feel a connection to the school especially benefit from esports. Eighty-two percent of students on our team have never participated in an extra-curricular activity prior to offering esports.”
The idea of using esports to improve student academic involvement and success may seem counter-intuitive at first. If anything, many parents may see video games as a factor that limits academic performance. However, when viewed within the lens of a program created to blend the best of games with academics, we may be seeing the start of something big.
Esports as an industry has been growing non-stop for years now. Most people would consider the first significant competitive games to have sprung from Starcraft in 1998. In that year, $7.8 million were awarded in total prizes across a total of 536 tournaments. Today that number is far larger, with estimates placing esports revenue streams at $1.8 billion by 2022.
For now, it is good to see that such programs are being tested and that their initial results show only positive impacts on the academic achievement of young students. With more research, there may be a future to this manner of curriculum, especially as barriers to entry within esports decreases as technology improves, and decreases in its price entry point.