The learning power of virtual worlds

By | 2017-08-28T22:38:00+00:00 January 11th, 2017|For creators, For parents, For teachers|0 Comments

By now, Minecraft seems to be a household name. But, have you ever heard of Second Life or The Sims? Gaming in virtual worlds is a fairly recent phenomenon that allows players to build digital habitats and explore others. Players create avatars to investigate this digital space and meet other players online.

There has been an increase from 136 million virtual worlds to 28.8 billion between 2009 and 2014. The range of virtual worlds is expansive, targeting elementary-aged students to teenagers, and even adults. Because of the large variety of options available and the potential they create, educators are finding them useful in their own classrooms. Teachers have realized the worlds’ ability to engage students, personalize lessons, promote collaboration and exercise problem-solving skills in a unique way.

Using virtual worlds in the classroom

One of the biggest advantages of playing games in the classroom is that they are engaging for students. Assigning students tasks to perform in a virtual world allows them to solve problems otherwise impossible in the physical world. Students can use both critical thinking and their imaginations to create unique ways of doing tasks. Since virtual worlds can be collaborative, students must adapt to new problems and work together to achieve a final outcome.

A virtual world is an especially great instrument for kinesthetic learners. Building their own environments allows students to learn through digital spaces and tools instead of static pages. Students can also script their own worlds or engage in a sort of “role-play.” For example, students can create their own educational lesson on the American Civil War or the life of Queen Elizabeth I.

For students who are unable to access the virtual world, teachers can create machinima — a video of the virtual world. Students can then watch these lessons on their own time. Teachers can also assign homework or supplementary lessons for students to do at home at a pace that is most comfortable for them.

Examples of virtual worlds


Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and going on adventures. Students should explore, discover, gather resources, and oftentimes fight. Students can play different modes, like survival mode, where the player must gain resources to build structures and stay healthy. Creative mode gives players unlimited resources and adventure mode allows players to explore custom maps made by other players.

When creating Minecraft builds, students can use external resources, like the Creatubbles Mod to decorate their world. The Mod lets creators place images of their physical artwork in their Minecraft world and also take pictures to showcase in their Creatubbles galleries.

Second Life

Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat. Students can explore the world, meet other players, socialize, create, participate in activities, build, shop and trade properties and services. Second Life has its own currency, called the Linden Dollar that can be exchanged for real world currency.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is a multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). The game allows students to learn about economies, study history, and collaborate in quests and adventures. It provides immersive, out-of-the-box ways to learn, while keeping students engaged.


SimCEO allows students to create and run their own companies, using important economic principles. Teachers can adjust
how hard and easy the game is according to different classes and age groups.


SecretBuilders is a virtual world for elementary-aged students. Children explore virtual lands, go on quests, play games, build homes, have pets, and meet friends. The company partners with publishers and developers to “gamify books” through licensing existing digital content (art assets, text and audio narration).

Do you have any amazing virtual builds or machinima? We’d love to see them! Share them with us on Creatubbles.

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Tish Seabrook. Copywriter at Creatubbles. Writer and former university lecturer. Interests: edtech, STEAM, arts integration.