If you walk into the fourth floor of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in the middle of a weekday afternoon, you might get the impression that nothing goes on there.
Wait around an hour or two, though, and you're bound to see a bit more activity.
The top floor of the downtown library houses OKC Downtown College, a consortium of schools in the Oklahoma City area.
Although the college doesn't grant degrees itself and it doesn't offer any complete degree programs at the moment, organizers say it offers an educational experience that often can't be replicated in a typical classroom.
The college offers courses through five institutions — the University of Central Oklahoma, Rose State College, Oklahoma City Community College, Redlands Community College and Oklahoma State University — Oklahoma City.
Faculty members from the five participating schools teach the courses. The college offers undergraduate and graduate-level courses, as well as noncredit enrichment classes. Students who take undergraduate or graduate courses receive credit through the college that teaches the class, and the courses generally cost about the same as on-campus classes.
The college is one of several sites around the metro area where schools offer their classes off campus. Since 1995, seven such satellite campuses have opened their doors. Colleges and universities often open satellite campuses to draw students who wouldn't be able to attend classes at their main campuses.
For example, Mid-America Christian University opened a small campus on Broadway Extension last year. The university uses the site to offer evening courses geared toward students who work during the day.
Appealing to working adult students is also one of the goals of OKC Downtown College. The idea behind the school is twofold, said college director Gus Pekara. The college's primary mission is to bring higher education to downtown Oklahoma City and the 52,000 or so people who work there.
The college's classes are held at noon and after 5 p.m., making them a convenient option for people who work downtown. Anyone who works downtown and is pursuing a degree might have a tough time driving to UCO in Edmond or the University of Oklahoma in Norman in time for class, he said. But having a class within walking distance may be a more viable option.
The other half of the college's mission is to offer classes that don't always apply to any particular degree. Students in these classes might be pursuing a degree in the field, or they may just be interested in learning more on a particular subject.
For these classes, the college works with other partners downtown like the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the Red Earth Museum and the Oklahoma City Ballet.
For example, he said, the college offers a class on Native American art at the Red Earth Museum, and another course on American Modernism in conjunction with a special Modernist exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Unlike traditional art appreciation courses, where students look at slides of art works, courses taught at the museum expose students to art firsthand.
“These people are where it's at,” he said.