It’s officially a done deal: Microsoft has acquired Swedish company Mojang, developers of the wildly popular sleeper hit, Minecraft for $2.5 billion dollars. And while it’s unlikely that the acquisition will change Minecraft gameplay, there’s a strong case to be made for Minecraft application in an eLearning setting. In fact, Microsoft might be making a play for gamification as an education tool, both inside and outside the classroom. By getting their hands on Minecraft, Microsoft uncovers some of the ways the game can be used for eLearning.
Minecraft in eLearning
Minecraft as a learning tool isn’t anything new: Many educators have adopted the game as curriculum in their classrooms. And why not? The game, which pushes players to complete tasks and build worlds based on 3D cubes teaches everything from problem-solving to spatial reasoning. The game’s interface and social capabilities mean players can work together while utilizing critical thinking skills. And, since young students are already playing the game, there’s virtually zero resistance to the material. But consider Minecraft from an L&D perspective: Sure, it’s popular in schools, but can Microsoft configure a way to use Minecraft for more than just K-12 applications? With the right development and application, Minecraft might make the leap from classroom to board room.
Development and Implementation
Before Minecraft can be used as a comprehensive tool, however, Microsoft needs to create some type of working learning management system for the game to be considered a viable training and education resource. When used in conjunction with an LMS, facilitators are able to see which users are playing, the skills being built and areas which need improvement. Without this significant piece of the L&D puzzle, Minecraft remains just another time-waster. With the addition of an LMS, the desktop, console and even smartphone version of the game becomes a tool in the hands of educators and L&D pros. Here’s the thing: Microsoft is already a big player in the education system—perhaps the largest player of all. After all, most kids learn digital technology on a Microsoft machine. By acquiring Minecraft (and learning how to use it for eLearning design and development within applications) Microsoft increases their grasp on the education system.
Microsoft’s Wide Open eLearning Future
It makes sense from a business standpoint to further solidify the educational grasp by marketing Minecraft as an eLearning game that can teach kids and adults alike about teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking skills at school and in the office. As of today, the acquisition is new and the ramifications can only be predicted. But you can be sure that Microsoft will max out the possibilities as they forge ahead with Minecraft now safely ensconced in their wheelhouse. It’s a major coup for an educational giant looking to expand reach for a new generation of learners – no matter what their ages.