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Using Extra Credit Effectively

Mon Sep 19, 2022 at 07:30 AM

Should instructors offer extra credit? Some believe it makes students lazy and more likely to want to make up material only after they have missed it. While extra credit can certainly have this effect on students, well-designed extra credit assignments can have a range of benefits instead. I always use extra credit in my courses rather than scaling grades, dropping the lowest grade, or assigning ad hoc assignments at the end of the semester to boost students’ grades. I apply several strategies when creating extra credit to make it a meaningful and enriching part of students’ experience in my courses.


Well-designed extra credit assignments have the following benefits for students and the instructor.

  • Students engage with the material beyond the assigned coursework, which helps reinforce their understanding of concepts taught in class.
  • Students have more agency in working toward the final grade they want to achieve. Rather than taking action myself to boost student grades, I give students the opportunity to improve their course performance if they wish.
  • Assigning extra credit enables me to avoid the dreaded question, "Can I do anything to improve my final grade?" The few times I am asked for more lenience, I have a fair answer: "All students had the same opportunities for extra credit during the course. There is no 'extra' extra credit." The ball is in the students' court; I am just the recordkeeper.


I use the following strategies to create effective extra credit assignments.

  • All students are given the same opportunities for extra credit so that everyone has an equal chance to improve their grade. This is stressed on the syllabus and throughout the course.
  • Extra credit point values can be flexible. Mine are based on the nature of the assignment and the amount of extra credit the class needs as a whole.
  • I assign extra credit regularly during the semester rather than waiting until the end of the semester. Students have an opportunity to submit extra credit at predictable intervals, which helps them keep their interest in the course and avoid anxiety about their final grade.

Types of Extra Credit

A wide range of work can be assigned as extra credit – it's really up to the instructor's imagination! My extra credit assignments fall into two categories:

  • additional problems – I assign these in my linguistics courses to give students more practice with difficult concepts and methods of analysis.
  • engaging applications – I create fun assignments that apply ideas covered in class. Basically anything goes as long as it’s relevant for the course! I have assigned Moodle surveys, interviews of individuals in the student’s social circle, discussion forums with thought-provoking questions, reflections about online videos or articles, and educational activities on websites that tie into course themes. (Consider using H5P in Moodle to create some of your extra credit activities. e-LIS has H5P help documents to assist you, or contact the e-LIS ID team for a one-on-one consultation.)


Viewing extra credit as a positive component to include in your course opens up a useful additional avenue to increase student learning. Methodically and creatively designing extra credit that fits with course themes is an excellent way to give students supplementary practice with course material and further opportunities to see applications of course material in the real world. Extra credit assignments might even take more effort than regular homework, but if they are well-designed, students will be happy to do them!

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About the Author

Helena Riha teaches Linguistics and International Studies. She has taught over 3,300 students at OU in 16 different courses and is currently developing a new online General Education course. Helena is the 2016 winner of the OU Excellence in Teaching Award. This is her thirteenth teaching tip. Outside of the classroom, Helena enjoys watching her sixth grader design his own Lego creations.

Edited and designed by Christina Moore, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NCView all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips