Roblox, an online gaming platform especially popular with preteens, plans to expand its users’ experiences to the classroom through developing games for students between middle school and college. Last month, they announced a $10 million investment in the initiatives and have been collaborating with nonprofits to create games that will enhance students’ knowledge of robotics, space, computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. With an ETA in 2022, this is one of the latest developments for the impending metaverse (whose exact definition is still being worked out but seems to basically be a 3D virtual world that we can co-exist in alongside our real world).
The move comes as a step closer to Roblox’s ambitions to have a higher stake in education. With online games becoming a more prominent feature in schools, Roblox’s niche focuses will expose students to largely nontraditional aspects of STEM. With an already everpresent push to get more computer sciences courses in public schools (as it has shown to aid digital literacy, college success, and prepare students for a growing job sector), Roblox would be adding resources for both those courses and courses not yet created. Moreover, combining these subjects with a platform students already use (or could quickly pick up) could be effective for continued student engagement.
The growing prevalence of video games in schools is not without its critics, advocates, and related dialogues. From video games’ addictive nature that guardians already struggle with to any psychological stresses for the players, plenty of people are hesitant to encourage more time on a game. On the other hand, Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media (which focuses on effective and educational media consumption for kids) highlights the potential for critical thinking and collaboration if the proper practices and procedures are in place.
Of course, a large determining factor in Roblox’s success here will be the teachers’ decisions on whether to incorporate the program. With a feature that allows teachers to limit student access to playing only with classmates, they (and guardians) might be able to rest a bit easier in knowing who their students are playing with (each other).
Outside of video games’ effects, though, are cost and access concerns. Roblox has started to ease some of these worries with comments that at least this first round of games won’t include purchase options. This will allow for students across locations and economic status to have access to similar experiences. To get the most out of the game, students just need to worry about doing their best and learning, which is arguably all students should need to be worrying about anyway.