A Sample of Extra Credit Assignments

Credit: iStock.com/HomePixel
Credit: iStock.com/HomePixel

These extra credit assignments were submitted in response to our request for samples. We’ve organized them by the goals they seek to advance. In some cases, they are condensed versions of the assignment descriptions submitted, but we’ve worked with the authors to make sure the descriptions include all the information you’ll need to use the assignment. If you do opt to try one of these approaches, we’d be happy to hear about your experiences.

Extra credit assignments that develop students’ learning skills

An assignment that develops study skills and metacognition

From Pete Burkholder (History, Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey):

Extra Credit Opportunity

You have the opportunity to earn up to five extra credit points by watching, reflecting on, and submitting short reaction papers pertaining to the online series How to Get the Most Out of Studying. The videos are short, coming in at less than ten minutes each.

For each video segment, you must first watch it closely, and then:

  1. Write up a double-spaced paper (500–700 words total), consisting of a short content overview of the segment. The content review section should be brief (200 words maximum). You then need to reflect on whether (or how well) you practice the studying and learning skills recommended in the video, and how you could change your current habits to align better with those suggestions. Specific examples of your altered study habits, as well as their impact on your class performance, should be indicated whenever possible.
  2. Submit an electronic copy of your paper to SafeAssign on Webcampus (due before class), and a hard copy in class on the scheduled dates (see syllabus). Submissions must adhere to the schedule outlined below, and late papers are not accepted.

The quality of your writing and the seriousness of your self-examination are both vitally important here, so there is no guarantee of full credit. Be sure to check your writing very carefully prior to submission.

Papers must be double-spaced and stapled, have pages numbered, and include a word count at the end.

Pete explains that each paper is worth up to one point. Students don’t need to do all five but are encouraged to do so. As for the impact of the assignment, Pete writes,

I do see evidence of opportunists or strategic learners. For example, right after our in-class exam, the extra credit video is Chew’s “I Blew the Exam—Now What?” Students will dutifully report on what Chew says to do after performing poorly, and then they’ll do the opposite! So “closing the loop” is an issue. Yet, I see a lot of mentions of Chew’s videos in students’ end-of-semester portfolio essays, so they seem to be having at least some longitudinal impact.

An assignment that builds confidence and study skills

From Regina A. Bobak (Math, Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania):

I teach underprepared students in a subject that most fear and for that reason I’ve opted for extra credit opportunities that incorporate study skills and build confidence. I decided for the spring 2020 semester to use the extra credit to provide strategies that make learning math successful. After the first exam I had students complete a math study skills inventory (adapted from the Spinelli Center for Quantitative Learning at Smith College). They rated statements on various topics and calculated the total. The students then listed two strategies they felt they could work on and shared their plan for using them.

For the second exam, which happens at midterm, I had students complete a midterm check-up (adapted from Strategies for Success: Study Skills for the College Math Student by Marecek and Anthony-Smith, 2012). They reported how they were doing in the course and how they felt about their grade and assessed the effectiveness of their study skills with areas for improvement identified.

Extra credit for course and content enrichment

Extra credit for event attendance with the teacher

From Franklin Harvey (Religious Studies, Westmoreland Community College, Pennsylvania):

I have used extra credit assignments for several years, but only for the online classes at two local community colleges where I teach. I invite the students to attend local events associated with the course. I attend the events and find them useful for building community and friendships. It gives me and the students a chance to meet face-to-face and gives them the opportunity to meet others in the class. Many times, the students bring parents, a spouse, or children. We meet briefly and talk before and after the events. At both community colleges, almost 100 percent of the students are local and so can attend the events. This would not work if the course enrolled students from around the nation or world. Usually, at least 20 percent of my students attend these events.

A strategy for verifying attendance at events

From LindaLee Massoud (Computer Information Systems, Mott Community College, Michigan):

As a group, our department routinely offers extra credit for attending events related to the computer information system careers for which our program is preparing students. We have also devised a selfie picture method of verifying attendance, posting a sign at the event and having each student take a picture of themselves in front of the sign which they then email the professor.

Extra credit that promotes content mastery

An optional multiple-choice final

From Lisa Peterson (Nicholson School of Communication and Media, University of Central Florida):

I invite students who’d like to earn some extra credit to take an optional 100 point M/C and T/F final. This absolves me of having to read a lot of essays at the busiest time of the year. I urge all the students to take advantage of this option. This offers a great review of the course material, and it can only help them; I don’t deduct for wrong answers. They earn points for right answers.

“Experience points” that let students make up missed a activity or assignment

From Suzi McKeen (English, Wor-Wic Community College, Maryland):

For every unit in the course—from grammar lessons and exercises to practicing the various writing skills—I have found or developed some extra, short activities that students can use to reinforce their learning. The options include online practice grammar quizzes, extra grammar worksheets, and study skills practice with note-taking and annotating. For each unit, there are from one to several such “extra” activities students can choose to do. Each one earns them up to a certain number of these “experience points.”

I use these extra credit points like “extra lives” in a video game. With their experience points, students earn the right to hand in a missed assignment, make up a missed in-class quiz or activity, or even to revise an essay for a better grade. I create a “menu” of items for which students could “spend” their experience points. They’re encouraged to complete experience points activities early on in the semester, so they have a ‘bank account’ of them ready to use when that unexpected life event causes them to miss a required course assignment or activity.

