I just use the backup/restore approach. It worked VERY well to create a duplicate course, with our without user data carried over. Thanks for the tip, very helpful for a newbie.
May I ask a related question? It looks to me like the Topic format is the correct one for Instructor-Led courses (correct me if I'm wrong). I'm wondering if you know of an example out there to demonstrate a clean setup? I think I've got it, but not sure. I set up a 1-topic course, hid the topic, and added all of my content to the topic outline area.