Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it was expanding its investment in Minecraft, the popular game it acquired for $2.5 billion in 2014, by building out a new version that would allow teachers to use Minecraft in the classroom. Today, Microsoft announced that “Minecraft Education Edition,” as this version is called, will become available in beta format starting in May.
According to Microsoft, the company plans on running a beta program with over 100 schools from 30 countries worldwide, who will be able to test to the software in their classrooms. The schools will help Microsoft work out the kinks by offering detailed feedback, allowing the company to make improvements ahead of a broader rollout.
In June, Microsoft will then debut an “early access” program, which will allow educators to download Minecraft Education Edition for free, again, in exchange for offering Microsoft their feedback. At this time, the software will be available in 11 languages and 41 countries. This program will continue throughout the summer, while Microsoft also teams with these early adopters to build out lesson plans, share learning activity ideas, and create re-usable projects.
When the early access program wraps (an exact date was not provided), Minecraft: Education Edition user licenses will be made available for purchase through direct and volume licensing channels, says Microsoft.
Those schools or districts with an existing Microsoft agreement, will be able to add Minecraft: Education Edition to their current license agreements later this year, the Minecraft: Education Edition FAQ states. Meanwhile, educators will also be able to purchase the licenses online. Volume licenses for large-scale institutions will also be available.
Further details regarding these plans and price points to come later this year, says Microsoft.
The company also noted that the first release of Minecraft: Education Edition will run on the latest versions of Windows 10 and Mac OS X El Capitan. Teachers and students will need to sign up for a free Office 365 Education account using their school or district emails, as well.
As you may recall, Microsoft’s plans for a classroom version of the game followed its acquisition of a learning game maker called Teacher Gaming LLC, who made a game called MinecraftEdu, aimed at teachers. That game included a library of lesson plans that helped educators use Minecraft to teach STEM, history, language and art, all through gaming. Microsoft bought the game for an undisclosed sum earlier this year.
The move to invest in Minecraft’s expansion into the classroom comes at a time when many schools are already using the game as part of their curriculum. As Microsoft noted in January, teachers in over 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries worldwide use Minecraft with their students today.