Esports. Is it a game changer for UK education?

Staffordshire University Business School has become the first British University to launch an esports degree. The course focuses on the business and culture of esports from developing teams, communities and a fan base to hosting esports events.

Staffordshire University has invested heavily in new facilities as part of a £40m transformation of its Stoke-on-Trent campus and academics feel the University is well placed to plug into rapidly growing sectors like esports which is the practice of playing video games competitively over the internet or via networked computers in venues and stadiums.

Already Staffordshire University has responded to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment’s (Ukie) white paper on esports by introducing a module on esports in their Games Degree.

Back in January, Dr Fletcher, Head of the Games and Visual Effects at Staffordshire University said:

“The module which is available to students on our Games Studies course is a fascinating branch of cultural studies. It looks at the national, and international market for esports, and the cultural aspects that drive it as well as the darker side of cheating and doping by esports players. Games designers are growing up and that brings with it new trends in gaming which comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas.”

Other countries around the world have recognised esports as part of the curriculum for some years.  In South Korea, where the first esports association was set up 17 years ago, they have been accepting esports players onto their sports programmes for four years. At the Asia Pacific University in Malaysia, students can complete certificates in League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In Norway,  the Garnes Vidaregaande high school pupils can opt for esports and can study for up to five hours per week, they focus not just on game play but also combine physical exercise in the mix.

One thing all these esports educators have in common is an agreement that esports provides a vast amount of transferable skills to the participants.

Top skills for esports:

  1. Teamworking
  2. Resilience
  3. Stamina
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Communication
  6. Endurance
  7. Decision Making
  8. Leadership
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Analytical

The students on Staffordshire University Business School’s BA (Hons) esports will also have classes in event management, digital marketing, the legal side of esports and streaming techniques. This will make sure that when they leave university they’ll have all the right skills to prepare them for a great career. With huge growth predicted in this area there are lots of job opportunities.  Many recruitment agencies, like Odgers Berndston have set up separate divisions to deal with esports careers and there are even some new sites that have sprung up like ‘esports Careers’ who are currently listing almost 500 vacancies.  The British esports Association lists over 12 career paths on its website, here are a few:

  1. Shoutcaster/host
  2. Coach/analyst
  3. Journalist/content creator
  4. PR/Marketing executive
  5. Community/social media manager
  6. Broadcast/production crew
  7. Event manager

To find out more about esports at Staffordshire University Business School visit the website staffs.ac.uk.

Rachel Gowers MBA
Associate Dean
Staffordshire University Business School

 

The Impact of Technology on Business and Communication

I remember the first time I accessed the Internet. It was circa 1996 and I worked as a Research Executive for a market research company. I poured myself a coffee as the computer whirred into life. “Today I’ll show you how to access the worldwide web” said my manager. I watched as she connected a strange looking plug to the phone socket, then opened a “window” on the computer, clicked the mouse and dialled up a connection. Suddenly a high-pitched sequence of beeping and screeching noises erupted from the speakers. It sounded like something was seriously wrong, but as silence returned she exclaimed “that’s it, we’re connected!”

We opened a search engine called Alta Vista (in those days Google wasn’t a verb), typed in the search term “viewing facility London” and proceeded to search for a suitable location to conduct some focus groups. There weren’t many results; a page or two at most. There were no sponsored results at the top of the page, nor advertisements down the side either. In fact there were very few companies with a web presence at all.

St.Helens, England - January 15th 2012: iPad2 in females hands displaying google search engine page. Google is one of the biggest search engines in the world. iPad2 was launched in March 2011.

Shortly afterwards the postman arrived with a pile of post, held together with several thick elastic bands and dropped it onto my desk. Invoices, letters from suppliers, bank statements, bills, CVs from job hunters.  It took me an hour or so to sift through the mail, filing documents appropriately in the rickety wire trays stacked on the corner of my desk – In, Out and Pending.

I loved my job. Loved this amazing new world it opened up for me. Talked enthusiastically about it to my friends and family on long, lazy, work-free weekends. Let’s face it, those were the days when nothing was done from the moment you left the office on a Friday until the moment you walked back through the door on a Monday morning.

In the past two decades technology has revolutionised the way we work. We are a wireless, paperless, fast-moving, connected, global workforce which, like the Big Apple, never sleeps. We are in touch with the whole of the world, twenty-four-seven. Business communications have never been easier or quicker. Isn’t it fantastic?

