Policy change evening up extra credit

Some say extra credit is now offered more fairly or less often.

Anne Millerbernd

Nearly five years after a new policy was installed, some University of Minnesota students and professors say extra credit opportunities have changed.

Professors are required to announce all extra credit opportunities, and some students say it’s now offered more fairly or not at all in their classes.

In response to complaints that extra credit was being offered unequally, the University began requiring instructors to outline all extra credit opportunities in their syllabi in 2008.

“We had heard from students that extra credit was being inconsistently offered,” said Tina Falkner, University director of compliance and continuity. “It was being offered to those who asked for it, but other students didn’t even know they could.”

 Physics and astronomy professor Paul Crowell said it’s difficult for instructors to be completely fair in offering extra credit opportunities.

“In my experience, the only way to be completely fair is to spell out all of the expectations in a syllabus in the beginning of the semester,” he said.

Some students say extra credit is simply not offered very often now.

Sixth-year material science engineering major Rochelle Zordich said she’s rarely given an extra credit opportunity in her classes.

“I think the most common times I see extra credit is when the class’ score is a little bit too low for [the instructor],” Zordich said.

Mechanical engineering freshman Mitchell Pagel said he thinks extra credit should be offered to the entire class, though his classes rarely provide the option.

Associate Dean for College of Science and Engineering undergraduate programs Paul Strykowski said grading methods, including the distribution of extra credit, are up to each professor.

American Indian studies professor David Wilkins said he doesn’t offer extra credit because he believes students should take responsibility for their grades.

“Students come in, they do the work that’s laid out on the syllabus and if they do it well, they get a high grade,” he said, “and if they don’t do it well, they get a lower grade.”

Sociology professor Vania Brightman Cox said she offers extra credit to her class to encourage students to engage with class materials and said she isn’t concerned with how it affects grade inflation.

“I’m more interested in making sure that the whole class or the majority of the class leaves with an understanding of sociology,” she said. “That’s what I’m there to do — I’m there to teach.”