I completed the course, finally! However, it is not clear what the next step is? How do I know if my relay/BP nodes are actually doing their jobs? And do I need delegators before my staking pool can receive rewards?
You can run some basic checks on https://pool.vet/
To get rewards you need to generate blocks.
If a block is assigned to your pool depends on the amount of staked ADA including your pledge.
With ~1 mio you get a block on average per epoch. With less, it needs accordingly more epochs to get a block assigned. Be aware that the average can differ from reality quite a lot as slot assignment involves luck.
Steps I took afterwards:
Security. Read through lots of different forums. There are lots of great posts and ideas. Google is your friend.
Optimization. Ditto, above. For me, this meant running my nodes as relays on main net for a few weeks and more than a few revisions to my setup and settings.
Additional testing. Ditto, above. For me, this included standing up a remote relay on a major Cloud provider and experimenting with using their backbone to decrease latency across long distances. Also played around and became familiar with available pool reporting tools and sites.
Practice backups and recovery. I am from the Windoze world where online server backup imaging solutions are plentiful. I have been surprised to (so far) not been able to find similar solutions for Linux. It seems one must take servers offline to get a restorable image. Snapshots can cause a fork. Still searching, though.
Launch stake pool.
I’m almost at that last step and not in any hurry.