Well yes, it absolutely is, but it comes at a cost. The connected workforce is less tangible. It’s possible to go for whole days or more, without even seeing or speaking to business contacts. Instead we message them, email them, tweet, post, blog, Google, we Skype and run webinars, we send information and documents electronically. And we’re still messaging, emailing, tweeting and posting once the office doors are shut. From our trains, buses, sofas and sadly, sometimes even our beds. Work can invade our personal lives and the long, lazy weekends become brief gaps in time. We’ve not just changed the way we do business; we’ve changed the way we live.

You could argue that this is inevitable progression in society, much the same as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone revolutionised both business and personal communications. Personally, I love being part of the connected university. The fact that we are becoming paperless has huge benefits to the environment. I love the fact that I can allow my students the luxury of attending a virtual lecture, a webinar, so that they don’t have to fight through traffic and pollute the atmosphere to get in to university for that day. But I couldn’t do it every day because I still need that face to face interaction with them. We are human beings after all. We can embrace technology and all that it represents, but I still want to do business with people, not machines.

I love to bump into my students in the corridor, say ‘hi’, catch up over a coffee. But like many, I like my personal time away from work too and the struggle to protect this is real.

Technology has indeed revolutionised the way we do business, but a word of warning; don’t forget the human touch. I remember being taught that “people buy people” and despite the digitally connected World that we live in, I still believe this to be true. I also believe that you work to live, not live to work. Technology has allowed work to invade our precious and much needed personal time and we are the only ones who can police that (I have to admit that I am guilty as charged in that respect).

So switch off your laptop, phone, iPad once in a while. Switch them off when work is done. Roll back twenty-plus years, talk to people… and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

“Let’s be Honest” Rules the Roost

The Chinese New Year celebrations begin at the end of the month and 2017 is the year of the rooster (back to the chicken blogs Dr Peter Jones!). Apparently the rooster is a Chinese symbol of honesty, a quality that could be said to make or break a business. This led me to ponder on the requirement for honesty within an organisation and, despite the fact that truth is said to hurt, the difference that honesty can make.

Honesty is the best policy

How often have you heard that said? It’s certainly true in terms of crisis management and at some point or other all businesses will find themselves dealing with some form of crisis. Historically those businesses that have been dishonest have fared badly in these situations; BP notoriously handled the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 poorly and dishonestly. Alton Towers on the other hand, have been repeatedly praised for their honest and straightforward response to the Smiler crash in June 2015. I’m a firm advocate of holding your hands up and admitting it when you get something wrong, then throwing all energies into making good any damage done and moving on.

I can see you!

Of course in these days of instant digital communication, businesses can’t hide their mistakes for long. There’s always some follower with a bug to bear that can’t wait to post or tweet negatively about a brand the minute a mishap occurs. Businesses seem to be getting wise to this and there are numerous examples of how organisations responded cleverly to crisis situations via their social media channels. The secret seems to be responding in a timely and appropriate manner…as well as being honest!

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Are dishonesty and lying the same thing do you think, or is one more intentional than the other? Either way, Volkswagen was hauled over the coals for lying about their emissions tests. That faux pas cost the company dearly, posting their first quarterly loss for 15 years in October 2015. Clearly it doesn’t benefit businesses to lie…unless they can get away with it.

One would hope that the businesses of today have learnt from these examples and that honesty and integrity prevail in order for the wheels of the business world to turn. The Federation of Small Businesses appears to be confident in the current economic forecast, so all bodes well for both the old red hens and the hatching businesses of 2017.

Award-winning Business and Enterprise Graduate Finds the Balance

Luke Ellis, a recent graduate, award winner of the Davies Group Business School Prize and business owner talks to Angela Lawrence, Business Management Course Leader, about the success of the business that he grew alongside his studies.

le5

Simple beginnings

I started the business, Churnet Valley Garden Furniture in 2012 from my Dad’s garden shed. I had a vision that I could design, create and make the best garden furniture in the UK. I guess I was the drive and brains behind the operation and my Dad was a good all rounder, a hard worker with loads of experience over the years as a handy man. I’d worked for 10 years in an engineering role so I had gained all of the skills needed for design and precision work

le2

Juggling balls

I won’t lie, it was hard work studying, growing the business and bringing up my two sons as a single Dad with sole custody. The boys are 8 and 9 now and can both be a handful. I have struggled to balance things at times, but somehow I always manage to pull it off.

