Lily Valibaba envisions a classroom experience for her son that is far different than the one she had growing up. At UA Little Rock, she is working on a Master of Education in learning systems technology and is incorporating technology into curriculum design that will benefit future youth.
“The thing about education is that you really do need a love of learning,” she said. “I have had that love most of my adult life, but not so much when I was younger. Looking back, I realized I was bored and that the educational system was meant for the average learner, but the outliers are the ones who bring on the thought-provoking change. They are the ones who shine the brightest. Those are the ones that mean the most to me. Those are the learners I want to reach.”
Valibaba, 39, began questioning traditional classroom education after her son was diagnosed with autism.
“I have an atypical child,” she said. “He did not learn well in the traditional environment. His autism prevented him from participating in so many things. The more atypical kids I met, the more I realized how little we shifted to their needs and how much we pushed for integration into the mainstream.
“I began questioning. How can we tailor an education to meet the needs of an individual learner? How can we track progress and be notified when they need more assistance? How can we let them excel in areas while simultaneously modifying instruction to boost lower performance areas? How can learning be more inclusive?
Her questions led her to blended classrooms, technology in classrooms, and eventually course/curriculum design.
“I realized through my research that instructional design can be used to answer those questions and that not only atypical kids would benefit, but that any learner truly benefits from a well designed course.”
Valibaba also sees a career in instructional design as a way to improve education.
“The future of how and where our kids are educated is moving online,” she said. “By designing online courses and helping others bring their courses up to par, I am shaping young minds so to speak. Not shaping them to an ideally framed book of knowledge, but to think. To ask questions. To move beyond what we already think we know and extrapolate data and then apply it to real world problems and scenarios. I am helping create great thinkers and it makes me feel good! Reimagining our education system is at the cusp of a giant leap forward, and I am along for the ride.”
Valibaba said she chose UA Little Rock for its convenience and affordability, but “ultimately it was the faculty that pulled me in.”
“I took a sociology class and that led to an anthropology class that led to my calling – people. I love to study people. I fell utterly head over heels for anthropology. My classes were not over populated, which allowed for relationships to be formed. Many of the students were non-traditional like me. My professors were accessible and willing to help.”
She completed her undergraduate studies in 2015 and received a degree in anthropology with a minor in international business. She started the Master in Education in learning systems technology program in fall 2017 and is a full-time online student.
“The moment I stepped on campus for my interview, I felt like I was home,” she said. “This is where I grew up as a learner. This is where I laid my foundation, and it has only grown ever since.”