Erasmus University Rotterdam builds first virtual campus in the Netherlands
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) has re-created their Woudestein campus in the Minecraft platform to provide students and staff a sense of purpose and community during the Covid-19 crisis, a first for the Netherlands. The first blocks of the campus were laid by a small team of enthusiastic students and the project has since then mushroomed to include all buildings on campus, a secret underground labyrinth which players need to find, a treasure hunt for the 17 SDGs (de UN Sustainable Development Goals) and much more.
Expansion plans are in the works for the Erasmus Medical Centre and the Erasmus University College. Through this project, EUR aims to fight the Covid-19 setback to the start of the academic year 2020-2021, by giving a platform to the Erasmus community to engage with each other.
Campus recreated brick by brick
It started off as a project to provide students an opportunity for social engagement outside of the Zoom-filled lectures after the Covid-19 pandemic brought universities to a physical shutdown. After a research the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) conducted into the effects of the Corona Crisis on the well-being of its students and staff members, the results strongly pointed towards the need for something to keep the Erasmus community together. People started to feel lonely and missed the ability to socially interact with each other, exactly that what a physical campus is able to provide a podium for. In an attempt to tackle this issue, ErasmusX – a disruptive innovative unit of the university – launched a creative project whereby students and staff could recreate their beloved Woudestein campus in the virtual gaming platform Minecraft. The very first building blocks were laid by members of the student-led Erasmus E-sports Community, and thereafter a professional Minecraft building team helped polish up the final product.
"What is so unique and creates this sense of truly being there, is that the building is done on a 1:1 scale"
Woudestein: a place to meet friends
To the EUR community, the campus is not just a place you go to in order to study and work. It is a place where you meet your friends (that perhaps have become like family), where you develop yourself as a human being, where you hang out and where you dream about the opportunities life has in store for you. It almost feels like a small village. “This feeling was so apparent when we saw the many emotional reactions from students and colleagues when they first see the virtual campus – they tell us that navigating the campus makes them feel like they are there again”, states Alexander Whitcomb, a project team member. “What is so unique and creates this sense of truly being there, is that the building is done on a 1:1 scale. So walking from one end of the campus to the other with your avatar in Minecraft takes exactly the same amount of time as it would do in real life.“
The Minecraft campus has two main purposes. First it will be used for various planned activities such as onboarding all new incoming students during the famous EurekaWeek 2020, virtual tours for prospective students and the ErasmusX team is also exploring the game platform for educational and research purposes. Secondly, the campus is designed as a creative space, a way for students and staff to design their own interactions and discover new, innovative ways of engaging with one another through the virtual campus. The platform will be moderated by the Erasmus E-sports Community and all ideas are welcomed.
Ultimately, the campus in Minecraft is there to strengthen the community of Erasmians, in an academic year where physical interactions are limited by Covid-19, and a ‘normal’ university experience remains unavailable until further notice.