Microsoft’s has bolstered its push into the education sector with the release of Minecraft: Education Edition for teachers around the world.
The beta is an “early access” release, meaning it is free for testing purposes for schools. It comes after Microsoft last year launched a Minecraft site for educators to seek ideas on how the video game could be used as part of lessons.
Microsoft believes the game can help students learn a number of skills in the classroom. The former indie phenomenon is hugely popular among children and was acquired by Microsoft when it purchased developer Mojang for $2.5 billion (£1.7bn) back in 2014.
With the early access version of Minecraft: Education Edition now available, teachers have the chance to install and try an early version of the experience for free throughout the summer with classes of up to 30 students (without the need for a separate server).
The new beta incorporates feedback from more than 2,000 students and educators representing more than 100 schools in 26 countries around the world when the tested the beta in May.
“Their detailed feedback helped fine-tune the experience across a diverse set of learning environments,” said Microsoft.
Redmond also said that it is releasing updated classroom content and curriculum to help educators get started quickly using Minecraft: Education Edition. This includes sample lessons such as “City Planning for Population Growth”, “Exploring factors and multiples”, and “Effects of deforestation.”
Microsoft has designed the lessons to work across subjects and age groups.
Another feature is the ability for teachers to use chalkboards within the game to communicate learning goals, provide information, give explicit instructions, or challenge students with problems to solve.
Every student and teacher will have individual logins help identify each player in the game, and ensure data privacy & security while playing. Single sign-on (SSO) capabilities are also supported, so no additional passwords or accounts are required.
The complete version of Minecraft: Education Edition will be available in September. It will cost between $1 (69p) and $5 (£3.45) per user, per year depending school size and volume licensing offers.
The new beta represents the latest push by Microsoft into the education sector. Microsoft (and other tech firms) has been a vocal backer of improved IT education in the UK and recently it funded a study to bolster computer science teaching in schools.
Last month it revealed the future development path of Office 365, which is provided free of charge to students and teachers via their relevant academic institution.
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