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 Student Handbook.

Course Description

Explore visual art forms and their cultural connections by learning about the history of art and its principles. Includes in-depth studies of the elements, media, and methods used in creative thought and the creative process.

Course Introduction

This course is an exploration of visual art forms and their cultural connections that is designed for learners with little experience in the visual arts. It includes a brief overview of art history and in-depth studies of the elements, media, and methods used in creative thought and the creative process. In this course, you will learn how to develop a five-step system for understanding visual art in all its 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 that 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 includes 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 will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.

Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are readings, lectures, and videos.

All course materials are free to access and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources in the navigation bar.

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 calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

There are end-of-unit assessments, ungraded quizzes, and essay assignments in this course. There are also knowledge checks at the end of many resources. By completing these, you can check if you fully understand the key ideas and concepts in the resource. All these are designed to help you study, and do not count towards your final grade. You can take these as many times as you want until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments, except knowledge checks, by clicking on Quizzes in the navigation bar.

Earning College Credit

This course is eligible for college credit via Saylor Academy's Direct Credit Program. If you want to earn college credit, you must take and pass the Direct Credit final exam. That exam will be password protected and requires a proctor. If you pass the Direct Credit exam, you will receive a Proctor Verified Course Certificate and be eligible to earn an official transcript. For more information about applying for college credit, review the guide to college credit opportunities. Be sure to check the section on proctoring for details like fees and technical requirements.

There is a 14-day waiting period between attempts of the Direct Credit final exam. There is no waiting period between attempts for the not-for-credit exam and the Direct Credit exam. You may only attempt each Direct Credit final exam a maximum of 3 times. Be sure to study in between each attempt!

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 an assigned 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 we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
  • As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.

Technical Requirements

This course is delivered entirely 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 for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.
  • If you plan to attempt the optional Direct Credit final exam, then you will also need access to a webcam. This lets our remote proctoring service verify your identity, which is required to issue an official transcript to schools on your behalf.

For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.


This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, is available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

This course also has an optional final exam that can give you an opportunity to earn college credit. This exam requires the use of a proctoring service for identity verification purposes. The cost for proctoring for this optional exam is $5 per session.

Last modified: Thursday, October 26, 2023, 1:03 PM