Create a Bonus (Extra Credit) Grade Item

Bonus grade items can be thought of as optional, extra credit items. Bonus grade items are not included in the denominator of maximum points for a category or final grade calculation. They are added only to the numerator of the category or final grade calculation. Bonus grade items can only help students’ grades, and students are not penalized if they do not attempt a bonus grade item.

Since bonus grades are only added to categories or final grade calculations after all other calculations, bonus grade items do not display to students with the grade scheme information like other grade items, regardless of the display options selected. Students can view the points and weight display options for a bonus grade, but no other grade scheme information, as the actual weight or points of the bonus grade item are independent from the rest of the grade scheme.

NOTE: Bonus grade items will not apply to the final grade calculation unless the Can Exceed option is selected for the final grade calculation (either Calculated Final Grade or Adjusted Final Grade).

You can create the following types of Bonus grade items:

Purpose of Bonus Items

What will students do to earn the extra points and what the pedagogical value is in terms of student learning?

Before determining what grade affect the instructor would like the Bonus Item to have, it is important to first consider what the student will do to earn the extra points and what the pedagogical value is in terms of student learning. If extra points, credit, or bonuses are being offered in a course, here are some important questions to ask before adding it to a syllabus:

  • How is that task or assignment promoting additional learning opportunities? What value on top of what is being officially graded in the course is this providing?
  • How will it be assessed? Will students get full points just for doing it? Or are there gradations of accomplishment or learning demonstrated? Are there particular expectations for how the task or activity will be completed, materials to be used, or behaviors to be demonstrated?
  • Does the course’s articulated academic integrity policy to apply to the activity or task? Are there other applicable course policies? For the activity or task under consideration, how easy or detectable is behavior contrary to this policy?
  • How does this extra element relate to what is currently done or practiced in the course? Is it an extension of a project or skill? Does it require skills students were not required to demonstrate or have before taking the course?
  • How will the instructor support students who want to do the extra task? What resources—online, in person, in class, on campus—are offered to help?
  • Does it require money or transportation to participate or complete? What if you have students who do not have the socioeconomic means to do so and do not wish to identify as such?
  • Does it take place outside of class hours (such as an evening event)? Is there an alternative for students who cannot attend at the time offered? (e.g. attending another class or caring for children or elderly parents)
  • Are there accessibility concerns? Can all students engage in the activity? If earning the points requires attending an event or visiting a physical site, is this accessible to students? If earning the points requires reading or viewing something, is the material formatted so that all students can have an equivalent educational experience?
  • When is the task or assignment due? Do they have to submit a proposal in advance to prepare the instructor for extra grading? Is it something students only worry about as they approach finals, or are there options throughout the semester or term?
  • How can the task or assignment be used to help them improve on a skill or development area students are weak in? How can the instructor use information from those who complete it to evaluate if it was beneficial for the students to do? Can the instructor then use this feedback to consider implementation of this task or assignment as an official assignment the next time it is taught?
  • Are there multiple options and they can do all, one, or some of them? For what amount of credit? When will feedback be offered to students? How quickly?
  • What will happen if all students complete this task or activity? Can the instructor handle the extra grading? Is there potential for grade inflation?
  • Where will the instructor communicate information about Bonus Item opportunities? In the syllabus? Grading policy? Does it clearly articulate how much, when it is due, and the effect of the points?

While it is up to instructors and departments to determine if or when Bonus Items are included in a course, after they determine a Bonus Item’s purpose, carefully choose how much and where it will be placed in the Grades tool to help achieve the desired effect. Learn more about this on the Understanding the Effect of Bonus Items page.

In online classes, instructors should consider the variability of locations (time zone, rural / urban, international, and proximity to TCU if related to campus events or resources) and the availability of materials that might be necessary to complete the activity or task. In addition, online students are more likely to have external commitments (work, internships, family care, etc.) that make it difficult to attend events that happen at at specific times unless prior notice has been provided far in advance. Online instructors must ensure that all students in the course can equally pursue the potential for bonus points.

Understanding the Effect of Bonus Items

See our page about Understanding the Effect of Bonus Items for examples and explanation about how bonus items effect final grades.