Mode/Method/Tool Process

The mode/method/tool process will help you identify the method(s) you want to use, get you thinking about possible additional learning outcomes, and point you in the right direction regarding tools. (Also, see "Tool" for a list of possibilities.)

The Process

The mode/method/tool process walks you through a series of questions and considerations to help you narrow down the options and identify additional learning outcomes.

Mode in this context means the way in which students engage with course materials, experience them, or express ideas about them. Examples of modes include spatial, temporal, textual, hypertextual, immersive, graphical, and exhibitive. ‌The choice of mode should be rooted in the type of thinking and reasoning you want students to do. For example, a map is a spatial mode. Creating one compels students to think and process information spatially.

Method is the way in which students are doing the work, meaning conducting research or presenting scholarship. Examples of methods include text analysis, GIS, and augmented reality. Modes that correlate with these methods include textual, spatial, and immersive, respectively.

Tools are the technologies that enable the execution of a method and the creation or presentation of content. Tools mean anything from a digital platform like Tableau and ArcGIS to a markup language like HTML and coding language like Python. The tool selection process should take into account key factors like complexity, accessibility, and support availability.

Guiding Questions

Answer these questions to begin the decision-making process.

1.) Mode

To select the mode(s), begin by asking the questions:

  • How do you want students to experience the content associated with the assignment?

    (e.g., Do you want them experiencing it spatially or temporally or both?)

  • Relatedly, what kind of thinking and reasoning do you want them to do?

To get you thinking more about potential learning outcomes ask:

  • What impact will the mode(s) have on their learning?

2.) Method

To select the method(s), begin by asking the questions:

  • In what way should students engage with the assignment subject matter that will align with the determined mode? (The Mode/Method/Tool Combinations list below will help with this question.)

To get you thinking more about potential learning outcomes ask:

  • What impact will the method(s) have on their learning?

3.) Tool

To select the tools(s), begin by asking the questions:

  • What tool(s) facilitate the methodological approach?

  • What level of learning curve should the tool(s) have?

  • Who will be teaching and supporting the tool(s)?

  • Are the tool(s) accessible for students with disabilities? If not, what alternative tool(s) can be used, and what additional help might the student need to use them?

To get you thinking more about potential learning outcomes ask:

  • How might the tool(s) create opportunities for additional learning outcomes?

  • What technical and scholarly skills will students gain from using the tool?

Mode/Method/Tool Combinations

The following are only some of the possible combinations:





GIS and other forms of mapping

ArcGIS or Google Earth


Timeline visualization

TimelineJS or Tableau


Text analysis

Voyant or Python


Digital publishing (e.g., website creation)

Wordpress, Scalar, Twine


Virtual reality, augmented reality, 360° video

Oculus Rift or Google 360° Media


Data visualization

Tableau or Palladio


Digital exhibit



The following scenarios are intended to demonstrate ways in which the process might work.

‌Scenario One

Mode: An instructor of a lower division history class wants students to understand and “experience” how the Himalayan mountain range impacted the relationship between ancient India and China. The instructor's main objective is to help students understand the affect of typology and distance, so it is decided that spatial is the best mode.

Method: For the methods, they choose GIS and mapping, because both methods will allow students to deeply engage with the geography of the region and will, through the use of such features as topographical layers, help them better understand the complexity of landforms.

Tool: For tool, the instructor chooses ArcGIS Online because it allows students to add marks (e.g., pins) and data layers as well as provides topographic base layers. The online version (as opposed to ArcGIS Pro) was chosen because it is supported on campus, it has less of a learning curve, and it is cloud-based and, therefore, accessible from any computer.

Learning outcomes: In addition to original learning outcomes the instructor identified such as students will understand how the typology of the Himalayan mountains affected encounters between ancient India and China, they identify other learning outcomes such as students will learn to find, evaluate and incorporate spatial data into their scholarship.

Scenario Two

Mode: An instructor of both a lower-division and upper-division political science class wants their students to see the evolution of political rhetoric in presidential inauguration speeches over time and, therefore, they decide that a temporal and textual mode are most appropriate.

Method: The methods they choose are timeline visualization and text analysis, which will enable students to see patterns and trends in the speeches as well as present those changes visually.

Tool: For the lower-division class, the instructor wants to keep the technology as simple as possible so that students can focus more on gaining foundational rhetorical analysis skills. In response, the instructor chooses, TimelineJS, which requires only basic data entry skills, and Voyant, a free cloud-based text analysis tool with an easy-to-use graphic interface.

For the upper-division class, the instructor wants students to learn more complex text analysis skills. They stick with using TimelineJS because they know the text analysis component will be demanding. For the text analysis tool, they choose Python for “scraping” the speeches from the web and for running the anaysis. The instructor feels comfortable giving this assignment because all of the tools are free, work on both Mac and PC, is supported by the Library, and there are multiple online resources.

Learning outcomes: In addition to original learning outcomes the instructor identified like, students will be able to identify and analyze trends in inauguration speeches over time, the instructor identifies other learning outcomes such as students will learn the basics of cleaning and structuring data and, in the case of the upper-division assignment, gain a basic understanding of coding.

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