Online courses can be complex environments. In many cases the work flow of online courses is not always easy to see: the what, where and how that the student needs to complete the work / learning. The first week of a term can be bedlam with students constantly contacting the professor trying to clarify what is required to be successful in their online course. To help eliminate or at least lessen this confusion, I use a course guided tour.
This is a simple 5 minute screencast that I develop using Jing. The tour includes such things as where everything is located, the course layout / workflow and how to navigate through the content. I have used these guided tours for several years and the student response has been 100% positive. We also have seen a marked drop in the amount of emails and discussion postings asking for clarification on how the courses works.
Jing is a free and easy to use screencasting software that has both Mac and PC versions.