I taught my first online course last spring (2012) and one piece of valuable advice I got from Jon Dorbolo was to not simply upload your weekly material items and let the students slog through them. If they don’t see that you are entering their world on a daily or every other day basis, they will not be terribly inspired to join in. I wasn’t able to comment on each person’s discussion board comments (they each had to post 3 comments a week), BUT I always posted a wrap-up to the discussion content at the end of the week and mentioned certain points student’s made.
One of the exciting parts of teaching either and online or hybrid course is that there is a ton of material online to supplement the material, but this can also be very overwhelming to both the instructor and the student. I think the point that we as faculty are also curators of the class materials is important. We all know there is a ton of badly written and produced material out there, so I really try to find the highest quality video clips, images, etc. As a Graphic Designer, I know the importance of clear and effective communication, so I really designed the look and feel of my class (both macro and micro).
If students see a poorly organized online class with a load of poorly designed examples, no one will be inspired (especially visual learners).
Here’s an example of the first page of my syllabus, just to get everyone excited!