Minecraft screenshot Photo courtesy of brownpau

Students at the University of Hull are immersing themselves in video games to gain a deeper understanding of the theory posited by their course literature.

To bolster students’ understanding of core concepts and theories, learning technologist Joel Mills collaborated with Hull instructors in chemistry, history, archaeology, and business by building virtual course environments for their students to explore in the Minecraft video game. Minecraft is an open-world collaborative sandbox PC game which encourages players to explore, craft, and build objects and structures with blocks. It is the second best-selling video game of all time—just behind Tetris—and has over 74 million monthly active players.

Recognizing that many undergraduate students likely already play Minecraft, Mills used the platform to introduce theoretical applications in a manner he likens to “chocolate covered broccoli”.

By navigating complex maps created for the course and collaborating with their peers, business students had the opportunity to get a practical—albeit virtual—lesson in supply chain management, trade agreements, and negotiation. Bringing prose to pixels, Minecraft also allows students to explore the geography and appreciate the architecture of the medieval villages described in their history and archaeology textbooks.

This novel approach to education has been a success with students and instructors alike. The simulacra created through Minecraft are enhancing student comprehension while providing instructors with an engaging way to teach theories and concepts.

For this initiative to improve student learning, Mills received the Learning Technologist of the Year award from the Association for Learning Technology.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.