What “Cool” Websites Are Our Students Visiting?

Everyone knows that today’s college students spend countless hours on Facebook, and probably on Twitter as well.

But what other websites do they visit in their down time?

I polled a few twenty-somethings recently to find out. I figured the more I knew the answer to this question, the more “hip” (a.k.a. “with it,” “in touch,” and therefore creditable) I would be.  Plus, I wanted some ideas for media that I could use to liven up a particular assignment or class period.

Below are some of the answers I got. (Note: I’m omitting from the list the music-focused site Pandora and the tv-/movie-watching site Hulu, which are both hugely popular but are not that practical for bcomm classes.)

YouTube–obviously. This generation of students can’t get enough of videos, and there are videos here for every topic under the sun, as well as clips from television shows. The bcomm-related uses of this site are endless–from showing videos about different generations in the workplace to viewing a particularly relevant scene from The Office or Mad Men.

StumbleUpon. As one of my informants put it, viewing this site is “like channel surfing on the Web.” When you create an account at the site (for free), you select the topic areas that you’re interested in. StumbleUpon then displays a webpage for your viewing pleasure each time you visit. You can skim or read the page and then click the “Stumble!” button to have StumbleUpon choose another one for you. If you give a post or article a “thumbs up,” it gets added to your favorites; a “thumbs down” tells StumbleUpon not to display more hits like this one. You can share the ones you like with your friends. StumbleUpon’s choices will be less random if you click the “Sites” tab and select a particular site, such as howstuffworks.org or CNN.com, for StumbleUpon to grab a page from. As far as I can tell, this site is for addictive time-wasting–with an occasional useful hit.

The Oatmeal. This is a pleasant and clever cartoon/comics-focused site. Check out the grammar offerings, especially (my favorite) “How to Use a Semicolon: The Most Feared Punctuation on Earth.” The “tech” offerings are fun and interesting (and potentially educational) as well.

Fail Blog. You may not find much bcomm material here, but once you get past the cruder entries, you won’t be able to suppress a laugh at some of these “fail and epic fail” pictures and videos. I had the best luck finding bcomm-related “fails” when I searched for “signs,” which yielded several signs with nonsensical or otherwise unintentionally humorous messages.

Cracked. This is one of the most popular humor websites among college students, getting over a million hits a month (according to Ask.com). The entries here draw upon a relatively sophisticated awareness of contemporary culture, especially movies, the Internet, and video games. The site is particularly famous for its “listicles”–such as “The 8 Most Obnoxious Internet Commenters.”  Though it may take some looking, there is good fodder here for adding a clever, funny element to a bcomm class–for example, this punctuation article.  (By the way, Ask.com says that The Onion, a fake news site, is also very popular among college students.)

Not Always Right. One of my informants said she really enjoys this site–a place where viewers can post conversations they’ve had with unreasonable or dimwitted customers. I can see using an entry from here to launch a discussion about dealing with difficult people.

The workplace is becoming less stuffy, so it makes sense for us to let loose a little, too. What sites are your students visiting? How are you using these to make your classes or assignments more relevant and engaging? Let us know.

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