How to Run a Successful Pilot: University of Colorado Boulder and Cidi Labs Design Tools for Canvas

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

In 2018, the University of Colorado Boulder completed a pilot of the Cidi Labs Design Tools (now called DesignPLUS) to expand design customization options available in Canvas. In this session, you will see examples of the course designs developed by faculty and learn about key strategies that lead to the successful pilot.


Natalie Sharp is a higher education professional with five years combined experience in postsecondary education, academic affairs, student services, and faculty support.
Kenneth Larsen is a programmer analyst at Utah State University and is the creator of DesignPLUS. He works with faculty directly through USU’s Center for Innovative Design and Instruction.

Extended Abstract

In fall 2018, the Academic Technology Applications Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder began a pilot of Cidi Labs Design Tools (now called DesignPLUS) to address the limited look and feel customization options in Canvas.

Cidi Labs Design Tools is a suite of tools that adds greater design and layout customization capabilities to Canvas, including custom HTML/CSS, colors, and page styles. These tools also allow instructors to create templates for Assignments, Modules, and Pages.

The purpose of the pilot was to address faculty concerns about the limited appearance options in Canvas, to explore a tool that will help faculty and departments customize the look and feel of their Canvas courses, and to assess the support structures that are needed to maximize usefulness of Cidi Labs Design Tools for faculty.

CU Boulder’s team of dedicated Learning Technology Consultants worked with a small group of faculty to design beautiful and effective courses using Design Tools for Canvas by Cidi Labs.

Pilot participants received training and one-on-one design consultations. They were also required to participate in working sessions throughout the pilot and share their course designs at a showcase for participating faculty. CU Boulder’s Office of Information Technology website includes links to resources that were shared with faculty and requirements for those who wished to participate in the pilot of Design Tools.

Rolling out a successful Pilot:

CU Boulder’s team launched a successful pilot through careful planning, effective faculty recruitment, thorough training and creative collaboration. To participate in the pilot, faculty needed to be familiar with Canvas, have time to learn a new tool, and be willing to provide feedback. Other expectations included:

  • Attend one training on using Cidi Labs and exchange design ideas at working sessions. 
  • Share course design at a Cidi Labs showcase for participating faculty.

Following the success of the pilot (completed in December 2018), CU Boulder will replicate the training and design process for all interested faculty members throughout the larger institution.

Participants at this session will see examples of courses created by faculty at CU Boulder using Design Tools. They will also learn about the careful planning that led to the pilot’s success and hear more about lessons learned by the project team at CU Boulder.