Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Extra Credit - Do It - You'll Be Glad You Did

As I sit here grading papers close to the end of my college's semester, I'm noticing how few students have turned in the extra credit I offered to them shortly after the wake-up call of midterms.

Here are a few musings for you to ponder.

Extra credit is a gift! These opportunities are relatively rare at the college level - take advantage of them.

Never, ever pass up extra credit points. Even if you are sailing along acing the class, wouldn't you rather have a cushion of points in case life happens and messes up your performance for the rest of the class? What if you have a migraine when you take the final exam? What if a traffic jam causes you to turn in that important research paper late and your instructor deducts 10%? What if you simply forget that a quiz was moved to a different date and didn't prepare? Additional points can help shield against these nasty contingencies.

Extra credit points, however, are unlikely to save your seriously sinking grade ship. In most cases, the bonus assignment is only a modest percentage of the total points offered in a class. If you've finished the rest of the class work with 62% (a D), an extra credit assignment worth 5% of the total class points will bring you up to 67%, but that's still a D.

If you're absolutely sure the extra points won't help you, you may not want to bother doing it. How many students are absolutely sure where their grade stands right now? Hmmm, I thought so.

On the other hand, consider this. If you've finished with 69% and do the 5% extra credit, you can breathe a sigh of relief for a solid C at 74%. This works across all grade dividing lines.

If you attend an institution where pluses and minuses are shown in final grades, a few more points can give you that nice boost upward, regardless of where your grade stands.

Extra credit is offered on an equal opportunity basis. In college, there is not going to be any specific special bonus opportunity offered only for you to pull yourself out of the hole you're in for whatever reason. This will not happen regardless of how many sad emails you send or desperate voicemails you leave. If you've had a serious reason to miss points, you should be dealing with that at the time that it is occurring.

Don't procrastinate on doing extra credit. Turn it in early or on time. It's not good to procrastinate on anything you do for college, but it can be a really bad idea for extra credit assignments.

For example, I provide information on extra credit to my students at the time I return their midterms (week 9 of a 16 week semester). The due date is the last class we have before the final, so there's over a 6 week window of opportunity to get it done.

Plenty of time, right?

Nonetheless, I can guarantee that on the due day, there will be several frazzled people coming late to class with partially completed extra credit because they were a few doors down in the computer lab trying to knock it out just before coming to class.

I can also guarantee that after the due date, I will receive numerous pleas to turn in extra credit late because of this, that, and the other thing. Some students may even try to work my sympathy on the day of the final.

To all latecomers, the answer is no. Due dates for everything should be taken seriously, but asking for extra time on something assigned over six weeks ago is pushing it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011