University students learn to communicate, create, and collaborate with 3D gaming software

A Minecraft character strides through hilly terrain.

At Clemson University, students receive a broad and rigorous education that prepares them for success in their future careers. The university understands the importance of technology in modern education and has consistently been willing to take risks and test new ways of teaching. Since Clemson has started using Minecraft: Education Edition as a classroom tool, the immersive world of Minecraft is helping students learn about collaboration, communication, and critical thinking – skills they’ll need to succeed in the 21st-century economy.

Clemson University may be best known as a college sports powerhouse, but the fierce drive for achievement that its teams show on the field also extends to the classroom—Clemson has been ranked as the 23rd-best public university in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The school provides a rigorous education that opens up worlds of opportunities for its students in fields ranging from accounting to automotive technology, from agriculture to the aerospace industry, and from education to electrical engineering.

Clemson has a long tradition of using technology to help students gain real-world experience to drive success in both the classroom and the workplace. And the school is not afraid to try new things. One tool that Clemson has introduced to help students maximize their potential is Minecraft: Education Edition. In the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program, second-year PhD student and instructor Chris Stuart is using Minecraft to get his students engaged and excited about learning in his undergraduate writing course.

Meeting students where they are

While some may think of Minecraft as a game used by younger students, Stuart has found Minecraft: Education Edition to be an immersive education platform that encourages collaboration and new ways of thinking for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students. “To get STEM students invested in a writing course, you have to make sure what they are learning transfers and connects with their motivations for learning, as well as the specific skills needed for their major,” he says. “Since most composition students are STEM-focused, not all traditional assignments connect as directly with their skill set as the students would like.”

Stuart has found that Minecraft: Education Edition has been a great way to connect with his STEM students’ learning expectations and interests, while also teaching them the importance and nuances of writing. In his classroom, students don’t just use Minecraft as an occasional tool—he has set up his entire class as a multi-player game, complete with quests, adventures, journey logs, and guilds. Through Minecraft activities, students are encouraged to develop curiosity and open themselves to new ways of thinking and being in the world.

“Minecraft: Education Edition gets students invested and involved in learning, and it motivates them to develop novel approaches for investigating and representing ideas,” says Stuart. “They are better able to sustain interest in both short- and long-term projects and more able to adapt to new situations, expectations, or demands. Through collaboration in group activities, they take ownership of their actions and understand the consequences of those actions for themselves and others.”

Building worlds of imagination

Within the world of Minecraft: Education Edition, Stuart’s students complete a variety of assignments. After an introduction to the Minecraft world through an in-world tutorial, students explore the environment that Stuart has created for them. They learn to collaborate, navigate through a 3D virtual world, and master a new piece of software with minimal instruction. More advanced players serve as mentors for their peers—even some of the shyer students have a chance to shine and become classroom leaders. “Some of the students are so adept that I get to watch them navigating the Minecraft world in ways I’ve never seen before,” says Stuart.

From there, students work on projects in which they build 3D structures within the game and develop skills of rhetorical argument and persuasion related to their creations. They also work with screen-capture and video editing programs to create presentations of their work. Stuart encourages students to reflect on their experiences with Minecraft: Education Edition, and they have clearly found it to be an exciting and engaging learning platform. Here’s what they’re saying:

  • “I think Minecraft is a great way for people to explore their creativity. I enjoy being able to build whatever I can think of; it’s a great way to grow creativity by letting all walls down.”
  • “Minecraft is an excellent way to channel your creativity and collaborate constructively with others. Because the world is open and virtually limitless, it is fertile ground for original, thoughtful creations.”
  • “Using Minecraft in this course makes me want to understand, further my knowledge, and learn to use technology better. It requires an open mind and persistence, and it required me to be creative and plan more extensively than with other assignments.”
  • “I believe Minecraft could be the summit of how interesting a composition class can be.

Expanding literacy and transcending boundaries

Following the success of Minecraft: Education Edition in his first-year composition class, Stuart is looking forward to incorporating other tools, like Code Builder, a Minecraft: Education Edition extension for teaching coding. “I want to engage my students in examining coding as another form of literacy,” says Stuart. “It will enable me to integrate new adventures into problem-solving and creative thinking.”

For now, Stuart is thrilled with the way that students are getting more involved and taking control of their own learning. “Not only am I connecting students’ majors and interests with the goals of the composition classroom, but students are getting excited about their work and discussing their projects with family members and friends — unlike any other assignments I have given in the past,” he says. “Ultimately, I hope Minecraft: Education Edition will teach my students habits of mind that transcend the boundaries of individual subjects and prepare them for a bright future in any field they choose to pursue.”

Learn more about Minecraft: Education Edition and how it can be used in your classroom at education.minecraft.net.