After nearly a full year of online-focused learning, professors throughout Missouri State have all but perfected their various Zoom methods. One journalism professor has adapted so well that he earned the attention of popular news magazine Crain’s NewsPro. Leonard Horton, who has been teaching at Missouri State since 2013, was featured in the January edition of the magazine in an article titled “Among the Best in Class: Ten Educators Using Innovative Techniques to Train Students for a Brave New World.” Currently, Horton teaches Broadcast News Writing (JRN 381), Electronic News Gathering (JRN 388), Broadcast Performance (JRN 384), and TV Productions (MED 383).
Horton’s interest in broadcasting stemmed from, in his opinion, not being very popular or athletic in school. He carried around a Hi-8 camcorder in high school, which led to him being invited onto the field at a football game to film since he already had a camera. Before coming to Missouri State, he worked as an on-air reporter—experience that allows him to help students learn what to expect from the broadcasting field. He also spent some time as an assistant professor of journalism at Florida A&M University. Horton uses his collective experience to help former students currently in the news industry with their contracts, saying “Students, either in salary negotiations or who may have been laid off, contact me to help them with a transition plan.” In addition to this, Horton is currently a doctoral student in the cooperative doctorate program between Missouri State and the University of Missouri. With a focus in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, he will begin his dissertation in the fall of 2021.
“I began to realize that having a camera gives you VIP access to places and people. It’s been the same ever since!” —Leonard Horton
The transition to online learning hasn’t been all bad for Horton. His favorite class to teach, “Promoting Yourself in the Digital Age,” was offered online for the first time in summer 2020. It’s a one-week course covering resumes, cover letters, social media, and professional website creation. The switch to online allowed more students to take the course than usual, so the class will be offered online again in the summer of 2021. In his classes, Horton often includes Zoom interviews with professionals in the news business such as multimedia journalists, anchors, producers and news directors. Students were able to hear first hand from representatives of KOLR10, KY3 and the Springfield News-Leader on how newsrooms have adapted to the “new normal” with COVID-19.
Horton’s biggest challenge in transitioning to online classes hasn’t been the technology, but the loss of personal connection with students. Using Zoom makes it difficult for him to teach in his preferred style, which is very conversational and interactive. Another challenge he’s faced is being sensitive to the lives of his students, especially those who’s mental health have been affected by the isolation of online classes. Horton makes sure to check in with his students at the beginning of every class to see how they’re doing, a part of the class that’s extremely important to him.
Horton says that being named “Best in Class” is an honor and he appreciates the recognition for something he feels called to do. He went on to say he “would consider all of the faculty members in the media, journalism, and film department as Best in Class.” Horton’s one-credit hour intersession course will be offered online from May 17-21.