Mar 09 2022

Building and Expanding Esports Programs in Higher Ed

Cultivating a successful esports program can boost enrollment, increase student engagement and lead to curriculum adjustments.

With the global esports market expected to cross $3 billion by the end of 2025, it’s easy to see why higher ed institutions are looking to roll out full-fledged esports programs. Especially as esports has already increased enrollment and funding for schools who have invested in building the infrastructure. In and out of the classroom, esports programs are value-adds for universities striving to boost enrollment and student engagement on campus. But building and expanding higher ed esports programs requires more than funding — and sometimes doesn’t require a big check at all.

EXPLORE: How Southern University's head coach convinced leadership to see the value of esports.

Determine the Esports Program You Want to Have

Before spending a single dollar on consoles, monitors, keyboards or even uniforms, it’s important to determine the kind of esports program you want to have. What’s the goal of the program? Are you going for a more relaxed, intramural setting? Or do you want a competitive varsity program like Full Sail University’s Armada? What about removing the team competition aspect altogether?

When making this decision, take stock of what’s already going on around campus. Are there student-run esports organizations? If so, is the school hands-on or hands-off? Do the students want to compete with other schools, or do they prefer to keep things low-key?

Determining your desired program might not be as easy as it sounds. But once a thorough evaluation has been completed and the decision made, having this North Star will make for smoother travels.

Click the link below to learn how Ottawa University built a state-of-the-art esports arena.

Start with What You Can Manage

Starting construction on a new state-of-the-art gaming arena might not be necessary, especially if you can repurpose a space. Depending on your program goals, you may be able to use a classroom or storage room to meet your needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Whether you’re repurposing space or constructing something new, remember that it’s important to start with what you can manage.

Esports programs come in as many shapes and sizes as the higher ed institutions that invest in them, and their success has less to do with size and more to do with how they’re managed. Full Sail University’s esports program, complete with its Orlando Health Fortress esports arena, would have struggled to achieve the same success at other, smaller institutions for the simple reason that other institutions might lack the resources to manage such a goliath. But by starting with what’s feasible for them, smaller schools like Messiah University — which repurposed the basement of an apartment building for esports use — are still able to develop and sustain the esports programs best suited to them.

RELATED: How these 3 successful esports recruitments strategies worked for these colleges.

Taking Your Program to the Next Level

Once an esports program has been developed and is being managed successfully, it may be time to take things to the next level. There are many ways to do this, including physical expansion — like having separate practice and competition facilities instead of one multipurpose space. Another route is class implementation.

By programmatically bringing esports into the school at large — bringing it into the curriculum of pre-established majors and minors, or ancillary courses like event management — you’re able to gain rapid support for and understanding of the program as students and their instructors alike learn more about the evolving esports industry. This could even lead to new, esports-specific degree programs. In fact, Shenandoah University — a leader in collegiate esports — now offers a bachelor’s degree in esports media and communication and a bachelor’s, a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a Master of Business Administration degree in esports management.

Regardless of how you build and expand your esports program, CDW is ready to help. Whether it’s supporting your institution with space design and equipment or teaming up with one of our partners to assist with curriculum creation and program alignment, CDW is uniquely positioned to walk with you every step of the way.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.


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