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Community Coach
Community Coach

CIDI Labs DesignPLUS

For some context, I started at MTPC in 2001.  We've been through three LMSs during my time here... Jones e-education, Pearson eCollege's Learning Studio, and now Canvas, and I've been a LMS admin for each of those.  For the most part, we've designed our courses with the same look and feel and haven't strayed too far from that design.  We are in dire need of an overhaul in how we design courses to make them more visually attractive and engaging for our students...while still providing them with the course curriculum content they need.  We've been doing things the same for far too long.

We recently began investigating the DesignPLUS product from CIDI Labs.  So far, I really like what I see.  Being able to utilize templates and themes, customize content how you want it to look, and ease of use are important for us in making a decision whether or not to purchase.

Some questions for the Community:

  • Do you use DesignPLUS from CIDI Labs?
  • What is your role at your school?
  • What are your experiences with DesignPLUS in that role?
  • What pros/cons have you had from either/both an admin/instructor role?
  • Has DesignPLUS improved your course content compared to what you used to do?  If so, how?
  • How easy/difficult was it for your faculty to get acquainted with DesignPLUS?  Was there excitement or hesitation for using new software?
  • Is there evidence that it changed your engagement when implementing DesignPLUS?

I'm tagging a few people here in the Community that I've seen discuss DesignPLUS / Design Tools (I think you all have it?) in the past 2-3 years in other topics on this hopes they've now had some time to use DesignPLUS more and could provide some feedback for me.  But others are always welcome to chime in, too.   @jrboek ‌,  @meichin ‌,  @joseph_allen ‌,  @ronmarx ‌,  @rake_9 ‌,  @u0535816 ‌, and  @ndragisic ‌.

Thanks, in advance, for the feedback!

35 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hey  @chofer , you may also want to ping the spectacular  @kenneth_larsen ‌, the man behind the machine! Okay, I know he has a team, and a dang good one, but I will always think of the product as Kennethware! Always! And yes, I have the T-shirts!

He might be able to address many of your questions, and he has never been a "used Buick" salesman, so his answers will be good. Also, if the users who participate in this discussion have had challenges, he would most certainly like to know about them, and might even be able to address them.

I see that you have included at least one member of his posse, maybe more - I have kept track these last couple years.


Thanks  @kmeeusen .  Yes, I've already been in contact with Kenneth a few times (via PM here in the Community and via e-mail) ... not necessarily about these questions, but I wanted to hopefully get feedback from the people who were actively using DesignPLUS, too.  Thanks for tagging him!  Fingers crossed!

We played with it a bit when it was first shared by Kenneth. In fact, Kenneth was one of the first new friends  I made at my very first InstCon in 2012. It's a good product, but the needs of the days (newly migrating to Canvas and growing faculty use) left it by the wayside.

I am going to follow this discussion closely.


Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @chofer . Good on you and your team for taking stock and stepping out of the TTWADI (That's the way we've always done it A Mid Winter Canvas Stock Take - TTWADI ).

I'm pretty sure  @craig_nicholls ‌ and  @lauren_sayer ‌ from Haileybury use Cidilabs and love it. 

Community Participant

We do use it. While it took some staff a while to get their head around the tools, the visual quality of our pages increased.  It is mainly used by our designers but teaching staff have access to it as well. I've just been building a course without the tools and found it a little frustrating not being able to do the things I normally can, amazing how quickly you rely on something.

Happy to organise a video chat if you would like.


Community Participant

Hi Chris,

I sent this to via private email, but am posting here for community reference also.

I am the administrator for Canvas here at FSU. We also have a team for faculty development who help train instructors and guide them in quality course design.


We do use CIDI Labs Design Tools/Design Plus


We  were on Blackboard for almost 20 years. It was the wild, wild west and our courses were messy and had no uniformity. So when we switched to Canvas in 2017, we designed templates and initially put those in our initial shell run so that instructors could use them if they want.  Now we have the templates in commons for new instructors to grab.  We also let sub-account admins design their own templates and default shells.


The templates have really caught on and make such a huge difference in how appealing the courses look, and how it helps with best practices. We offer training (basic and more advanced) for instructors who want to use the tool.  We also offer one-on-one consultations for folks who need help making their course look better.

We include using Design Tools in our Canvas course set up checklist.  It does have a little learning curve, but it isn’t too hard once instructors get the hang of it. There are advanced features that we don’t introduce unless they are advanced users. Users have a toggle switch to use the more advance tools. 


We don’t have any data that it increased engagement, by any means, but we do know that students in general are happier with Canvas than they were with Blackboard – via survey data, anecdotal information, and many fewer student support tickets. There are features such as locking the required syllabus content, then updating it in the commons when new updates to the requirements come out, which updates it everywhere it occurs in the LMS – very helpful.

Let me know if you would like more information from our design team.

Hi  @meichin  

Thank you for helping my friend  @chofer ‌ out with this.

I have a question........ Have you considered using Blueprint Courses for your templates? They can be pushed out when your SIS integration runs, and sub-accounts can have their own and those can also be pushed out. Blueprints also offer nice locking options.


Community Participant

Yes - we spent a lot of time researching and testing this and it (several times) and found that it wouldn't work for our university. Courses are just way too different depending on the instructor. The risk of copying over content that an instructor changed was too high, and the use cases where it would actually be beneficial, too low. I think Blueprint courses work better in institutions that have more uniform course content than ours.

Community Contributor

I can't wait to see how it all works.