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Learner Reviews & Feedback for The Finite Element Method for Problems in Physics by University of Michigan

325 ratings
70 reviews

About the Course

This course is an introduction to the finite element method as applicable to a range of problems in physics and engineering sciences. The treatment is mathematical, but only for the purpose of clarifying the formulation. The emphasis is on coding up the formulations in a modern, open-source environment that can be expanded to other applications, subsequently. The course includes about 45 hours of lectures covering the material I normally teach in an introductory graduate class at University of Michigan. The treatment is mathematical, which is natural for a topic whose roots lie deep in functional analysis and variational calculus. It is not formal, however, because the main goal of these lectures is to turn the viewer into a competent developer of finite element code. We do spend time in rudimentary functional analysis, and variational calculus, but this is only to highlight the mathematical basis for the methods, which in turn explains why they work so well. Much of the success of the Finite Element Method as a computational framework lies in the rigor of its mathematical foundation, and this needs to be appreciated, even if only in the elementary manner presented here. A background in PDEs and, more importantly, linear algebra, is assumed, although the viewer will find that we develop all the relevant ideas that are needed. The development itself focuses on the classical forms of partial differential equations (PDEs): elliptic, parabolic and hyperbolic. At each stage, however, we make numerous connections to the physical phenomena represented by the PDEs. For clarity we begin with elliptic PDEs in one dimension (linearized elasticity, steady state heat conduction and mass diffusion). We then move on to three dimensional elliptic PDEs in scalar unknowns (heat conduction and mass diffusion), before ending the treatment of elliptic PDEs with three dimensional problems in vector unknowns (linearized elasticity). Parabolic PDEs in three dimensions come next (unsteady heat conduction and mass diffusion), and the lectures end with hyperbolic PDEs in three dimensions (linear elastodynamics). Interspersed among the lectures are responses to questions that arose from a small group of graduate students and post-doctoral scholars who followed the lectures live. At suitable points in the lectures, we interrupt the mathematical development to lay out the code framework, which is entirely open source, and C++ based. Books: There are many books on finite element methods. This class does not have a required textbook. However, we do recommend the following books for more detailed and broader treatments than can be provided in any form of class: The Finite Element Method: Linear Static and Dynamic Finite Element Analysis, T.J.R. Hughes, Dover Publications, 2000. The Finite Element Method: Its Basis and Fundamentals, O.C. Zienkiewicz, R.L. Taylor and J.Z. Zhu, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005. A First Course in Finite Elements, J. Fish and T. Belytschko, Wiley, 2007. Resources: You can download the deal.ii library at The lectures include coding tutorials where we list other resources that you can use if you are unable to install deal.ii on your own computer. You will need cmake to run deal.ii. It is available at

Top reviews


Mar 13, 2017

It is very well structured and Dr Krishna Garikipati helps me understand the course in very simple manner. I would like to thank coursera community for making this course available.


Jul 21, 2019

The course is great and the tutors are very helpful. I just have a suggestion that there should be more coding assignment like one for every week.\n\nThank you

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51 - 67 of 67 Reviews for The Finite Element Method for Problems in Physics

By Marvin T

Jan 15, 2019

In principle, it is a good course and taught in a very understanding manner. For a five star rating, I would like to suggest that there should be additional physics, e.g. convection problems, or turbulence, featuring a CFD chapter for example with heat transfer.

By Sri H M

Nov 15, 2019

A good primer of the theoretical fundamentals of the Finite Element Methods. The coding assignments were good too but could have benefited more with support from the mentors via the forums.

By Antonio R

Jun 21, 2018

The course is really deep and I have to say the professor really inspired me to keep learning.It might be a little slow but the course is in general pretty good.

By Vinayak V

Dec 30, 2018

The course was was great. However, illustrative examples solving real engineering problems could be introduced in lecture.

By Kapouranis I

Jun 29, 2018

Really recommend it. There will be times when you think you should give up, but just finish it. It is worth it.

By Guilherme D

May 21, 2019

Well structured course. It builds up from the basics of finite elements to more complex problems.


Dec 22, 2019

Good content, not easy for beginners. It may take much longer to fully understand the content covered in the lecture.

Programming exercise is somehow difficult as you have to watch dealIii tutorial videos on YouTube yourselves.

One particular drawback is that the presentation skill of the instructor should be improved as there are a lot of repetitive unnecessary and redundant writing and explanation.

By John F S

May 31, 2019

Okay for learning the basics of FEM outside of a real clasroom setting. Focused too much on using their own software for actual FEM analysis. I understand that creating an actual FEM from scratch is too much to ask for an online course, but a lot of their program isn't well documented and detracts from the learning experience.

By George K

Jan 22, 2020

You will need much more time than the time listed (expectation time listed). Although you can learn

a lot!!!!! I feel grateful!


Jul 13, 2017

the course is enough learn things better way to explain give notes and pdf format and doc l.

By Congyi L

Jan 28, 2018

Not clear on AWS setup. Easy get confused


Jan 24, 2017

good for improving skills

By M M K R

Jul 09, 2017


By Patrick H

Dec 15, 2017

In my opinion the course material is a good base but needs further development.

This includes new recordings of old lectures which contain errors. Sometimes there is a correction video included directly in the lecture video with an additional correction video and same content placed afterwards in the timeline.

Also there should be updated version of coding assignments. As stated in the forum it was just possible to pass one assignment by 100 percent if a deal.ii version from 2015 is used. However, the provided link to the deal.ii VM provides a recent version 2017. When run the same code on the student computer with deal.ii from 2015 one could get full marks. However, using the recent version from 2017, the automatic grading just gave 80 percent. This should be for sure improved.

Additionally I would suggest to make a more even work distribution for each week. There are weeks with just 3 hours of videos and other weeks with up to 9 hours. It would be beneficial if that could be more balanced.

Coding assignment 1 is placed with a deadline in week 3. However, the required material for passing this is taught in week 4 and 5. Therefore, I would suggest to push CA1 to week 5.

By Mehmet A Ö

Apr 30, 2018

Lecturer expresses anything at a snail's pace. He is really a slowcoach.

By Jonathan L

Apr 23, 2017

I really like the lectures of this course. But on the other hand this programming assignments are...

I am not able to see why using such a complicated main code template is useful to understand the principals of the finite element method. I spend 5 hours for trying to install all the libraries and finding the correct header files of deal.II and this visualization thing which is needed in the write_output.h file). Because otherwise you will not be able to compile the code. This is not the first time I did installation of complicated code in unix and I know by heart this can be cumbersome sometimes.

But why doing this for a simple programming assignment. I started this course because I want to learn about finite element method and not how to install deal.II software. But exactly installing is what the first assignment is about it is not about coding what will be only a small fraction of the whole assignment then.

And the next thing is there is not only one person facing this troubles there are quite a lot if you look in the discussion forums.

On the other hand if there would be sufficient help given for the installation it would be fine, but it is not.

The only help which is given are sending some links which is nice. But links I can also watch by myself.

So I really liked this course and found it interesting ( or I still find it interesting ), but I don't see what learn effect I should have from messing around with those deal.II libraries.

By Siva K s

Jul 05, 2017

It is so difficult for mechanical students to do programming assignments with zero knowledge on C++

The lectures are too boring and non-practical. All the courses except this FEM is not a worthy one