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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:09
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Over doing the reading

I'm trying to put to bed what might be my 27th assignment: the last three have been non-OU but the same rules apply: whether tutor marked assignment, end of module assignment or an essay.

Have I ever been cut out for this?

Clearly, getting from TMAs in the 50s and a couple of EMAs in the 40s to TMAs in the 80s (and beyond) and EMAs in the 60s and 70s (though never beyond) indicates that I've learnt how to provide what is required ... and by default, that I have also learnt something (though my brain will complicate, and bury everything that goes in so fast that it's like putting rotten tomatoes onto the compost heap).

This is what I prefer by far: 'writing from the hip' I call it, or 'jazz writing' where a stream of consciousness, or drivel, fills the page.

I am taking a moments break from the nightshift.

This nightshift, awake at 2.00 am and writing by 2.30am has, over several years, become my default position whenever I need a three hour run at something; even the dog is asleep. I have to struggle to hear much more than a buzz in my head and either the tapping on this keyboard or scratching away of pen on paper.

Can I bring to some kind of conclusion this 'learning journal' in relation to writing 'the perfect essay'? 

Despite my best wishes I am NOT a strategic worker or thinker: my curiosity is too much of a pull. I do exactly what I was warned against a year ago - 'vanishing down rabbit holes'. I am the White Rabbit and Alice combined; an intriguing reference enthrals me so off I go. If I can I will source the paper, even get the long out of print book - I may even read the thing, take notes and then pop my head of this hole and wonder what the feck I'm playing at.

An essay needs a copse, not a forest. Imagine what it is like trying to turn an forest into an essay: too much wood (far too much paper). Not simply tough to digest, but any intrinsic pleasure from the act of writing at last is diminished by my knowledge of how much I will have to leave out. 

In the dead of night.

Giving up alcohol and coffee has not helped.

In every respect the alcohol was by far the easiest thing to cut back and cut out - just the conclusion to a ten year minor skirmish that ultimately was or is a medical irritant (allergic to it). Last week I managed 48 hours, or as it 36 hours without coffee. Hardly an achievement given that I was comatose, walking wounded or asleep for the duration. A mug first thing since has found me taking an afternoon siesta and still sleeping for seven + hours. I am sitting with the requisite jug of coffee now. 

I'll get to the end of this and do it justice

'On reflection' the couple of EMAs in the 40s I received was because having done the work, and got reasonable TMAs I blew it with this last struggle and deadlines ending up submitting the latests draft as the seconds disappeared. This time I have had months, really, months and even now I have another three days. I just want to do what I know has to be done: get a good draft finished a few days before, then do the re-read and edit. Nothing less will do and only then can I feel I've done all that I feel I am capable of. The truth is this does not, nor never has come naturally to me. I prefer being up on my feet doing and taking part with a team of people.

Take a nap, then, trusting to my wits and the fresh sea air, I'll be bobbing around offshore by mid-morning taking part in some global sailing charity event. 

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Extensions

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From E-Learning V

In my experience if you ask for an extension for a TMA you will always get one; I've occasionally asked for a couple of days and got a week. With EMAs the deadline is sacrosanct. I've asked on the day and a week back; I guess the earlier you see the problem the better. It depends on the problem. Never really meeting my online tutor it took me too many modules before I'd pick up the phone, yet nothing has ever worked better than a short chat. If your request for an extension is genuine, like the kind made of hair, you'll want and probably need a helping hand so take what is on offer. 

The problem with an extension is that it could simply be delaying the pain ... you continue in the same vein, blocked, muddled, reluctant to start, or finish or submit; or you haven't done the work and know it.

If you've done the work but are having a mental or academic block then ask here, ask in your student forum (too often quiet) and most certainly talk to your tutor. Often some focused advice will say you are on the right track, press on, talk it through, now write it down and send it in, or that you are trying to write a chapter rather than an essay, to narrow it down, to think strategically.

If you haven't done the work then use the extension to figure out how you can put in enough hours, strategically, to cover enough of the ground and do it. If that means a few late nights or early mornings that so be it.

And shit happens - I've lost parents. The worst. And I've been made redundant. In fact both happened together in my first module and I quit ... I sulked instead of talking to someone. The OU would have been understanding. Anyway, you may have to drop everything for a week or more. Everyone will he hugely sympathetic.

Otherwise, like teachers with decades of experience, the tutors will smell a rat if you simply haven't done the work and don't intend to. If this is the case then personally I'd just knock off a submission and send it in. You may still pass. You may be asked to resubmit. The assumption will be that you've done your best even if you haven't. Or perhaps you have? Honesty is always heard with sympathy.

I'm reminding myself that however distant distance learning might be you are always a phone call away from your tutor. I always regret not taking up the offer of talking it through. They won't think you're an idiot; they'll admire you for caring about wanting to try to get it right. In seven modules I think only once did our tutor group have such an active online presence that we could sort out each others' problems, another the tutor didn't just say they were available, but they proved it by being online moderating and 'seeding' conversations rather than waiting in the background (or just absent). And then a time when I kind of buddied up: she was great at one kind of thing, I could help with another - she was an 'adapter' I was the 'innovator' I guess. 

Have I had a reprieve? Not exactly. I have, or thought I had a 10th September deadline - actually thats for resubmissions for April !? So I have until the 24th September. I have worked my way into a corner so will take a day off, then see what I can write in exam conditions, see if a fresh approach can produce something more fluid. It's a relief to be able to step away from a disaster. 

I am so envious of people who turn mountains into molehills. I turn mountains into a range of mountains and usually get lost until someone drags me out. TMAs are foothills, EMAs the one mountain. They all count, so press on.

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Sep 2014, 04:34)
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