Design PLUS is a toolbar from Cidi Labs that allows instructors to create highly customizable and accessible pages that can be used for assignments, content, and course homepages.

When you make use of Design PLUS to create a homepage, you can go beyond text and images. Check out the Design PLUS showcase to see how other institutions have made use of the sidebar for their online courses. For examples from UIS faculty and staff, see the Sample Canvas Course Designs by Dr. Brian Chen, Public Health.

According to Ghai & Tandon, "visually pleasing designs can enhance usability, credibility, user satisfaction, and trustworthiness . . ." (2022). Learn more about the research that supports the use of course design and home pages to improve student learning outcomes.

Try the Canvas Syllabus Template!

Check out the accessible and easy to manage Canvas syllabus template. It is an easy way to get started using the Design PLUS toolbar and improve the look and function of your course.

Enabling Design PLUS in Canvas

  1. Go to a page and click the "Edit" button.
  2. Open the DesignPLUS toolbar by clicking on the blue and white rocket ship button in the upper right corner of the screen or with the keyboard shortcut:
    • Windows: Alt + Shift + D or Ctrl + 1
    • Mac: Option + Shift + D or Control +1
design plus toolbar with preview of home page
The DesignPlus Toolbar contains many templates that COLRS has developed for UIS instructors.

Add a Home Page Template

  1. On the Design PLUS toolbar, go to the Add menu (+).
  2. Select the Template Content tool button.

In the Template Content panel:

  1. Decide the location of the template -- above or below existing content (Top or Bottom).
  2. If desired, check the box to overwrite the page with the template.
  3. Choose your template.
    • Course Content (content in the current course you wish to reuse or edit for this new page)
    • Templates > Local. Choose the General Templates.
  4. Once you click on a template, it is inserted into the textbox editor and ready for you to edit and save changes.

Design PLUS Training

View the Design PLUS training videos to get started. The Design PLUS User Guide also provides step-by-step instructions for creating content. Contact COLRS to set up a Canvas course sandbox for you to practice in.

Examples of Content with DesignPLUS

Home Page

On the home page, DesignPLUS allows you to add icons and images that will break up content and make your online course warm and welcoming.

screen shot of a course home page without design plus
Home page without formatting
screenshot of a course home page designed using design plus
Home page formatted with DesignPLUS


The formatting features in Canvas without DesignPLUS are somewhat limited. DesignPLUS allows you to break up your content while still making use of accessibility features.

screenshot of syllabus without design plus
Without DesignPLUS (see the full page no formatting screenshot for more detail)
screenshot of syllabus with design plus formatting
With DesignPLUS (see the full page DesignPLUS screenshot for more detail)


Depending on how much content you have on a page in Canvas, it can be really overwhelming for students and harder to keep track of where they are in the lesson.

Without DesignPLUS

screen shot of page without design plus formatting

With DesignPLUS

With DesignPLUS Accordion

With DesignPLUS Tabs

How COLRS Can Help

An example of editor only instructions in Canvas when using DesignPLUS