Minecraft isn't just a block-based game. It's also a learning tool.

Seriously. Educators have been using a version of Minecraft for the classroom, called MinecraftEdu, since 2011 in more than 40 countries to help teach all types of subjects, from math and physics to history and language arts. Students who use it are able to develop skills in collaboration, problem solving, communication, digital citizenship, and more.

Well, when Microsoft bought developer Mojang and Minecraft for $2.5 billion in 2014, it also acquired MinecraftEdu. The company has been retooling and rebranding MinecraftEdu and plans to officially launch it as a new title on 1 November. Called Minecraft: Education Edition, it will feature enhanced maps with a coordinate system to help teachers and students navigate together.

"We’re announcing Minecraft: Education Edition. Of course, every Minecraft player learns essential life-skills like tree-punching and good Creeper-defence but, when used in the right way, Minecraft can help people around the world to learn lots more," explained Mojang in a blog post from earlier this year, when it first announced the title would launch in beta this summer.

After a summer of test runs, the full version of Minecraft: Education Edition is almost ready to go live. When it does, the service will cost $5 a membership per user. The beta, called Early Access edition, is still free until November. The MinecraftEdu team said over 35,000 students and teachers around the world have been testing the service sin beta since the beginning of the summer.

The official consumer release will require OS X El Capitan or Windows 10, plus a free Office 365 account to use. You can see a list of standout features from the Minecraft Education site. Also, that site offers starter worlds, tutorials, and free lesson plans in subjects.

Watch the trailer video below to see what else makes this classroom-geared version of Minecraft unique and ideal for learning. Oh, and Microsoft said all existing MinecraftEdu customers will get the first year of free of charge.

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