Microsoft is further expanding on its investment in Minecraft, bought in 2014 for $2.5 billion, by acquiring a learning game called MinecraftEdu for an undisclosed sum. The game, produced by a company called Teacher Gaming LLC, allows teachers to use Minecraft in the classroom, and includes a library of lessons and activities used to teach subjects including STEM, history, language, and art. Microsoft says it will use this acquisition to build out its own “Minecraft Education Edition,” which will launch into free trials as of this summer.
Minecraft is already known for being a tool that encourages kids to learn more about game design and programming, among other things, but MinecraftEdu was specifically designed with the goals of educators in mind. Teachers could adapt the product to their own curriculum needs, while also eliminating the need to set up or manage their own hardware, thanks to the tool’s hosted environment.
Plus, the learning game offered a range of activities created by other teachers, as well as hands-on workshops and courses, and technical support.
Already, notes Microsoft when detailing the acquisition, over 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries worldwide use Minecraft as part of their curriculum today. The launch of its own supported Education Edition could easily increase those numbers.
The company says that by having students create virtual worlds in Minecraft, they can learn a range of skills, like digital citizenship, empathy, social skills, and can even improve their literacy, while also getting real-time feedback from their teacher. Some examples of Minecraft in the classroom today include elementary school students learning about city planning and engineering; middle schoolers learning the building blocks of computer science in a Minecraft coding camp; or college students learning the history of the New Zealand and its people by re-creating historic landscape and events in the program.
Microsoft notes that following this deal’s close, it will roll out a new version of this game that will include an expanded feature set focused on empowering educators to “foster deeper student engagement and collaboration,” says Anthony Salcito, vice president of Microsoft Education in a blog post.
This new version, dubbed “Minecraft Education Edition,” will be available as a free trial starting this summer.
As MinecraftEdu, the company charged for server subscriptions at $25 per month per server instance. (A single classroom server supports already 30 simultaneous users.) In addition, teachers had to buy a one-time Server Software license at a cost of $41. The BBC reports that Microsoft will charge an annual fee of $5 (£3.50) for each teacher and child, though pricing wasn’t mentioned directly in Microsoft’s announcement.
A website for Minecraft Education Edition is now live, offering starter lessons, educator forums, and other resources. Teachers can also join a mailing list to be notified of updates. Meanwhile, Teaching Gaming says that current MinecraftEdu users won’t be affected for the time being, and sales will continue until Microsoft’s version is ready. Existing customers will be offered a year of Minecraft Education Edition for free at that point.