Course Syllabus

Welcome to ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques

Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Description

An exploration of visual art forms and their cultural connections, including a brief study of art history, and in-depth studies of the elements, media, and methods used in creative thought and processes.

Course Introduction

This course is an exploration of visual art forms and their cultural connections for the student with little experience in the visual arts. It includes a brief study of art history, and in-depth studies of the elements, media, and methods used in creative thought and processes. In this course, you will learn how to develop a five-step system for understanding visual art in all forms, based on the following: 

  1. Description: A work of art from an objective point of view – its physical attributes, and formal construction. 
  2. Analysis: A detailed look at a work of art that combines physical attributes with subjective statements based on the viewer’s reaction to the work. 
  3. Context: Historical, religious, or environmental information that surrounds a particular work of art and which helps to understand the work’s meaning. 
  4. Meaning: A statement of the work’s content. A message or narrative expressed by the subject matter. 
  5. Judgment: A critical point of view about a work of art concerning its aesthetic or cultural value. 

After completing this course, you will be able to interpret works of art based on this five-step system; explain the processes involved in artistic production; identify the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic issues that artists examine in their work; and explain the role and effect of the visual arts in societies, history, and world cultures.

This course is comprised of the following units:

  • Unit 1: Defining Art
  • Unit 2: Who Makes Art – Process and Training
  • Unit 3: How Art Speaks – Finding Meaning
  • Unit 4: How Art Works – The Elements and Principles of Visual Language
  • Unit 5: Artistic Media
  • Unit 6: Architecture
  • Unit 7: Our World – Nature, the Body, Identity, Sexuality, Politics, and Power
  • Unit 8: Other Worlds – Myths, Dreams, and Spirituality
  • Unit 9: Art in Time and Place – The Western World

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • identify and describe the elements and principles of art;
  • compare and contrast different methods, mediums, and materials artists use to create two- and three-dimensional works of visual art;
  • interpret examples of visual art using analytical skills;
  • identify the processes and materials involved in art and architectural production;
  • explain the role and effect of the visual arts in societies, history, and other world cultures;
  • connect formal attributes of art with their meaning and expression;
  • articulate the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic themes and issues that artists examine in their work; and
  • utilize information to locate, evaluate, and communicate about visual art in its various forms.

Throughout this course, you'll also see related learning outcomes identified in each unit. You can use the learning outcomes to help organize your learning and gauge your progress.

Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are readings, lectures, video tutorials, and other resources.

All course materials are free to access, and can be found through the links provided in each unit and subunit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will instruct you as to what specifically to read or watch at a given point in the course, and help you to understand how these individual materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also access a list all of the materials used in this course by clicking on Resources in the course Activities menu.

Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score

Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, you may take it again as many times as needed, following a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Saylor Certificate of Completion.

There are also end-of-unit assessments, ungraded quizzes, and essay assignments in this course. They are intended to help you to gauge how well you are learning and do not count towards your final grade. You can take these as many times as you want to, until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the navigation bar.

Tips for Success

ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or predetermined schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 35 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.

Learning new material can be challenging, so below we've compiled a few suggested study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories as you read. This can help you differentiate and contextualize concepts and later provide you with a refresher as you study.
  • As you progress through the materials, take time to test yourself on what you have retained and how well you understand the the concepts. The process of reflection is important for creating a memory of the materials you learn; it will increase the probability that you ultimately retain the information.
  • Although you may work through this course completely independently, you may find it helpful to connect with other Saylor students through the discussion forums. You may access the discussion forums at

Technical Requirements

This course is delivered fully online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.

  • To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one, free of charge, here. Although you can access some course resources without being logged into your account, it’s advised that you login to maximize your course experience. For example, some of the accessibility and progress tracking features are only available when you are logged in.
  • Occasionally, Flash may be required to run certain multimedia and/or interactive applications in the course. Should you be prompted to enable Flash, click the option to allow or follow these instructions for enabling Flash on your computer or laptop.

For additional technical guidance check out Saylor’s tech-FAQ and the Moodle LMS tutorial.


There is no cost to access and enroll in this course. All required course resources linked throughout the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, activities, etc are accessible for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 11:59 AM