'A High-Touch Experience': Smith Executive Education Offers Its First Online Course

President Kathleen McCartney talks to marketing expert and author Dorie Clark '97 for an audio interview for the first online course offered by Smith College Executive Education for Women.

When marketing expert and author Dorie Clark ’97 heard that Smith College Executive Education for Women was launching its first online course this spring, she knew she wanted to be part of the enterprise.

“I like the idea of being involved in a program with such a unique mission,” said Clark, who is teaching the new course called “Take Control of Your Online Reputation.”

The six-week course, which begins Sunday, March 15, is the first offering from Smith ExecEd Online, a series of new self-directed leadership courses the Smith center is developing.

The series makes use of online learning platforms such as audio interviews and interactive study tools. Each lesson is structured around a video lecture, followed by exercises and activities, group discussion and suggested readings.

“Unlike many traditional face-to-face courses, the process for developing and delivering an online course is highly collaborative,” says Yasmin Chin Eisenhauer, instructional technologist with Educational Technology Services. “The core team—tasked with the challenge of creating both a single course and an enduring, professional brand—consists of a subject matter expert, writers, media producers, marketers, graphic designers and other technologists across Executive Education for Women and ETS. From initial concept to launch, it took us 11 months to build.”

In addition to Eisenhauer and Clark, other team members are: Dan Bennett,  Patrick Fenton, David Gregory, Katherine T. Hall, Alec Hoverman, Thomas Laughner, Kate Lee, Tammy Lockett, Iris Newalu, Ashli Stempel and Kevin Wiliarty.

Clark, who was campaign spokeswoman for 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, is an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is also a recognized branding and new media expert. The Huffington Post has named Clark to its “100 Must Follow on Twitter” list for the past two years, and she is also on the #Nifty50 list of the top women on Twitter.

Among the guest lecturers that Clark interviewed for the Online Reputation course, is President McCartney who shared her experience using social media.

Clark said McCartney “brings a unique perspective as someone with a high profile who has been using social media to define who she is.”

“She exemplifies something we keep coming back to in this course,” Clark added. “That is, that the way you act online should be true to who you are. You should find a way to be yourself.”

Other guest speakers for the course are digital entrepreneur Neil Patel, marketing consultant Brian Honigman, Firebrand Group founder Jeremy Goldman, and social media and cross-platform marketing consultant Lisa Chau.

In addition to offering new content, the online series will allow the Smith College Executive Education for Women program to reach a wider audience, says Newalu, executive director of the 35-year-old center. While most Smith Executive Education offerings are targeted to women business leaders, the online courses will be open to any interested participant.

“We’re looking for new ways to expand our mission,” Newalu said. “Each Smith ExecEd Online course will give participants opportunities to build global professional networks, as well as focus on women’s leadership development.”

ExecEd Online courses are designed to be smaller and more personalized than the massive online open courses—known as MOOCS—offered for free by some colleges and universities, says Katherine T. Hall, associate director of the Smith center.

“MOOCs are aimed at tens of thousands of people, and they are often asynchronous,” with students involved at different times, Hall said. “Our course is designed to be more of a high-touch experience, where people will have an opportunity for online office hours with Dorie Clark.”

The Online Reputation course, which costs $449, aims to draw about 30 participants by the March 11 registration deadline, Hall said. Over the course of six weeks, participants will explore best practices for digital media and ways to leverage their online brand.

“Managing your online reputation is a topic that’s trending,” Hall said. “No matter who you are, it’s important to know how you are showing up on Google.”

Clark said she was excited by the chance to teach “content that’s not available anywhere else from an array of the best thinkers” in digital marketing.

“The Internet has changed the language of corporate communications, which used to be somewhat stilted and controlled,” Clark said. “But that’s no longer the best or preferred method. Now, people want to communicate in their real voice.”

Learning to do so online is a critical part of creating a brand and a business reputation, she added.

“Being yourself is no excuse to be sloppy,” Clark said. “You have to learn to be yourself in a professional way.”