I've been blogging here about Minecraft:Education Edition for a while now, and one of the most requested features I hear from educators and students alike is for a cloud hosted version. At MS Build 2019 the Minecraft:EE team announced this is now possible through an Azure VM:
Today at #MSBuild, we announced that an official Minecraft: Education Edition VM is now available in the @Azure Marketplace. Learn how using a cloud server makes it easier to host multiplayer worlds. Get in touch for more information: https://t.co/U9kplMfV5T #MinecraftEDU pic.twitter.com/3JVb85nlLy
— Minecraft Education (@PlayCraftLearn) May 7, 2019
The direct link for the information is below:
From the announcement:
IT administrators and educators have been asking for a better multiplayer experience, including workarounds for device limitations and classroom management. Our team has taken this feedback and worked with Azure to develop a Minecraft VM solution.
The Azure VM will host the multiplayer world, instead of the student or teacher. So, if a teacher wants to setup a multiplayer world, they no longer need to host the world on their device or rely on a student to host. When a multiplayer world is hosted on Azure, students simply connect via an IP address, accessing their world when they need to.
Whilst there are no mentions around likely running costs of this VM, schools will need to be mindful of this given all Azure services are largely based on a "base as you consume" pricing model.
My Point of View:
In my mind, this is a significant step forward as it solves a number of problem scenarios that I was talking about with some trainers yesterday that I was working with around Minecraft:EE, namely:
- Many schools segment network traffic using VLANs and blocking peer-to-peer connectivity across the wireless network. This increases the difficulty of getting multiplayer Minecraft:EE working easily.
- Hosting the worlds in an AzureVM removes this security issue as all players (teachers and students) exit the LAN and access the hosted world on the internet.
- Until now, students needed to be on the same LAN to be able to play multi-player meaning continuing to collaborate in a hosted world for homework was virtually impossible.
- With this announcement, students can continue working together on a project in Minecraft:EE because they can access the hosted world via the AzureVM from home.
I'm sure more information will emerge around likely Azure hosting costs, and it may be some schools choose to disburse costs to students such as a $5/semester course related costs to manage this. Either way, for those schools interested in resolving the above challenges and driving greater use of Minecraft:Education Edition in their STEM curriculum, this is a positive announcement.