College and adult education classes are tough one to teach mainly because adult concerns often get in the way. That is, life's complications and impediments find a way of becoming intrusive on class sessions, assignment completion, assigned readings, seminar participation, etc. It can be tough, no doubt. I've seen it, personally.
In the classes I teach at a local state university, I often find that my scholars are the most unlucky people on earth as soon as they enroll in my courses. Their printers die, as do their computers. And their cars' batteries give out on class nights which is just as well, really, 'cause they were REALLY feeling under the weather anyway (*cough, cough*) since they came back from visiting both grandmothers in the hospital (adenoids. no, wait! lumbago. yeah, that's it. *sniff, sniff*) on the way from burying their dog and buying more printer ink and a new ream of paper since the computer lab closed and they broke off their key in their dorm room door and can't get back in to get their notes until tomorrow.
I understand this is the case and so I've come up with a way to mitigate these streaks of misfortune, and I wanted to share it with you.
The Excuse Card. If offer my scholars one excuse from a single session of class and one free excuse from a single assignment. I don't ask questions, I don't require an explanation. They may use the Excuse Card at anytime during the term. On the Excuse Card there is text that read as follows:
"The holding of this card entitles the named bearer of same to one (1) ironclad excuse each from a single assignment and attendance from a single session of class. Apart from the use of this card, the student agrees to work with/around impedimentary circumstances and/or accept the academic consequences of failure to do so. These privileges are not transferable or subject to commerce, trade or barter. Use of this card on tests/projects is solely at the instructor’s discretion and all decisions of said instructor are final and will be accepted with a smile. The bearer is responsible to attain any missed assignments, notes, readings, viewings and the next week’s prerequisite work from two colleagues (for accuracy), and does not hold the instructor liable for any complications that arise from claiming the Class Attendance excuse. So be it."
So, once the scholar takes advantage of the Excuse Card's allowances, she/he must deal with the consequence of any further neglect, lateness, or lack of scholarship thereafter. The card gives them grace that is uncommon, and so the responsibility sits upon them to use it wisely.
The Excuse Cards are made in such a size that, well-trimmed, they fit neatly in standard-sized business card laminating pouches. (I generally write the scholar's name on the front, have the scholar sign her/his name on the back and pass the EC through a card laminator then and there to seal it.)
I've found that my college scholars are generally grateful for the courtesy that the Excuse Card represents and that very few, given the option, actually use it. Some have considered it a point of honor to return it unused at the end of the term.
It's been a good tool for me. I hope it may be of use to you.