MP3: Artefacts, Learning Media - Virtual Learning Worlds and Game-based Learning (Minecraft)

Case study on Virtual learning Worlds and Game-based learning using Minecraft.


Short description:

"While games are good for learning, learning is good for games." (James P. Gee)

Based on the development of appealing and versatile entertainment media, modern computer and video games are attributed with a high potential to encourage informal and self-directed learning. In this context, a separate research direction has been established: (Digital) Game-Based Learning understands computer and video games as  teaching & learning settings and assumes a reciprocal relationship between gameplay and learning process.

The aim of the course is to introduce students to a computer game, which is currently being used by many young people and adults for the creation and exploration of virtual worlds: Minecraft.

Students will experience the capabilities and limitations of this technology to get to their own assessment regarding potential deployment scenarios. In addition, other concepts and ideas of Game-based Learning for example Serious Games are part of the curriculum in order to widen the focus on the professional debate on this topic.

The module consists of two courses, seminar and exercise that will take place both as a presence event and as a gaming session online alternately.

Number of participants: 29 students.



1.1 Decision making process



1.2 Aims/objectives



1.3 Funding


• In addition to the acquisition of licenses and new PC hardware there were no additional costs involved
• The costs were financed by the university in their entirety by state funds
• Unlike Second Life, Minecraft doesn’t not incur any additional costs relating to the use of virtual areas or customizing the avatars


1.4 Environment and Participants



2.1 Technical Issues and Support



8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM

NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M










2.1 Interaction



2.1 Resources and Materials



2.2 Risks and Ethical Issues



3.1 Participant Assessment





3.5 Course Evaluation



Preliminary Results (this overview doesn’t include results from the term paper)



Feedback from the students perspective about Minecraft



Exploration & Experimentation are key aspect of the gameplay of Minecraft

‘Blocky’ character: presentation of the game is rudimentary

Virtual Playground (many ways how to use MC)

Knowledge about Gaming- and Crafting system is required to use MC effectively

Easy to build (demonstrate spatial relations)

Building in Minecraft can be very time consuming

Supports the creativity of the players


MC as a prototyping tool: 3D Modelling


New working method




One example for a draft/ prototype in Minecraft




How would you name your draft (University in Minecraft)?


We decided to call our draft “Thinksquare University” after its shape and purpose.




What kind of assumptions and expectations about Learning and Teaching are represented within your draft? Which concepts about Learning/Teaching were important for you?


  • An encouraging and welcoming learning environment is paramount for effective learning.
  • Especially learning in the nature should be encouraged or at least possible.
  • Interdisciplinary learning should be reflected in and encouraged by architecture.
  • A modern, open architecture enables the flow of creative, new ideas.
  • Feeling good in ones environment encourages effective learning.
  • Teaching small groups is way more effective than teaching large groups. Technology can aid to simulate the same effect for large groups, thus the architecture should encourage online learning and teaching.
  • Everyone should be encouraged to participate in the learning process of a university, as diversity enhances creativity.



When creating the building did you have any guidelines that aided you in the process of building the ‘University of the Future’?


We wanted to create a very green and open building, that was both welcoming and modern. This lead to a more concrete guideline, the use of glass elements as building blocks of our university.

The design goal of this was to provide as much light as possible and to include the surrounding nature into the building, while not sacrificing or even strengthening the modern looks.


Another guideline we tried to pursue, was to provide for short ways to important areas of the university, like the canteen.


We did not plan to provide space for huge numbers of students, as we expect most teaching to be online. However we did provide a huge area for group meetings and learning spaces. We wanted to encourage both physical learning as a group, on a voluntary basis and the use of the new media for teaching, following this guideline.


Another guideline emerged in the creation process, as we realised that social services provide a unique way to integrate the university into the city and to enable parents to study as well. So we decided to build these into the design and architecture of the university buildings.



How did your conception of the building as a whole evolve throughout your group work?


We decided early on, that a square, filled with a green, open area, enabling interdisciplinary exchange and “learning in the nature”, would fit our requirements and goals best. This square was made deliberately big, to counter the “obfuscated backyard” effect. This decision generated some problems of its own, though, especially the sheer size of the building we had and have to construct.