A homework assignment with an extra credit incentive

From Jeff Schwehm (Chemistry, Bryan College of Health Sciences, Nebraska):

It’s very important to me that students spend time doing the homework. Recently, I started using an online homework system that provides students a set of homework questions assigned randomly from a question bank. It gives them feedback as they work the problems and automatically grades the homework set. To earn the full 100 points possible for the homework section of my courses, students must complete 10 online homework assignments with a grade of 80 percent or better. However, for every homework assignment on which they score a grade system of 95 percent or better, they get one point of extra credit. This results in most students earning a 110 out of 100 on their homework grade and usually over 90 percent of my students take advantage of this extra credit opportunity. After implementing this extra credit opportunity, I noticed that more of my students spent time doing their homework and more come to my office hours for help with their homework.

Extra credit for writing exam questions

From Kristie Guffey (Agricultural Science, Murray State University, Kentucky):

Some instructors have students write exam questions for extra credit and then apply those points to the exam score. That idea intrigued me. Writing good exam questions is complex and challenging even for professors, let alone students. In my education course, I do this on each exam. It’s a great exercise for future teachers who need to learn how to write a test and validate it in terms of the unit’s objectives. I have students write two questions. If they have a good lead, an effective stem and require higher order thinking, students earn five points on a 100-point exam.

Extra credit for assignment revision

Extra credit for peer review

From Robin Field (English, King’s College, Pennsylvania):

In my 300-level English major courses, I allow students to revise their papers after I grade them. I don’t call this opportunity extra credit, but it is available to all students and usually results in higher grades.

For additional extra credit points, students may read a peer’s paper without seeing the grade or my feedback, and write a two-page critique in which they must correctly identify their peer’s argument, explain what was done well, and offer suggestions for revision. If the critique paper meets these criteria, the critique author receives a higher grade on his or her own paper, and the student who receives the critique paper has peer feedback, as well as my own comments, to guide revision of the paper.

Corrections for extra credit

From Janelle Lorenzen (Math, Southeastern Louisiana University):

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” This quote from John Dewey appears on the template students use when submit their corrections for extra credit. On the template, students start by listing all of the exam questions on which they lost points. For each of those questions, they must write a complete and accurate solution, identify the error they made and offer an explanation as to why they made that mistake. If any questions were left blank on the original assessment, they must provide a justifiable reason why they were unable to answer the question. Students begin with the maximum number of allowable extra credit points. I deduct points for incorrect solutions or incomplete reflections. An extra credit opportunity like this allows the students to learn from their mistakes so that they go from “I haven’t learned this yet” to “I can do this.” Is that not what we want for all of our students?

Other extra credit options

Extra credit and a badge

From Barbara Metcalf (Nursing, Vancouver Island University, British Columbia):

I co-teach a course on global health issues, and one of our goals is to foster global citizenship. Being an active online gamer, I have enjoyed one of allures of gaming: it taps into a human need to amass things—we love collecting things. Gaming takes advantage of this with many sites offering rewards of virtual coins, badges, or prizes for achieving goals. With that in mind, I came up with badges for extra credit.

We offer five different badges that highlight different class topics. Each badge requires students to attend something related to course content, possibly take a selfie and do a write up about the event. Each counts for one percent of the grade and credit is all or none. I built five virtual badges in both JPG and PDF form. Their release is triggered when credit for the activity is awarded. Students can see the badges virtually or download and print them.

Here are two of the five activities and the badges they earn.

Global Citizen Badge

You must attend one event for VIU’s Global Citizens Week (other than the kickoff and class theatre event on Feb. 3). You must take a selfie to prove you were there, then describe the event and how it contributed to your development as a global citizen (400 words max). Upload both the selfie and description by [due date].

Self-Care Badge

Engage in a self-care activity. It has to be an actual activity that will enhance your wellbeing. Activities like drinking alcohol and, well, “intimate” activities do not apply. We really don’t want to see that. Take a picture of yourself performing this activity. Write a short blurb about how this activity is contributing to your wellbeing during these trying times. Then tell us what your biggest learning for this class has been this year. Maximum word count 200. Upload both the picture and write up by [due date].

Extra credit students must look for

From Nicole Hampton (Education, Northern Arizona University):

I teach exclusively online and provide detailed feedback to students. Quizzes have question-by-question feedback for both correct and incorrect answers. Even with rubrics, I provide individual comments and explanation, noting where students did exceptionally well or fell short. Written assignments are returned with feedback for grammar and formatting as well as comments on the content. Providing this level of individualized feedback is very time consuming but important. Even so, I regularly find that students never review any of this feedback. They look at the grade and move on. To combat this, I use extra credit to encourage students to review the feedback.

Throughout the semester I “hide” extra credit Easter eggs in my feedback, not in every assignment, but in many and they’re time sensitive. I typically give one week to review the feedback and submit the extra credit. The extra credit is usually tied to the assignment. I might ask students to explore a topic further, find an additional resource, or provide me with instructional feedback.

The collection illustrates the range of extra credit activities and assignments teachers are using. And they reveal a number of assumptions about what makes extra credit a valid and course-related learning experience. Also of interest is how well these uses of extra credit meet the criteria Kara Coleman proposed in the article that opened this series. It’s fine to debate the pros and cons of extra credit at an abstract theoretical level, but the actual assignments faculty are equally revelatory. At this pragmatic level the issues and ideas are less absolutist and more nuanced. We hope the collection provides some interesting new options; we also hope it challenges your thinking about the assumptions inherent in the use of extra credit.

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