Personally, as my university does not have a computer lab nor internet connection, I was constantly looking for tools that could complement my class and be useful for communication, giving instructions and facilitate materials and homework.
My students are used to using the web for personal reasons, and very little for academic reasons.
I have found useful class blogs, wiki, google docs and google groups for a newbie tech teacher like me. Asynchronous activities with these tools allows my students to communicate in a different way, and not only have the physical building of university as an academic place to meet up and share thoughts.
Also I find these tools environmentally friendly, because there is no need to print out things. All the information is on the screen. But for those who like things on paper, google docs provide that option.
Here I want to share the survey that I prepared for my university students, using Google docs. I will help me to collect information from my students of what technology they are used to use for academic purposes. It will be used at after the first day of class. This tool will be a first simple step to use webtools as part of the class routine. Students will have to complete this survey by themselves at home.
Also the option of writing online tests is a very interesting option to use with google docs, although I think it can be really tricky because it gives space for students to copy each other if exam is taken with different groups and there is no one to control students not copying.
A way to over this kind of problem is to make exams with higher level of thinking and making application and analysis of knowledge. Multiple options and true/false exercises could be done, but not have a lot of points, because these are the easiest to copy answers and also depending on the question it only requires comprehension level thinking. This website http://www.easytestmaker.com/default.aspx gives this kind of options. Useful to make exams to print on paper, but not to complete it online.
Now answering the question on how these tools could make my students more autonomous, I believe that these tools pushes students to be more independent because they have to read instructions of tasks and look for the information, instead of being the teacher being the one giving the instructions or explanation orally. The backside that I can find on online tools is for those students who do not like to do much reading and prefer face to face interaction and audio. And how to over this little problem? Pushing students to develop the habit of reading from an early stage. Teacher needs to be consistent in encouraging students to read instruction carefully, but also give space to check if instructions were clear. In this course, Janine provides that space through emails.
But I have to admit that webinars using (Blackboard Collaborate or any similar tool) are my favorite because it seems as it you are in class with the teacher and you can interact in real time. I love it because I am audiovisual learner. The downside of this is time zones with a lot of hour difference. But it could be overcome if the webinar is recorded and the link is shared. One day I wish to do this, record a webinar if I need to travel for an emergency. Students can still "attend to class" with this kind of podcasts or videos. Loading to youtube is a good possibility. ANIVALL http://babel.uoregon.edu/anvill/11-anvillOverview.pdf could help a lot with this.