Esports Research and Industry Collaboration Supported by VIP Program

<p>A Georgia Tech VIP class team attending an esports event in Los Angeles in 2019 with Laura Levy (holding the sign). </p>

A Georgia Tech VIP class team attending an esports event in Los Angeles in 2019 with Laura Levy (holding the sign). 

Georgia Tech’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program is a transformative approach to enhancing higher education by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in ambitious, long-term, large-scale, multidisciplinary project teams that are led by faculty. This unique learning program has been meticulously assessed and developed for more than 20 years at Georgia Tech.

Laura Levy, research director for Gaming & Esports Applied Research (GEAR), and senior research scientist in the Institute for People and Technology at Georgia Tech, leads several esports-focused VIP teams each semester.

“I’ve been involved in the VIP education program for five years, and created this VIP to support esports research and prepare students for careers in the esports industry,” said Levy. “Fortunately, every semester we’ve had a student hired directly into the industry either locally or nationally and we usually have two students get internships in the gaming/esports industry. Many of our VIP students start their careers in the technology industry.”

In the VIP program, teams of Georgia Tech undergraduate students – from various years, disciplines and backgrounds – work with faculty and graduate students in their areas of scholarship and exploration. Undergraduate students earn academic credit for their work and have direct experience with the innovation process, while faculty and graduate students benefit from the extended research efforts, industry collaboration, and other interactions of their teams such as working with Georgia’s Department of Education or other national organizations.

The VIP program extends project-based learning beyond a single semester, with students participating for up to three years. It provides a longer duration of time and context for students to gain deeper insights into their field of study, to learn and practice professional skills, to make substantial contributions to real-world projects, and to experience different roles on large, multidisciplinary teams.

Within the VIP Future Experience of Esports course, there are four teams focused on how augmented reality can elevate the esports fan experience; studying factors to improve esports player performance; working to improve player health and safety; and improve engagement with science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) via esports in Georgia’s K-12 education to improve engagement leading to decreased truancy rates and stronger interest in STEAM career-related areas.

The VIP program has allowed Levy to excel as an educator at Georgia Tech. In 2021, she was awarded the Student Recognition of Excellence in Teaching: Class of 1934 CIOS Honor Roll at Georgia Tech. This placed her among the top 50 professors on campus based on course instructor opinion surveys (CIOS) scores.

“I’m hoping our esports research and student educational programs help to embed Georgia Tech and the state of Georgia into the esports industry which is projected to grow into a global, three-billion-dollar industry by 2027,” said Levy. “Esports online gaming is shifting to a spectator sport with a huge base of participants rivaling traditional music and entertainment sectors in size and potential revenue.”

<p>VIP program, esports student class, fall 2021</p>

VIP program, esports student class, fall 2021

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Walter Rich