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IMD appoints gamification expert Sarah Toms as Chief Learning Innovation Officer

In this new role, Toms will help IMD’s leadership and faculty identify and develop innovative pedagogical tools to further transform how the institute delivers programs and engages learners.
January 2023

IMD is pleased to announce the appointment of educational technology thought leader Sarah Toms as its inaugural Chief Learning Innovation Officer, effective 15 February. 

In her previous role as Co-founder and Executive Director of Wharton Interactive, Toms was instrumental in pioneering radically new forms of games-based learning to make the learning environment more active and engaging. Her team developed the Alternative Reality Courseware platform, including a catalogue of games that allow learners to live through an experience, such as running a startup, and to hone their skills by making decisions just as they would in real life. 

With more than 20 years as a leader in the technology field, and as a former entrepreneur, Toms brings with her an extensive set of contacts in the EdTech space. She is also one of 10 AWS Education Champions, and co-author of The Customer Centricity Playbook, winner of the Digital Book Awards 2019 Business Book.  

“Sarah has a strong track record in transforming learning experiences by developing games-based learning,” said Professor David Bach, Dean of Innovation and Programs. “We are delighted that she will be joining IMD to help refine and advance our learning innovation strategy as we accelerate our efforts to build highly engaging and deeply immersive learning opportunities.” 

Toms commented: “The best learning happens when there are continuous opportunities to practice the theory being taught by experts. Serious games are an incredibly effective form of active learning, where individuals and teams are challenged to grapple with the intrinsic complexities and trade-offs of what is being taught.” 

She added: “At IMD’s heart is a culture driven by a passion to deliver meaningful innovation. I am incredibly excited to join IMD, especially at a time when emerging technologies like AI, web3 and wearable tech have finally reached a point where they have the potential to deliver truly learner-centric, adaptive educational environments.” 

IMD has long been a proponent of using technology and simulations in its online courses. The pandemic further accelerated the shift towards technology-mediated learning after travel bans forced most teaching to move online. Clients have also embraced this new way of learning and over half of the programs IMD delivered during 2022 were substantially technology-mediated, meaning they involved an element of online or virtual learning. 

Among the recent innovations are the Sprint programs, which allow executives to upskill quickly from anywhere in the world with daily bitesize learning from IMD’s expert professors and industry leaders. Another innovation is the use of immersive team-based virtual reality simulations to enable experiential learning even when participants are remote. 

Drawing on her extensive network in the EdTech and disruptive tech space, Toms will help IMD’s leadership refine and advance its learning innovation strategy and work closely with faculty to help them scout for the latest innovations and experiment with and develop new technology-mediated pedagogical approaches to engage their classes. 

“In the spirit of IMD’s motto of challenging what is and inspiring what could be, Sarah will challenge us to discover new opportunities and partnerships outside of IMD that allow us to enrich the learning experience for participants by combining the subject expertise of our faculty with AI-tools,” said Bach. 

Toms will join IMD on 15 February and will be a member of David Bach’s team.