When the world shut down in March of 2020, young students’ learning wasn’t just disrupted in core subjects such as math, reading, and science- it hindered the development of many other critical life skills as well. Many school districts faced challenges such as remote or hybrid learning and getting a working device in the hands of each student. Yet, the more significant and long-term threat we faced was how to overcome the learning loss happening at every grade level. In this era of technology and innovation, it was time to get creative with solutions to the “how”; “How do we engage students?”, “How do we get parents involved?” and “How do we bridge these learning gaps?”
To assist in answering the last “How?” question, federal COVID relief funds were used to help the growth of an initiative here in Ohio called “Heroes League”. Launched in 2021, Heroes League is a student-driven game-based learning platform that teaches success skills to elementary students outside of the classroom and on their own time. So, what are these success skills? They include competencies in responsible decision-making, teamwork skills, self-management, creativity, self-awareness, and problem-solving strategies. These are also known as soft skills, or what may now be called power skills, in an effort to showcase how significant they are in contributing to an individual’s future success.
Winchester Trail Elementary School (Canal Winchester Local School District) was one of the first schools to pilot the program with over 300 students in the summer of 2021. They even continued with Heroes League in grades 3-5 throughout the 21-22 school year, and the findings on student impact gained from this initiative were impressive. Even as little as 10 minutes (and as much as 60 minutes) a day of gameplay positively affected test scores and rates of growth. For example, students playing the game 10-60 minutes per day scored an average of seven points higher in reading and 10 points higher in math on 2022 state tests than students that did not. In third grade, high engagement students grew an average of six points more from fall to spring in reading than low engagement students. The overall conclusion? Heroes League is accelerating academic recovery for elementary students by giving additional learning time outside of school by meeting students where they are -- online in a secure yet highly engaging game that does not feel like just another piece of homework.
There are two additional factors that have contributed to the success of Heroes League: Chromebook optimization and parent gamification. Starting with the first, the gaming platform has been proven to run efficiently on every device. This intentionally includes older Chromebook models that school districts with less funding supply their students with. Overcoming technology challenges like this helps to eliminate those disadvantages in lower-income areas. The second factor has answered the earlier question of “How do we get parents involved?”. Gamified parent involvement is a feature that encourages adults to actively join in on their students learning and help reinforce the success skills at home.
Heroes League was designed to help engage vulnerable youth in learning outside of just the classroom, but it is growing to become much more. It encourages parents and children to be active participants together and have conversations surrounding these in-game experiences. Students get to take control of their learning and build up important skillsets in a fun and engaging way.
This is one of many projects in which the ESC is currently partnering with school districts to implement with use of federal COVID relief funds. The agency is proud to help leverage these resources for Ohio school districts and for students to make a difference in their education.