Stress Without Deadlines

Sending Dread

When I began my first course with Athabasca University I remember being very unsure about my first assignment. Pressing that send button (as it was an email submission) was very stressful! I moved forward and had my first Moodle submission, which made me press that dreaded button several times; “Submit”, “Are you sure?”, “Last chance!” At least, that’s how they read to me. I had assumed that eventually submitting an assignment would get easier. Approximately 50 credits and countless assignments later I am beginning to accept the reality that it will never get easier.

I pondered this, after feeling that familiar pit in my stomach as I went to submit my more recent assignment, why is this so stressful? While we never know how we did until we get our assignment back, we must have an idea of how well we met requirements before submitting. I took a semester at a bricks and mortar(B&M) university before a long break and eventual enrollment in AU, so, granted, my memory may be leaving some of the stress unaccounted for. But I do not recall feeling the same level of stress with those assignments, as I do with each and every assignment I hand in with AU.

There are many differences between AU and a B&M university. Could it be the classroom setting that makes assignment submission easier? With AU, while we have great tutor and peer support, it is a virtual presence and not the same as physically attending school. We rely heavily on ourselves to understand the course material. However, I do not think this is why I found it easier to hand in assignments in the B&M university. I find I am more able to stay focused and understand the course information with AU’s style of education than I did at the B&M school. Possibly the biggest difference is that at a B&M university you have strict deadlines, you are very limited to the time you have to dedicate to a specific assignment. You do not, at least in my experience, get to look ahead to an assignment and pre-plan as you work through the course material. With AU you are able to look ahead to the assignments and you have plenty, almost unlimited time, to plan, edit, and re-edit. With only self-imposed deadlines to restrict you; as any procrastinator knows those deadlines are all easily bumped.

I think that it is this lack of a deadline that makes finalizing an assignment so much more stressful. With a definite deadline, while you may be sure you could improve it, by editing, editing, and editing some more, you will eventually run out of time and have to call it, and hand it in as it is. With AU you could edit yourself crazy! You have to make the call, you have to decide when your assignment is worthy of being called complete. You are making the conscious decision that that assignment is either A) “Good to go!” or B) “Whatever, I am tired of this, I am done!” Meaning that when you get your mark back you have no one but yourself to lay the blame on. It is not unrealistic time constraints set forth by the professor, it is not that you did your best in the time given. No, you are held 100% accountable and responsible for the mark you get. So either you get a good mark, and you can feel proud of yourself, or you get a poor mark, and feel ashamed at the haste in which you handed the assignment in when it clearly could have used a closer look and a few more rounds of editing.

I have had many different experiences when handing in assignments. I have had my “A” classification, where I believe in my paper, and believe the countless rounds of editing have caught errors and polished my paper. I still feel nervous submitting it to the tutor, wondering “am I being overconfident?” doubting why I feel this paper is done, “I’m probably missing something really important, I shouldn’t feel this sure.” I have also had more than my share of “B” classifications, thinking “Whatever! I am tired of this, and I am done!” I hope for a half decent mark but feel a sense of dread, believing I will regret my haste (though not enough to look at it any longer) but submit it anyway. In each of these experiences results have varied, some turned out good, some great, and some I would rather forget. Regardless of my confidence on a given assignment I never escape that pit of stress in my stomach, which always amplifies x1000 when I get a notification that the assignment has been returned. Whatever I am doing gets immediately dropped, and my hands shake as I try to log into myAU to see my results.

I suppose what fun would it be if we did not have these ups and downs? It would be like getting on a rollercoaster, preparing yourself for the ride of your life, and never getting over a walking pace. This emotional rollercoaster makes the experience that much more rewarding. At least that is what I tell myself as my heart slowly thuds when I submit an assignment, and races when I get one back.

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