Business growth

I pushed the business in every way I could think of; it became both my hobby and my passion. I started off exhibiting at my local village carnival in 2012 and four years later I am winning an award for the best garden furniture stand at the Ideal Home Show in Manchester and I’m on target for a quarter of a million pounds turnover this year. I’ve made products for JD Sports, H&M and completed a huge project making and installing Christmas market chalets for a French market group last winter.

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Where next?

My goal is to maximise my current capacity at my workshop by growing the business to a level where it is big enough to run independently and consistently. I have always had a passion for the food industry, so I think that will be my next venture – to get something running in the winter months, when garden furniture isn’t exactly on people’s minds.

Keeping it in the family

I also want to return to university and do an MBA, and then open my own consultancy business. I bought my Dad out of Churnet Valley Garden Furniture in 2015 and this year my younger brother has invested time and money in order to prove himself and earn a share of the company.

Proud moments

Seeing my boys grow up into good kids makes me proud every day. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved academically, of getting a 1st class honours degree, of winning the student award for the best overall performance on the BA (Hons) Business Management and Enterprise course, and of the way in which my company has grown and developed. We recently ran a Facebook competition to win a garden Love Seat. It reached over 60,000 people and got over 800 page likes in just three days! So we must be doing something right.

le6

Technology, Opportunity and Entrepreneurship

Technology has fabulously changed our jobs market since it transformed the production landscape during the industrial revolution, but even more so in the past three decades. Like in the 16th century, many jobs that were once considered crucial are now obsolete, and new job descriptions are being created in the labour market even as many forms of automation are presently being integrated into the production process. One does not have to go far to see how technology has changed our lives in forms of communication, transportation, work and leisure. Your being able to read this article has been greatly enhanced by technology and I as the writer have had to have some basic skills in technology to be able to deliver this article to you.

As an economist, there used to be a time when my profession worried about what humankind would do when we ran out of oil but recent technological advancements have once again rendered that discussion archaic. There also used to be a time when the factors of production were firmly believed to be land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship but some economists will argue that there is a need to include one additional factor of production in the modern era – you guessed it “technology”.

So what does this mean for young people as they decide their future? Should we be scared of this trend? How far reaching will advancements in technology be felt? Humankind has been very fortunate to have been able to grasp the benefits of technology and we have used it to live longer healthier lives, explore space and other planetary objects, and open great doors for the future but we have also made many mistakes along the way. Young people need to wary of this and know that they have to be the ones to decide on how we harness this power and what we use it for.

Business Management students at BMW in Munich

Business Management students at BMW in Munich

My area of focus in economic research right now is entrepreneurship and I became interested in entrepreneurship particularly because entrepreneurs are the ones who combine all the other factors of production to actually benefit humankind. Without the entrepreneur, other factors of production would be idle. Entrepreneurs however need to be somewhat knowledgeable to be able to do their jobs properly. Adam Smith, one of my favourite economists used the example of a small grocery to illustrate this point:

“The owner of such an enterprise [a business] must be able to read, write, account, and must be a tolerable judge too of perhaps, fifty to sixty different sorts of goods, their prices, qualities, and the market where they are to be had cheapest.”

This example shows that a business owner needs a modest amount of education to function profitably. This education might not necessarily be formal but the entrepreneur must know their stuff.

In our current society we are awash with technological advancements and these seem to be changing the way we live and do business. Businesses that have not kept abreast of current vagaries or have been slow to make investments in innovation have found themselves left behind, and entrepreneurs will need to know that they will face the same fate if they do not stay knowledgeable about technological developments that affect their customers and market.

This also presents some opportunities for entrepreneurs as they can be avant-gardists and influencers of the future. Imagine the impact that innovators have had on our current society not just in terms of social media but virtually in all productive fields. The world needs smart means of using its limited resources to improve the quality of our lives, and individuals who can do this successfully will be blessed with the commensurate rewards.

A holistic education is thus needed to be successful in the present climate as well as an open mind and the right sort of social capital. As the saying goes “no one is an island” and “many hands make light work”. Business owners and potential successful entrepreneurs will also be wise not to jump into the water with both feet but to test out their ideas and products carefully before venturing out boldly into the wide world.