‘Students can actually go to their faculty in Minecraft’

Want a really entertaining virtual tour of TU Delft? You can take one in Minecraft, says project lead Neill Wylie.

Neill Wylie: “What I love about TU Delft is they really support ideas like this.” (Photo: Denise McAllister-Wylie)

“I have two jobs at TU Delft. My first job is as a Learning Developer working at the Extension School and Teaching and Learning Services where I provide support to course teams who wish to create a MOOC, for example. I do that four days a week and then the other day I’m a Project Manager with the Leiden Delft Erasmus Centre for Education and Learning (CEL). This is where I got involved with the Minecraft project.

Around this time last year, there was a really cool trend in the US where people were building their own campuses in Minecraft. It was student-led and they were building these amazing campuses, not just an empty shell, but also their dorms and cafeterias and bars, places they like to hang out. The idea was that they would get their buddies in and kind of walk around and hang out while trying to process this complete head mess of what’s happening in their lives due to COVID.

Marcus Specht from CEL found out that I had experience with building these virtual immersive environments so we met up to think about what we could do. We came up with the idea to build the TU Delft campus and we recruited six students who had experience with Minecraft. We started with Pulse, the Teaching Lab, the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering and the Coffee Star behind us to see how it looked. We weren’t really sure how far we would go.

‘It was a massive project’

The first couple of weeks were getting geodata and using Google Maps. Then we got the official blueprints of the university and the students were able to build in live scale, so 1 to 1. They measured it out exactly, down to the colouring of the floor, the perspective of the windows and the light coming in. It was a massive project.

On 6 December it became official when Rob Mudde actually opened the virtual campus. It started off as kind of a place for the students to hang out and boost social presence, particularly to help the new students who were coming in and had never seen the campus. They could actually go to their faculty, see what it looks like and maybe read a bit of information about it. We’ve mirrored the actual tour that you get when you’re a new student or staff member into Minecraft and made it as immersive as possible.

Now we’re looking at how we can apply it pedagogically and how we can get people in to explore it. We want to see if we can get the teachers to use it as well and sort of hang out with the students, and maybe to complete tasks related to their coursework.

Last week we decided to host a hackathon. So, we’re going to find five problem owners who will pitch their problem that the students can demonstrate via the virtual campus. We can give them a copy of our campus and say do whatever you have to do to it for your challenge and then present it back to us. It’s set to take place on 27 and 28 May. Microsoft has been really supportive and they’re helping us get our campus on the education version of Minecraft which has more capabilities than the current Java version. They’re probably going to sponsor a prize as well.

What I love about TU Delft is they really support ideas like this. They will actually put money behind it if they see value.”

Watch this video to see the TU Delft Minecraft Campus opening, featuring Rob Mudde.