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Minecraft gets new, free education content to assist students during coronavirus pandemic

School closures are impacting learning

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Artwork of Minecraft featuring Steve, Alex, pig, a Creeper and more on a blocky mountain. Image: Mojang/Microsoft
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Schools worldwide have closed as communities respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But students are finding other ways to connect online; one way is through Minecraft, which now has new, free educational content available on Minecraft Marketplace.

Xbox head Phil Spencer addressed the Minecraft community on Tuesday, announcing a new Education category in the marketplace, designed to help students now at home.

“We are living in unprecedented times,” Spencer wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people around the world and changed the way we go about our daily lives. Here at Microsoft, we’re constantly asking ourselves what we can do to support people during this challenging time.”

With the new educational content, players can “explore the International Space Station through a partnership with NASA, learn to code with a robot, visit famous Washington D.C. landmarks, find and build 3D fractals, [and] learn what it’s like to be a marine biologist.” All this content — and more — will be available through June 30, Spencer said.

“We understand the important role gaming is playing right now to connect people and provide joy in these isolating and stressful times, and our teams are working diligently to ensure we can be there for our players,” Spencer said. “To that end, we are actively monitoring performance and usage trends to ensure we’re optimizing the service for our customers worldwide and accommodating for new growth and demand.”

Worldwide, people are practicing social distancing — and being ordered to shelter in place — in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Most planned events are being moved online, including Wizards of the Coast’s weekly Friday Night Magic events, which have been added to Magic: The Gathering Arena, as well as plenty of esports tournaments like the Overwatch League. Likewise, video game retailer GameStop is closing its doors in the U.S. and offering only digital orders and curbside pickup.

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