5 Extra Credit STEM Assignments to Engage Your Students & Give Their Grades a Lift

Ginelle Testa

Extra credit assignments can be tricky because instructors wonder if it’s giving students a pass or allowing them to slack off. We found from our STEM educators in the Labster Community Campus educator network community that extra credit assignments help engage students and reinforce their learning when done meaningfully. 

A study by the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology Society found “[Extra credit] assignments can serve as a platform for students to apply the course material to their own lives, optimizing their strengths and creativity, and encouraging them to take ownership of their learning.”

It’s important to assign extra credit throughout the semester to allow students to interact with their learning so they don’t ask that dreaded question at the end of the semester, “What can I do to improve my grade?” Especially if it’s a challenging STEM course, offering extra credit assignments can keep students familiar with the subject matter.

We’ve gathered each of these extra credit STEM assignments you can try with your students to engage them better from our Community Campus members. 

Five extra credit STEM assignments

1. Incentivize students to show up & participate

Getting students to even show up to your scientific lectures can be challenging. Incentivizing them to show up may seem unecessary, but there are a few ways to make it work.

First, the EdSurge podcast had a recent episode about student engagement (and lack thereof after the pandemic started). They discussed how some instructors offer incentives for student participation in the lecture when they ask an organic question, whether or not the students get a question right. Points for answering questions encourage students to attend the lecture and participate, as instructors find it takes more to get students physically and mentally present. 

Second, one of the STEM professors in our Community Campus also found it helpful to offer incentives for coming to lectures:

“I offer an attendance bonus as an incentive to get students to lecture. We can not count attendance as part of their grade (which is ridiculous), but I can offer it in the form of a bonus.” - Marc Behrendt, Professor at Webber International University 

2. Offer additional quiz questions

Offering extra quiz questions can be a way to engage students with the material. You can add them to an existing exam or project, which would help students who got a question or two wrong. Or, you could post in-class quiz questions in real-time using an interactive response tool (like TopHat). This real-time question-asking in class can encourage participation in a different way than students are used to, encouraging more active learning. You could ask the questions during lecture time or before/after a lab!

3. Gather survey data

Similar to participating in a research study, perhaps you’re looking to survey your students on their experience in class or with a particular edtech tool. This can help gather data so that you can improve your teaching methods. 

A STEM instructor in our Community Campus shared his experience with gathering data:

“I give the students extra credit for answering a survey about the course and especially about the relevance of the Labster simulations and how they work to prepare them for the real-world labs which we do afterwards. This helps me to see if the materials I offer help the students to succeed. This also helps me to collect data about student success and supplemental materials which I can present to the people in charge of the money.” - Eddy van Hunnik, Biotech/Bioscience Instructor at Alamance Community College

4. Utilize virtual labs

Labster virtual labs are a gamified way to engage students who are challenging to excite in STEM. We have over 300+ simulations to choose from across various disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, etc.). Virtual labs can be offered as extra credit to reinforce learning or help a student prepare for an in-person lab. You can assign them as a stand-alone extra credit assignment or allow them to redo past virtual labs to do better next time.

All of our virtual labs operate on a storyline that keeps students engaged! We have a biology simulation called Cellular Respiration: Glycolysis, where students will help the basketball players understand how the food they eat gets converted to energy by investigating glycolysis, the first stage of cellular respiration. 

5. Offer reflection opportunities

STEM has many real-world applications, so getting them to reflect is a great part of the process. Instructors can offer meta-cognitive reflection opportunities so students can think about their learning and ways to improve. Some sample reflection questions you could offer are:

  • What’s something you learned in class?
  • Reflect on how you can apply something you learned in class to your life.
  • Share a question that you still have.
  • What did you find most challenging about this topic?
  • What did you like most/least about this class?

A member of our Labster Community Campus shared their experience with reflection: 

“My extra credit is in the form of optional exam reflections, where students not only make corrections but dig deeper into why they got the question wrong (material not in notes, misread the question or focused on the wrong part of it, etc). They also have to evaluate their study habits & try new approaches to studying.” - Academic Staff at a 4-year public university

Questions for your reflection:

  • Have you found extra credit to work in your class? How do you go about it?
  • Can you apply any of these to your current teachings? Join our Community Campus for STEM educators and share with us what’s working!
a man sitting in front of a computer monitor
Bring Science to Life
Immersive Learning Simulations

Labster helps universities and high schools enhance student success in STEM.

Request Demo

Discover The Most Immersive Digital Learning Platform.

Request a demo to discover how Labster helps high schools and universities enhance student success.

Request Demo