Since launching our Moodle back in 2007 I've always tried to make the course page as friendly and welcoming from the start, trying to make it look simple enough so that staff will start to populate it.
Now, we're all used to seeing a default course page which looks something similar to this
Firstly I start by adding a few blocks on the side, blocks that staff and students will find useful such as the Calender, upcoming events, Recent Activity, online users and not forgetting the most important block, Administration.
Once I've added the blocks, I like to finish off with a header created specificly for the course. as shown below
Now it's still a blank course but it's already starting to feel populated. I know it means extra work but in my opinion, it's worth it.