Another early idea was to put the canteen into the uppermost floor, surrounded only by glass, but later decided, that a canteen in the middle of the square would fit the requirement of interdisciplinarity far better. This middle building forces students to at least meet when dining and creates a space for new students to accommodate to the new learning environment.


Later on we decided to integrate social services into our university, such as a kindergarten, to enable parents to study in a welcoming environment as of our guidelines. This furthermore helps to integrate the university more into the city and to provide non students to profit from the university as well.


To provide a welcoming environment for foreign students we decided to include a dormitory especially for students from abroad. We later on decided, that this dorm should also be open for students that can’t afford a proper apartment.



How did you progress as a group?


see next question



How did you organise as a group? What kind of communication tools did you use?


We started off by talking and organising our creation process directly in class. After the third meeting we decided to try to communicate via the built-in chat function in minecraft. However, we soon realised, that this method of communication was rather limited and ineffective, because it doesn’t provide a way to archive or reread old discussions and since the chat was open for the whole class the communication was often disrupted by other students.


To overcome these limitations we started a facebook group, especially for organisation of long-term goals. This gave us the advantages of asynchronous work schedules and the polling system provided by facebook. We still used the built-in chat though, especially for quick, organisational questions mid-game.


Furthermore we created the required documentation, such as this document, collaboratively in Google Docs, a tool built especially for this purpose.

Did you use other tools within the creation process than Minecraft?


Unfortunately we did not use any tools, scripts or hacks. This was rather tiresome, as we decided to mine away the whole ground, transforming it into a welcoming, green, outdoor learning environment, which took quite a long time to accomplish by hand.

Should we have another assignment like this we would probably use batch mining tools or scripts for tasks like this.


Outlook/ Next Steps




Used Literature (in selection)


Bloom, B.S. (Ed. ;1976)[1972]: Taxonomie von Lernzielen im kognitiven Bereich. 5th ed., Beltz, Weinheim und Basel


Bopp, M. (2005): Immersive Didaktik. Verdeckte Lernhilfen und Framingprozesse in Computerspielen.  Link: (24.02.2014) In: kommunikation@gesellschaft


Breuer, J. (2010): Spielend Lernen?. Eine Bestandsaufnahme zum (Digital) Game-Based Learning. LfM-Dokumentation, Bd. 41/ Online, Landesanstalt für Medien NRW, online: (27.08.2013)


Ganguin, S. (2010): Computerspiele und lebenslanges Lernen. Eine Synthese von Gegensätzen. Reihe Medienbildung und Gesellschaft. Bd. 13, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden


Gee, J.P. (2007)[2003]: What videogames have to teach us about learning and literacy. 2nd ed. , Palgrave Mac Millan, New York


Juul, J. (2005): Half-Real. Videogames between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. MIT Press, Cambridge


McGonigal, J. (2012): BESSER ALS DIE WIRKLICHKEIT. Warum wir von Computerspielen profitieren und wie sie die Welt verändern. Amerikanische Originalausgabe (2011): Reality is broken. Why Games Make US Better and How They Can Change The World. Heyne, München


Molka-Danielsen, J./ Deutschmann, M. (2009)(Eds.): LEARNING AND TEACHING IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF SECOND LIFE. Tapir Academic Press, Trondheim


Paavola, S./ and KAI HAKKARAINEN, K. (2005):  The Knowledge Creation Metaphor .An Emergent Epistemological Approach to Learning; online: (15.10.2013)


Prensky, M. (2007): Digital game-based learning. New roles for trainers and teachers. How to combine computer games and learning. Real life case studies from organizations utilizing game-based techniques. Paragon House, St. Paul


Salen, K./ Zimmermann, E. (2007): Rules of play. gamedesign fundamentals. MIT Press, Camebridge et al. 


Schelhowe, H. (2007): Technologie, Imagination, Lernen. Grundlagen für Bildungsprozesse mit Digitalen Medien. Waxmann, Münster et al.


Shaffer, D.W. (2007): How Computergames Help Children Learn. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al.