Hey Teachers and Students — Game On!

How Lenovo™ Innovated a Customer-centric Esports Solution for Education

Shall We Play a Game?

Only a few years ago, Lenovo sales representatives started receiving a steady stream of gaming inquiries from secondary schools and universities. They were asking what equipment they should buy to start an esports program in their schools. There’s little wonder why. Students love gaming.

The 2018 “League of Legends”[i] World Championship finals had 100 million viewers—more than the Super Bowl![ii] Today, the National Association of Collegiate Esports has more than 170 U.S. colleges with varsity esports programs and approximately $16 million per year in scholarships is being offered[iii]. Tespa, a network of college gamers, notes over 1,350 schools and 40,000 student e-athletes competed in its tournaments for $3.3 million in prizes and scholarships[iv].

“Back then, we were getting a lot of interest from schools about setting up esports programs. Schools wanted gaming computers, monitors and networking solutions. A very positive inflection point was just beginning,” said Rich Henderson, Director of Global Education Solutions of Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. “The most significant trend other than just interest and demand from schools was that few had any idea how to actually start or operate an esports program.”

Not many educators and their IT administrators are hardcore gamers or had participated in esports events. This is new and exciting territory for most of the education market, but one in which they would need guidance to set up a successful program at their school.

Lenovo’s Player One

Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group business pressed ‘Start’ and brought in Jeff Palumbo to be the Global Education Esports Solutions Manager. Jeff is a lifelong gamer and experienced business leader.  In 2015, Jeff launched Lenovo’s gaming solutions, the precursor to the successful Lenovo Legion[v] gaming PCs and equipment. In addition, he has years of consulting and ecommerce experience under his belt.  A proven high point scorer with more than a few gold coins in his pocket for superpowers, Jeff was uniquely positioned to level up Lenovo’s esports offering for education.

“I spent the first several months constantly going out on sales calls and listening to our education customers. Schools were really struggling. Many of them knew what they wanted – a thriving esports program to engage students. But how to put the infrastructure in place, what equipment to buy, how to kit out an esports arena, how to manage a varsity team, broadcast gaming events, or get sponsors… This was all well beyond their experience,” Jeff said. “And to make matters worse, vendors were overselling them pricey gaming equipment they just didn’t need. Some schools we met with had been burned and were reluctant to dip their toes deeper in the esports ocean.”

This is when Jeff realized that what education customers really needed was not better, or right-sized gaming equipment, it was advice. The Lenovo Esports Solution for Education transformed from a set of hardware and software offerings to an end-to-end solution with strategic counselling as a foundation.

Lenovo’s custom esports solution for schools includes:

  • Discovery – From increasing positive student engagement to achieving high-level competition, Lenovo will help you envision what a program could look like for your students.
  • Consultation – Lenovo brings a consultative and advisory approach to esports programs, standing by to support and mentor the development of your esports program for free.
  • Goal Setting – Future-proof your program and identify key success metrics to track over time, ensuring esports is a smart, long-term investment.

To help build a schools esports program, Lenovo offers end-to-end solutions from design and construction to software solutions and furniture options. To round it off, a fantastic set of products and accessories are available in the Lenovo Legion and Workstation lines, all backed by education warranty and leasing options.

Today, students at all levels in the United States are spread across a range of options and activities for learning, from in-school to distance learning and hybrid scenarios. The Lenovo Esports Solutions for Education includes the ability for students to join a school gaming network. Network solutions allow players to game from home, a dorm room or on campus with matchups and leaderboards to spur competition. The solution can include network and league management capabilities to maintain and optimize the experience for esports student athletes.

“Deciding to work with Lenovo has been one of our best decisions from the start,” says Lee Hyde, Director for ResNET, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There have been countless times when having the expertise of its teams has saved us time and money while helping us to provide a professional experience for our students and viewers; and pushed us further to our goal of having successful, competitive varsity teams.  We look forward to learning more through our relationship as we continue to build our program and impact on our campus.”

It’s Good to Play Together

Increasing student engagement, promoting activity and interaction among a diversity of students, are among the many reasons secondary schools and universities are building and expanding esports programs.

At the GOAL High School, a statewide charter school in Colorado, student engagement is up, in no small part because of its esports video game participation and competition. In 2019, the GOAL Gladiators won the Colorado state esports championship and finished as the national runner-up. See the video below for stories directly from GOAL Students.

Promoting STEM-learning is yet another reason why educators are looking to include esports as part of the school experience. Women and minorities are often underrepresented in science, technology and engineering fields, so more needs to be done to keep young learners engaged in STEM. A study showed that girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue careers in STEM[vi].

There are also a lot of careers which companies are looking to fill with experienced and educated businesspeople who also understand the world of gaming and esports. Get ready to see a massive hiring boom in broadcasting, production, event planning, finance, accounting and others. What an exciting time to be a gamer.

Bring on the competition and the learning!

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[i] LEAGUE OF LEGENDS is a Trademark of RIOT GAMES INC.

[ii] CNBC, This esports giant draws in more viewers than the Super Bowl, and it’s expected to get even bigger

[iii] About the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE)

[iv] About TESPA

[v] LENOVO LEGION is a trademark of LENOVO

[vi] Science Daily “’Geek Girl’ gamers are more likely to study science and technology degrees”, October 18, 2018.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181018125144.htm

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