“TODAY ONLY” Extra Credit Opportunity – A Surprising Teaching Experiment

On Sunday, November 5, 2017, I had an idea.

I immediately emailed all of my students during the middle of the afternoon. The email announced an extra credit opportunity that would only be available until 11:59 pm. I gave students a few blog articles to read and requested that they leave a meaningful comment on each one.

And let me tell you.

I have never seen such a strong response to an extra credit opportunity. Students responded en masse and made outstanding–most meaningful–comments! 

Usually, most students who do extra credit do not need to for purposes of raising their grade. And my students this semester–across three unique classes, five sections–are earning grades parallel to all other semesters.

My theory is that students basically didn’t have time to procrastinate when it was a “now or never” situation. Procrastination is a huge problem for people today, college student or not. I usually offer three small extra credit assignments per semester–that if completed drop a lowest assignment grade–and only about 5-15 percent take the opportunity. In contrast, 40 percent of my students completed the “one day” offer.

I had hesitations about the one day offer because people are busy with other course work, family, or work obligations, but I still thought it was worth a try, especially as other extra credit opportunities always had a window of at least one week, often two weeks. After the fact, I had several students say they worked all day Sunday or whatnot and could they have an extension. I said, yes, of course. But–procrastination?–most of these ultimately did not complete it.

On this note, across universities, classes, and professors, recent years have seen a slow rise in the number of assignments that are not submitted. While it remains disappointing and frustrating and confusing, situations where 35-50 percent of students do not submit an assignment are now the norm. This applies to the freshmen and seniors. In one of my classes this semester, roughly 20 percent of the possible small assignments were not submitted. This number is lower than the 35-50 percent number in part because of numerous in-class writing assignments.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda