As scholastic esports teams expand across the nation, research has some promising indications for students' academic experience

As esports grows in popularity, many schools are evaluating whether and how to implement esports programs. There’s a big difference between programs that incorporate only gameplay and tournaments, and those that intentionally incorporate learning into the esports environment.

The University of California Irvine (UCI) has been researching the learning impacts of students enrolled in esports clubs and classes through the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). From its inception two years ago, NASEF has focused on developing a program that taps into students’ excitement around esports, with an emphasis on personal and educational development.

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Constance Steinkuehler, a professor of Informatics at UCI, researches the cognitive, intellectual, and social aspects of esports and multiplayer online videogames. She and a team of researchers have just completed several empirical studies on student behaviors and learning specific to NASEF’s scholastic-based structured environment.

The data documents significant positive learning outcomes for high school students because of their participation in NASEF’s scholastic esports program. In fact, researchers found that students improved in nearly every outcome variable measured, including STEM career interest, school engagement, critical thinking, and many others.

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