Everyone knows that heading back to school this fall is going to be weird. Instead of stumbling out of their dorm rooms in the morning to attend classes with friends, students might be rolling out of their childhood beds and walking to their kitchens to take online college classes next to their parents.
While this setup might not be ideal, there is one medium that can help students capture at least some of the college experience: video games.
Despite what you’ve heard or read, video games provide opportunities to build the critical skills that many students usually develop in college. If you’re trying to make the most of the online or hybrid school year, consider embracing the online gaming community and recreational esports at your school.
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In a typical year, every college campus in America is filled with people from diverse backgrounds coming together and broadening their understandings of the world. Students work alongside peers and professors to tackle complex problems collectively, learning valuable
communication and team management skills in the process. During this global pandemic, however, opportunities for in-person collaboration and learning are scarce.
Similarly, college social life offers opportunities for students to make lifelong friends and valuable professional contacts while carving out their own identities within a clearly defined community. But this year, students will lose that. Incoming freshmen probably won’t have
comprehensive, in-person orientations to help them adjust and meet people. Instead, they will rely on digital socialization tools like online chat rooms, videoconferencing, and, yes, video games.
Like college, online games expose players to people from all over the world and challenge them to work collaboratively with friends and strangers alike. Video games serve as versatile digital arenas where students can cultivate vital skills and fill the void created by a socially distant, digitized college experience. Although face-to-face meetings aren’t an option, students can join online gaming communities at their schools and enjoy endless opportunities for self-expression, socialization, and fun.
Maximize the Online College Experience
People lean on each other in times of chaos, and 2020 has undoubtedly set a new standard for chaos. However, it’s hard to lean on each other when people can’t be together. New platforms for connection and community, such as online recreational esports leagues, Zoom trivia nights, and virtual book clubs, can help students regain a sense of normalcy during an otherwise strange time. Here are three suggestions to make going back to school suck less for students:
1. Foster unique communities.
Just because students can’t get together at a concert on the quad doesn’t mean they’ll never find other people who share their taste in music. It’s important to find ways to facilitate connections between people with shared interests. Within this new digital environment, it’s not surprising that recreational esports is becoming the premier platform for building communities that span generations, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other demographics. Through esports
leagues, students can bond over their favorite video games, whether that’s “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” or “League of Legends.”
2. Provide alternative online activities.
Traditional campus activities might not translate well for remote students. Instead of trying to force everything online, plan engaging virtual programming like game nights, movie streaming sessions, and recreational esports leagues. Video games can help encourage cooperation and teamwork when played with others, and recreational video game leagues allow students to work together toward a common goal while spending time with each other. This is especially valuable for students who are disappointed by the cancelation or downscaling of
college sports this year. They may not be able to watch their football team take the field on Saturdays, but they can play the latest version of “Madden” with their friends instead.
3. Leverage digital tools and platforms.
If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it’s that we are more reliant than ever on technology to stay connected, informed, and entertained. Screens are our portals to the outside world, so you should see video games and other digital platforms for what they are:
opportunities for students to enjoy the college experience. Encourage students to use Zoom, FaceTime, and other tools for more than just classes. Promote digital learning resources like Khan Academy and Coursera as well as communication platforms like Discord and Slack. When organizing events, use tools like Kahoot! for trivia nights, Netflix Party for group movie streaming, Bingo Maker for prize competitions, and Mission Control for recreational esports. You won’t be able to replicate the full college experience online, but you might be surprised by how close you can get. Digital tools, online activities, virtual communities, and recreational esports can help students feel grounded and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make going back to school more enjoyable for college students, capitalize on the resources available.