About eGrove Education

eGrove Education co-founders Nate Delson and Lelli Van Den Einde are both Teaching Professors at the University of California San Diego. We see firsthand the importance of sketching when our students are working on design projects and sharing concepts with teammates.

Research shows that spatial visualization training can increase GPA and graduation rates for math and science majors [1]. Freehand sketching is a key part of spatial visualization training; the physical act of drawing 2D and 3D shapes increases one’s spatial visualization ability [2]. Benefits of spatial visualization training have been shown to be especially effective for women and other underrepresented minorities in math and science [3]. Sketching and spatial visualization are important skills, but rarely taught!

Our primary innovation is that we have replaced sketching on paper with drawing on a touchscreen. Our Apps provide immediate feedback and motivate students to persist until an assignment is solved. Sketches are automatically graded and customized hints are provided when students are stuck. Unlike multiple-choice questions, students can retry an assignment multiple times until they get it right. Teachers can view student data and see where they need extra help. The learning process is more engaging, more effective, and easier for students and teachers.

We began teaching our spatial visualization class using the App at UC San Diego in 2014. Since then, we have continued to conduct research studies surrounding the Spatial Vis™ app. Below you can find a summary of some of our findings. 

Classroom Trials With Spatial Vis:

341% Increase Relative to Control Class

A Fall 2017 trial was conducted at the University of San Diego in which the Spatial Vis™ app was assigned as homework for an experimental section (n=23), while a second section (n=22) was used as a control. The analysis focused on students who entered the course with limited spatial visualization experience as identified by a score of ≤70% on a pre-test (PSVT:R). Among these low-performing students, those who used the app showed remarkable progress – 8 of 13 (62%) raised their test scores above 70% compared to just 2 of 14 (14%) in the control group. While this study needs to be duplicated with a larger number of students, this represents a 341% increase in the number of students who moved out of an “at risk” category due to low spatial visualization skills [5].


Smartphone Screens are Large Enough!

Over 350 students at UC San Diego and San Diego State University used the Spatial Vis™ app in 2018 on iPhone and Android phones. In a survey, 95% of the students would recommend the app to their peers. They loved the flexibility of having the app on their personal devices. Having the app constantly within reach allowed them to work on assignments whenever they had a free moment. Many students reported using Spatial Vis™ while waiting in line for food, while on the bus, or while waiting for class to start. 


Persistence Can Be Quantified and Increased

Unlike multiple-choice questions, which can be attempted only once, the Spatial Vis™ sketching assignments can be done again and again until a student gets it right. We were able to quantify student persistence by the number of times a student retried an assignment before asking for a hint, and showed that this correlated to increased post-test PSVT:R gains [4]. Following this study, we expanded the motivating features in our app and the percentage of students with significant gains more than doubled [6, 7, 8].

Teachers and Students love it!



  1. Engage Engineering website. http://www.engageengineering.org/spatial/whyitworks/

  2. Sorby, S. (2009). "Educational Research in Developing 3-D Spatial Skills for Engineering Students”, International Journal of Science Education, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 459 - 480, 2009-02-00.

  3. Hill, C., Corbett, C., & St Rose, A. (2010). Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. American Association of University Women. 1111 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036.

  4. Delson, N., & Van Den Einde, L. (2015) "Tracking Student Engagement with a Touchscreen App for Spatial Visualization Training and Freehand Sketching".  2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 2015, June. https://peer.asee.org/24931 Internet. (Chair’s Award for Outstanding Technical Paper, Engineering Design Graphics Division)

  5. Hoople, G., Cowan, E., Van Den Einde, L., Tara, J., & Delson, N. (2018). "Teaching Spatial Visualization: A Controlled Trial of a Touchscreen App Implemented as Homework", 2018 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE). 

  6. Cowan, E., Delson, N., Mihelich, R., & Van Den Einde, L. (2017). “Improvement in Freehand Sketching Application for Spatial Visualization Training”, Conference on Pen and Touch Technology in Education.

  7. Van Den Einde, L., Delson, N., Cowan, E., & Yang, D. (2017). Increasing Student Persistence an a Sketching App for Spatial Visualization Training.  10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, Seville, Spain. 16-18 November, 2017. 

  8. Delson, N., & Van Den Einde, L.  (2018) "Sketching, Assessment, and Persistence in Spatial Visualization Training On a Touchscreen." 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, Nevada, 2018, June. https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/106/papers/23172/view Internet.

Special Thanks to Our Project Sponsors