Engaging Higher Education Students with Minecraft Education

10 Jul 2024 images of real world locations side-by-side with recreations in Minecraft

Guest Blog by Dr. Pin Shen Teh

At Manchester Metropolitan University, we have been inspired by numerous success stories within the Minecraft Education community showcasing the transformative impact of Minecraft for teaching and learning. Since its inception, our flagship University Minecraft Project has steadily grown across various subject areas and faculties, enhancing student engagement in teaching and learning in higher education, including the development of authentic assessments and partnerships with industry and business to benefit our local community. In this post, we are excited to share the success of our collaboration with Factory International to craft a virtual experience for their new multimillion-pound landmark art and cultural space, Aviva Studio.

During the summer of 2023, under the supervision of Dr. Pin Shen Teh, Dr. Eleanor Cranmer, and Dr. Mandy Claudia tom Dieck, a team of business technology students, Zayna Asad Amin, Libaan Ali, and Rory Sykes, embarked on an internship project in collaboration with Factory International. Our mission was to recreate Aviva Studio within the virtual world of Minecraft, aiming to construct a digital replica to engage the public and facilitate outreach efforts.

Upon completion, the project will serve various purposes. House managers can plan concerts with virtual simulations of the venue’s capacity and equipment. Event organizers can simulate stall arrangements using realistic space estimations through rapid prototyping. If organizers are dissatisfied with the layout, they can try a different layout with minimal cost and effort, saving planning costs and time. This virtual space can also serve as pre-visit guide for visitors, providing them with a better understanding before their visit. It is serves as another attraction for Aviva Studio to engage with younger visitors, using a workstation of tablets where players can experience a treasure hunt in the virtual venue, helping them better navigate the venue. Factory International may also use this virtual world for their school outreach activities.

College students collaborating in front of a projector screen

The internship began with planning, design, foundation, and exterior build phases. However, the students soon encountered the immense challenge of bringing Aviva Studio to life in the Minecraft. The complex architectural design surpassed their initial expectations. After nearly two weeks of grappling with these challenges, the team collectively decided to take a radically different approach by adapting real-world architectural blueprints to the scale of Minecraft blocks. This proved to be a demanding task, particularly given their limited architectural expertise. Nevertheless, their determination enabled them to successfully translate the real-world plans into a virtual Minecraft blueprint. After two months of relentless effort, the team achieved a significant milestone, completing the design, internal structure, and exterior construction of the building.

This internship provided our students with a platform to enhance their leadership, project management, and communication skills. The project also serves as a testament to the power of experiential learning via Minecraft Education. Through hands-on involvement in every stage of the project, students gained invaluable practical skills and insights that transcend traditional classroom teachings. They learned to navigate real-world challenges, collaborate effectively in teams, and adapt to unforeseen circumstances – all essential qualities in today's dynamic and competitive job market.

"The students were amazing and presented very consistent project updates; they worked incredibly well as a team and it was clear they formed a strong connection and bond with each other. The quality of the work was great and we are really excited to see this project develop further."

-Sameed Rezayan (Head of Learning, Factory International)

Side-by-side images of real world locations and their recreations in Minecraft

The collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and Factory International marks a significant milestone in leveraging technology for educational and cultural purposes. It underscores the potential of Minecraft Education as a tool for not only enhancing classroom learning but also for fostering community engagement and outreach initiatives. As we reflect on the journey of this project, it’s evident that the synergy between academia, industry, and cultural organizations can lead to innovative solutions with far-reaching impacts.

"This project reflects our previous work in the metaverse and with video games including a project in Fortnite and extends into Minecraft! We are really excited about the opportunity to connect this project with children, schools and families. There is also a really interesting moment to explore how this intersects with people and communities that experience access issues."

Sameed Rezayan (Head of Learning, Factory International)

Looking ahead, we envision the virtual replica of Aviva Studio as more than just a digital recreation. It has the potential to become a dynamic platform for cultural exchange, artistic exploration, and interactive learning. By integrating immersive experiences, educational modules, and community-driven initiatives, we aim to create a vibrant virtual space that transcends geographical boundaries and fosters meaningful connections between people from diverse backgrounds.

We eagerly anticipate the next phases of this undertaking, which includes transforming the building with realistic colours, textures, furniture, decorations, and lighting, bringing the entire structure to life. We are actively looking for external collaborators to secure funding to execute the next phases.

Special thanks to Dr. Shobana Nair Partington and Sameed Rezayan for their contribution and support for this project.

Dr. Pin Shen Teh is a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology Development at Manchester Metropolitan University. His teaching focuses on programming and database subjects. His research interests include practical applications of machine learning, biometrics systems and metaverse. He is the pioneer of the ManMet Minecraft project and a Minecraft Certified trainer.