How can you offer a place for students to both learn and connect in times of remote education? Teaching & Learning Service (TLS) and LDE CEL found a contemporary solution in the popular online game which you probably know: Minecraft.
In early June they collaboratively started to construct a Minecraft version of the TU Delft campus to offer an immersive learning and fun environment for all of our students. Six experienced Minecraft players were recruited as Student Assistants to work on this project, including a software engineer, all of whom are currently studying at the university. The building phase has been progressing with gusto and many immediately recognisable buildings have been created using official blueprints, geodata as well as Google maps. The team have worked seamlessly to create the virtual world and hopes to have many faculties open for testing in mid-late July.
Boost connectedness among students
Project-lead Neill Wylie: “Our team’s goal at the moment is to help boost connectedness among the students to offer them a place to explore, hangout and have fun as well as engage in learning activities. We think the virtual campus would be an ideal place to host open days, on-boarding and induction events, games, quests, and experiential learning and collaborative learning opportunities. We have already had interest from several faculties who are keen to take their students to the virtual campus for educational and social purposes and plan to host an introductory webinar soon. In realising this ambition, we are fortunate to have the backing of LDE CEL in this project who have been able to devote resources as well as expertise and indeed meeting with the Erasmus team who are building the EUR campus certainly helped us align our vision.”
“The implementation of the COVID19 restrictions has seen an unprecedented shift in the way we view education. Campuses became empty virtually overnight while lecturers strived to offer continued quality education remotely. Students have been faced with intense uncertainty, with many feeling isolation. During this period, a trend has emerged where many campuses (first occurring in the US) were being constructed in Minecraft with the goal to offer a place for students to both learn and connect. TU Delft has begun its own virtual journey with the collaboration of TLS and LDE CEL, the results of which are impressive”, says Wylie.
Reimagine the learning environment
The past two decades have given rise to a multitude of new and emerging technologies that have not only had an important bearing on higher education but have also confronted and expanded the definition of what constitutes a learning environment. Many such learning environments have included virtual worlds, conceptualised and created in the 1980s, which have been implemented in education with varying degrees of success. The emergence of virtual worlds is enmeshed in rapid technological change and virtual worlds offer unique educational opportunities. Since the beginning of the COVID19 restrictions, many universities of higher education have had to reimagine how students connect virtually, and virtual worlds offer a platform upon which to build social connections, remotely.
Cleverly conceived choice
The choice to make use of Minecraft is cleverly conceived. Many of the current generation of students basically grew up with this, and many of them feel comfortable in the extremely popular virtual world as was the case when we recruited our six fantastic builders.
The game offers a virtual environment, where players explore vast 3-D rich landscapes to mine materials and build new structures with these resources and engage in massive collaborative projects. Automation, workable virtual electricity and the opportunity to use code in the game can lead to a versatile and educational experience – it is no wonder that this game has been massively popular among gamers for over a decade. The average age of a minecraft player 28, so this is certainly not just a game for kids. Younger gamers will enjoy the game building simple structures, and exploring the area, while more experienced players can code and automate almost anything.