In the time where the virtual offering reigns, Franklin College is taking steps to start its esports program.
Larry Stoffel, the chief information officer and director of information technology services, said they have been looking into esports for over a year. The pandemic and quarantine haven’t necessarily impacted their decision to start it, but they have noticed during this time it’s one of the few programs that has easily continued even with the stay-at-home orders.
“Students can contact each other, they can talk to each other, they can communicate even with their coaches,” he said concerning the power of the esports community.
Tim Garner, the associate vice president for institutional analytics and special projects, said esports is part of the digital fluency focus on campus. They are looking to leverage technology to create new knowledge and solve complex problems and challenges. This is just one of the avenues they are taking in order to help meet the college’s mission.
The program is aiming to start in the spring semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. It may begin a bit more like a club or intramural activity, but Garner said they hope it morphs into a varsity sport.
In building this program, both Garner and Stoffel have learned plenty. One of the biggest lessons is the power of getting an expert in the field to come alongside during the building phase. “It really is key to have someone who is an industry insider, who really knows the landscape, that esports sector, to advise you and partner with you,” said Garner.
For Franklin College, those partners are Bill Dever, the chief strategy officer of Harena Data, and GYO Score. Stoffel said working with experts has given the college a good idea of what to look for now and in the future of esports.
Garner said another key in building an esports program is knowing your why. He shared it’s essential to think through what end you want a program like this to serve. “I think you need to have a very clear understanding of what you want to accomplish for your college and for your students,” he said.
Once you understand what your mission is and who you can bring alongside, you’re ready to begin. And esports should be considered for your college if only because the importance of virtual community has been realized. “With esports you can still have that sense of belonging and a community because the activity you share together can take place virtually, all online,” said Garner.